The Best of the Books: September

So I had this notion that I would write a post once a month about the books that I was reading. That was 4 months ago…



I’ve been reading excessively about China since I signed my contract. I also seem to have a healthy love of travel books, except for the super narcissistic ones where people talk excessively about their “wandering souls” and use that as justification to just be a horrible person (bonus points if you know which book I’m referring too)

 

China Books

Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

Once upon a time it was forbidden for people to leave their homes in China. Then suddenly the country opened and a massive wave of people left their villages to seek work in the cities and found themselves in new world with new rules.

 

Today China has 130 million migrant workers. In factories, restaurants, construction sites, elevators, delivery services, housecleaning, child-raising, garbage collecting, barbershops, and brothels, almost ever worker is a rural worker. In large cities like Bejing and Shanghai migrants account for a quarter of the population”

 

In traditional Chinese society, maintaining harmony with others was the key to living in the world. The moral compass was not necessarily right or wrong; it was your relationship with the people around you. And it took all your strength to break free from that”

 

This book was about the mass immigration of rural young women to work in factories. From the highlights of girls getting their first cell phones and independence to the problems of internet dating and getting scammed, it was all things I didn’t know about China. I loved reading these stories since most of my co-workers are young women who moved to Nanchong for work. The stories of the things the girls get up to are hilarious and vaguely alarming



The author was also of Chinese descent, by way of Taiwan and reading her families story was also interesting. I don’t hear much about Taiwan while in Mainland China.


 

This books reads exactly like it is. Two guys studying Chinese in Beijing decided to go around the country to meet all the different minorites groups and learn about them. China has 55 different minority groups, most well known are obviously the Tibetan, as well as Mongolians and the Muslim groups.

 

I loved learning about the groups but honestly these guys mostly just talk about drinking with them and tell funny anecdotes, especially regarding the Mosuo, a matrilineal group who have unique customs regarding romance, however the book was a bit lacking on the concrete research, so while it was interesting… it wasn’t as good as it could have been.

 

Not that stories about drinking with new friends is bad

Not that stories about drinking with new friends is bad

Before coming to China I don’t think I knew there were so many minorities. There are in fact 120 million, enough that if all of china’s minorities formed a country, it be more heavily populated then Canada, New Zealand, Austrailia, and the UK (with scotland still included). That’s a pretty significant group of people!

 

Travel Books

 

To the mounted nomads who rode and resided along the Equestrian Equator (Eurasian steppe) possessions were for using, not hoarding. Life to them was a bridge; one should cross over it, not build a house on it.”

 

I read this after my did my 3 day horse trek though Langmusi, and this killed any of my delusions that I’m tough, because there is no world in which I would be able to take over two years of my life to ride a horse from Mongolia all across the Eurasian Steppe to Hungary.

 

Langmusi Grasslands

Not part of Eurasian Steppe, but grasslands in Langmusi

 While I don’t want to copy the trip, it was definitely a journey to read about! It was far less about ancient mongolians and more about the people who still live on the steppe, their connection or disconnection from the land and the way of live their ancestors lived. So much history about Kazakhistan that I never knew, about nomads being forced into communes and now they have no way to go back to their old ways since the knowledge has largely been forgotten.
Anyways, this is what I’ve been reading? What have you been reading? Any good travel books or China books?

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