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Archive for October, 2011

2011 National Book Award Finalists Announced

The 2011 National Book Award Finalists were announced this week. Each of the four categories – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young adult – long lists five books. Winner to be announced November 16th. We’ll thrilled that a lot of our favorite reads, including The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht, made it on the list this year.

Here is the complete list of finalists:


The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories by Edith Pearlman
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

The Convert by Deborah Baker
Love and Capital by Mary Gabriel
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
Malcolm X by Manning Marable
Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie by Lauren Redniss

Head Off and Split by Nikky Finney
The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa
Double Shadow by Carl Phillips
Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Adrienne Rich
Devotions by Bruce Smith

Young People’s Literature
Chime by Franny Billingsley
My Name Is not Easy Debbie Dahl Edwardson
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
Shine by Lauren Myracle
Okay for Now Gary D. Schmidt

Between the Stacks: Li’Er

Renown Chinese writer Li’Er recently joined us at The Bookworm for the launch of the English translation of his work The Magician of 1919. He talked about his unique approach to history in his writing and the symbolism of a magician.

When asked why he chose to write about a magician in 1919, in the dawn of the May Fourth Movement, Li’Er explained that
history to him has been always mysterious as if it was handled by a magician. A seemingly simply man, and a simple event, may change history entirely. Li’Er often tends to write about intellectuals in China. With his latest work, he has continued this trend. According to Li’Er, the year 1919 is a dividing line that puts Chinese intellectuals on the frontline of history.

And who are the magicians in contemporary Chinese life? Li’Er argued that many manipulative hands are controlling various aspects of our lives, such as the stock market, real estate and media. These industries are equally using their magic power to influence our lives though we may not even notice.

We sat down with Li’Er after his illuminating booktalk to chat about books, the writing life and Beijing food.

Simone Shi: If not writing, what profession would you have?

Li’Er: A journalist or a teacher. Being a journalist, I will be able to keep a wide contact with the world while being a teacher  I will have regular communication with young people.

SS: What’s your writing habit? Do you have a regular writing schedule or are you the type of writer who writes when inspired?

LE: For many years, I have had a regular writing schedule though it has been increasingly difficult when you have a child.

SS: What are you reading now?

LE: I picked up Fengtang’s Bu’Er at your bookshop the other day and have enjoyed reading it so far. I do not know him at all, thus I have no intention to advertise for him. I read one of his earlier works before and had no great impression. However this new book certainly impressed me. He is definitely a young writer with true talent, so a great writer to be in the future.

SS: After spending so much time in Beijing, what is your favorite Beijing food?

LE:  One of the great advantages of living in Beijing is the large variety of cuisine available here. I personally like things light, thus cooking from HANGZHOU appeals to me the most.

Between the Stacks: Yoram Bauman, stand-up economist

Economics may be the dismal science, but economist/comedian Yoram Bauman is anything but.

On October 27, Bauman, an environmental economist at the University of Washington and the co-author of The Cartoon Introduction to Economics, Volume 1: Microeconomics, will bring his new show “Return to the Gold Standard” to The Bookworm.

Here Bauman explains how he became the world’s first and only stand-up economist, why the Federal Reserve tells terrible jokes and offers a sneak peek at his new routine about the metric system.

Mengfei Chen: Are you really the world’s first and only stand-up economist? How did that come about?

Yoram Bauman: Oh yes… it even says so on the Internet!

How it came about: In graduate school (at the University of Washington, in Seattle, about 10 years ago) I blew off some steam by writing a parody of the “ten principles” of economics in a popular textbook. That parody ended up getting published in a science humor journal called the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). AIR hosts a humor session every year at the big AAAS science convention in the US, and in 2003 it just happened to be in Seattle. So I presented my paper there and had so much fun I started going down to open-mic nights at the Comedy Underground. A few years later I had a full economics comedy routine (plus a few jokes about subjects other than economics).

MC: Do economists and comedians have anything in common?

YB: I dunno… they both have a reputation for being arrogant and self-centered?

MC: Why do we need a graphic novel about the prisoner’s dilemma and marginal analysis?

YB: Sometimes it seems like economics textbooks have been designed to take away all the interesting stuff in economics, leaving only a heap of dry bones and graphs. The graphic novel tries to put the fun stuff back in: the stories, the personalities, the jokes. I hope the book helps people connect with economics and see what’s neat about it.

MC: What was your pitch to the publisher? The reaction?

YB: I had perhaps the easiest introduction to publishing ever: my publisher saw my YouTube video and wrote me to ask if I’d be interested in working on a cartoon economics book. He knew what he was doing (he focuses on graphic non-fiction) and so it was an easy decision to say yes, especially after he introduced me to my co-author and illustrator, Grady Klein. We’ve had a fantastic collaborative relation.

MC: Have you ever seen the comic books that the Federal Reserve puts out about monetary policy?

YB: Yes… and I think they send them for free to teachers, and perhaps to anybody else too! To be honest I found them to be a little lacking in creativity and humor: a lot of “The Japanese sure have a yen for trade” kind of jokes. But it’s hard to argue with the price (although I’m sure Ron Paul would).

MC: What was the biggest challenge in writing a cartoon introduction to economics? What was easy?

YB: The biggest challenge for me was adjusting to the constraints of the graphic novel format: thinking in terms of spreads (the single visual image formed by a left-page/right-page combination); ensuring that every chapter had either 10, 12, or 14 pages; and of course keeping the word count down (ack!).

The easiest part was working with Grady: he’s a great artist and a smart fellow, but he’s not an economist, which was good because he brought beginner’s mind to the project. I think we’ve only met in person three times, and talked on the phone twice – the rest has all been by email – but we know each other really well now. And the distance was good for those inevitable occasions when you want to kill each other.

(Actually, our publisher only had to intervene once to settle a disagreement. Grady and I got a free meal out of it, so we should have disagreed more!)

MC: Who do you try out your jokes on first? How do they feel about that?

YB: Now that I have a full-length routine I usually just slip new jokes into the routine to see how it goes; as long as the rest of the routine is funny nobody cares if a few jokes are bombs. But while I’m still crafting the jokes, I’ll tend to obsess about them and talk about them with whoever is around. Usually that’s my wife, and since she picked me up at a comedy club she has no right to complain.

MC: Got any new jokes?

YB: I’ve got some jokes about the metric system that I may have finally gotten into decent shape. (We’ll find out at the show!) And I’ve just started brainstorming a scenario in which Jesus Christ comes down to earth and tries to convince Rick Perry that global warming is for real. (When I do serious economics I work on climate change and carbon taxes, so that routine will hopefully be a nice blend of business and pleasure.)


MC:The subtitle of your book is Volume One: Microeconomics. Should we expect Volume Two: Macroeconomics?

YB: Yes, it’s already available for pre-order and will be in bookstores in January 2012! I’ll try to get an excerpt on my website,

MC: Team Stewart or Team Colbert?

YB: I find Stewart to be funnier and more informative, so he’s got my vote.

 Return to the Gold Standard with Yoram Bauman, The Bookworm, October 27, 7:30pm. Tickets 20rmb (members) 30 rmb (non-members).



Interesting in joining the BLF 2012 team?

The Bookworm International Literary Festival is a unique celebration of literature and ideas in China, programming 100 events across three cities, connecting over 70 Chinese and international writers and thinkers, running March 9-23.

We are now accepting applicants for the following positions:

Logistics Coordinator
Volunteers Coordinator
Junior Designer
Secondary Venues Coordinator

If you are interested in any of these positions, please contact [email protected] for more information.


Lev Grossman’s The Magicians coming to tv

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is one of our favorite novels from the past few years. Fox has bought the rights and is currently developing the novel and its sequels into a tv series. Often described as ‘a grown-up Harry Potter,” The Magicians follows its young protagonists from Brooklyn to an elite university of magic to the gritty post-collegiate years in New York and then to a pseudo-Narnia. A fast and fun read, Grossman’s novel ties together the worlds of magic, drugs, sex, teenage angst and mythical creatures.

While you may need to wait for the tv adaptation, you can continue the story of The Magicians with Grossman’s sequel, The Magician King.



2011 Nobel Prize for Literature

Congratulations to Swedish poet  Tomas Tranströmer who was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature. The Nobel Prize committee made this decision “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”. (Nobel Prize)

Douglas Coupland on Marshall McLuhan

In preparation for Douglas Coupland’s event here at The Bookworm on October 18th, check out this great interview he gave to The Paris Review last February about Marshall McLuhan, Canadians writing biographies of other Canadians and Annie Hall.

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