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BEIJING BookWrom:Building 4, Nan Sanlitun Road, Chao Yang District, Beijing

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Your Reviews of Your Favourite Books


By Kiran Desai
*Winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction 2006

This stunning second novel from Desai (Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard) is set in mid-1980s India, on the cusp of the Nepalese movement for an independent state. Jemubhai Popatlal, a retired Cambridge-educated judge, lives in Kalimpong, at the foot of the Himalayas, with his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, and his cook. The makeshift family’s neighbors include a coterie of Anglophiles who might be savvy readers of V.S. Naipaul but who are, perhaps, less aware of how fragile their own social standing is—at least until a surge of unrest disturbs the region. Jemubhai, with his hunting rifles and English biscuits, becomes an obvious target. Besides threatening their very lives, the revolution also stymies the fledgling romance between 16-year-old Sai and her Nepalese tutor, Gyan. The cook’s son, Biju, meanwhile, lives miserably as an illegal alien in New York. All of these characters struggle with their cultural identity and the forces of modernization while trying to maintain their emotional connection to one another. In this alternately comical and contemplative novel, Desai deftly shuttles between first and third worlds, illuminating the pain of exile, the ambiguities of post-colonialism and the blinding desire for a “better life,” when one person’s wealth means another’s poverty.

by Yan Geling

Yan, whose short fiction was the basis for the movie Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl, offers a pointed critique of capitalism’s rise in her native China. A multifaceted mistaken-identity farce, Yan’s novel chronicles the adventures of Dan Dong, a laid-off factory worker who wanders into a lavish banquet where journalists are wined and dined and receive “money for your troubles” fees for listening to—and hopefully reporting on—the presentations of corporations and charities. Dan quickly orders business cards that “said he was a reporter from some Internet news site,” and hops aboard the banquet gravy train. Yan revels in the absurdity of her premise, and her over-the-top descriptions of banquet fare underscore her outrage at the few who gorge themselves on “animals from remote mountains and forests” while millions starve. The story changes gears, though, when Dan’s reportage leads him into a dangerous, far-reaching scandal and he is arrested during a crackdown on “banquet bugs.” Yan’s concept is clever, but wooden dialogue and some awkward descriptions make it clear that English is not her mother tongue, though this also leads to some seductively nuanced moments (“He smells rather than hears her words carried on her smoky breath”) that hint at her enormous potential.

by Irene Nemirovsky

Celebrated in pre-WWII France for her bestselling fiction, the Jewish Russian-born Némirovsky was shipped to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, months after this long-lost masterwork was composed. Némirovsky, a convert to Catholicism, began a planned five-novel cycle as Nazi forces overran northern France in 1940. This gripping “suite,” collecting the first two unpolished but wondrously literary sections of a work cut short, have surfaced more than six decades after her death. The first, “Storm in June,” chronicles the connecting lives of a disparate clutch of Parisians, among them a snobbish author, a venal banker, a noble priest shepherding churlish orphans, a foppish aesthete and a loving lower-class couple, all fleeing city comforts for the chaotic countryside, mere hours ahead of the advancing Germans. The second, “Dolce,” set in 1941 in a farming village under German occupation, tells how peasant farmers, their pretty daughters and petit bourgeois collaborationists coexisted with their Nazi rulers. In a workbook entry penned just weeks before her arrest, Némirovsky noted that her goal was to describe “daily life, the emotional life and especially the comedy it provides.” This heroic work does just that, by focusing—with compassion and clarity—on individual human dramas.

by Paulo Coelho

Translated into 61 languages, and sold to more than 30 million people worldwide, The Alchemist is a classic of the modern age. A simple, wise and enchanting fable, The Alchemist has inspired readers the world over to listen to their hearts and follow their dreams. In the story we follow the quest of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd, as he journeys to North Africa in the search for missing treasure and spiritual fulfillment

“It is the simplest things in life that are the most extraordinary: only wise men are able to understand them,” a fortuneteller explains to Santiago at the beginning of his quest: the philosophy seems to have worked for Paul Coelho himself, now practically presiding over a literary genre all of his own.
A must-read for travelers, soul-searchers, dreamers, and philosophical alchemists.

by Mikhail Bulgakov

When the devil sweeps into Moscow wearing a fancy suit and accompanied by a gun-toting, human sized tomcat, it’s hardly surprising that havoc is set to ensue. A thorough rampaging through the city follows, involving death, destruction and debauchery, despite the devil’s protestations that his intentions are entirely admirable. A twentieth century Russian classic, The Master and Margarita is bizarre, surreal and wonderful. Suppressed by the Stalinist authorities during Bulgakov’s lifetime, the novel is both a hilarious romp, and a sharp satire on the cultural and political climate in Soviet Moscow. Fans of the Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez will delight in this masterpiece of the imagination, although make no mistake – The Master and Margarita is very definitely one of a kind.

by Khaled Hosseini

Interest in The Kite Runner has refused to die down in the three years since its publication. A haunting and beautiful novel, at its heart is the biggest and most unresolved of conflicts – the desire of men to rule one another, whether domestically or on the stage of world events.
Amir and Hassan are best of friends, and spend their days playing in the grounds of Amir’s beautiful home in Kabul. But the boys are also slave and master, a relationship that becomes increasingly complex and difficult to sustain as the boys grow and the affairs of their native Afghanistan begin to effect on their lives in ever more pressing and dangerous ways. A terrible event tests the strength of the friendship between Amir and Hassan, but before the boys are able to recover, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan whisks Amir off to America to pastures new and to the unsettled life of an émigré. When he finally returns, the country is barely recognizable, and Amir struggles to dig the remains of his childhood, and his dignity from the rubble of the shattered city. The Kite Runner is beautifully written, raw and evocative, and not to be missed.

by William Golding

When a plane crashes on a deserted island, with the only survivors a pack of adolescent schoolboys, what follows is at first a riotous testing of the limits of their new found freedom. However, soon their exuberance gives way to something much darker, as fear begins to seep in, and as rescue seems a more and more distant hope, the fragile society the boys have created plunges into chaos.

The ultimate novel of dystopia, Lord of the Flies ticks as many boxes as it defies attempts to classify it. At once a thriller, an adventure story, an allegory, and a political treatise, the novel is disturbing, unpredictable, and terrifying in it’s exposure of the basest of human instincts. A true classic, this edition of Lord of the Flies contains a new introduction from E.M Forster.

by John Banville

So you think your vocabulary is extensive? Put your money where your mouth is with John Banville’s ridiculously lavish 2005 Booker Prize winner ‘The Sea’.

Set in a bleak, old fashioned seaside town on the West coast of Ireland, the novel flits between the distant childhood past and the alcohol soaked adulthood present of art historian Max Morden, as he attempts to reconcile the death of his wife and come to terms with a childhood trauma that irrevocably altered his future.

A joyous romp the novel is not, but as a work of art it can hardly be faulted. Elegant, disturbing and absolutely remarkable in it’s realization of character, place and pure, difficult, raw humanity, The Sea is a novel that will haunt both new readers and Banville fans alike.

by Orhan Pamuk
Reviewed by Austin M. Kramer

Unlike many of his characters, Orhan Pamuk has never lived beyond the city where he was born, but in a city like Istanbul there are already hundreds of lifetimes of stories yet to be told. Still, at the bridge between Europe and Asia it can seem that almost much of the far away worlds has already passed through these famous narrows, and traces still lay collecting in the cities Byzantine alleyways. My Name Is Red is a ruminating mystery haunted by love, art, religion, and politics. It is infused with cultures, legends, history and philosophy that all drift through the narrative like wisps of smoke. The tense interplay between ancient traditions and human passions is brilliantly illustrated through intersecting stories of painting, romance, faith, and murder. Slowly, piece by piece, a variety of highly subjective first-person narrators build the story out of beguiling dialogue and enchanting tangents. Fascinatingly, the fragments all begin to fold in upon each other, gradually fusing into a single dramatic conclusion. Desolate winter in the ancient city profuse with rich textures and disparate voices comes to life with the passion, melancholy and elegant, evocative complexity of an Arabesque illumination or Byzantine mosaic.

by Jonathan Safran Foer
Reviewed by Austin M. Kramer

Although a spare four years has passed since the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001, ream upon ream has been written on the events and their consequences. Much, if not all of it makes no lasting contribution to the literary cannon. Perhaps the definitive book of these times has yet to be written, but among those that have been, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close stands out as a light of style and compassion. It is not an over-wrought elegy, nor a cynical political manipulation, but in rejecting these neither does it cheapen the tragedy simply because it has become a symbol. Al Queda, various governments, protesters, and indeed much of the world has fixated on the attacks as a symbol, or a catalyst, some kind of means, but Jonathan Safran Foer reminds us that the deaths of thousands can also be a very potent and devastating ends in and of itself. The book follows a sensitive prodigy, 9 years old and manically absorbed in a plethora of intellectual pursuits, as he embarks on the surreal, mystical and quixotic quest to find the lock that fits a key his father had left for him after he died in the towers. It provides a rich landscape of grief – lives now defined by the contrast of death – and shows the world in an ironic new light, reevaluating everything with a new point of view unavoidably affected by tragedy.

by Sandor Marai
Reviewed by Austin M. Kramer

As traditions scatter on the winds of change and nations shift beneath our feet, the quintessential crisis of modernity is one of definition. Modernity, however, is not a single moment in time so much as every moment in time. In this way, Sandor Marai’s lost novels from the first part of the 20th Century are prescient today as they were then. With the glittering age of the Austro-Hungarian Empire long past, two old men meet for a single, vital, and final survey of their lives, filled with love and friendship, but also loss and betrayal. Embers is a slim novel, a single claustrophobic dialogue in an isolated forest estate, but it ranges all across the world and the human experience over the course of a single night. Marai is a master of prose on par with or exceeding his peers Kafka, Hesse, and Mann. His style is brisk, fresh, and dazzlingly vivid. His mastery of the unsaid infuses the book with a sense of mystery and dark drama. With clarity and emotional force, Embers transcends its own generation and cuts to the core of what is modern life.

by Oliver Sacks
Reviewed by Austin M. Kramer

Philosophers for years have speculated over the role of perception, memory and the mind in determining the substance of our reality, often with no conclusive results. Sheepishly they must realize, upon reading the works of Oliver Sacks, that perhaps they should have conducted more field research! In what is his best-developed collection of case studies to date, Dr. Sacks reveals a metaphysical laboratory through the practice of neurology. In recounting his experiences with artists, teachers, surgeons and Hare Krisnas, all somehow different from the clinical norm, he is neither obscurely technical nor needlessly simplistic. He does not romanticize the challenges in these people’s lives, but his focus is clearly not on the pathos, but on the ethos. With tender subtlety we are led, not lectured, down the path of diagnosis, understanding, and ultimately to questions at the very foundations of the human experience as we know it. With a light touch, humor, and no small amount of empathy, Dr. Sacks brings some much needed humanity to the often cold and technical field of neuropsychology.

by Tim Clissold

In the early 1990s China finally opened for business, and Wall Street wanted to get in on the act. When the investment bankers arrived from New York with their Harvard MBAs, pinstripes and tassled loafers, ready to negotiate with the Old Cadres, the stage was set for a collision between Wall Street’s billions and the world’s oldest culture. This is the true story of a tough Wall Street banker who had reached the top and found that it wasn’t enough. Looking for glory, he came to China to surf the next new investment wave and teamed up with an ex-Red Guard and an Englishman living in Beijing. Together, they raised over $400 million and bought up factories all over China. They thought the contracts were watertight. But then they began learning the hard way that China doesn’t play by anyone else’s rules. Left sitting in their boardrooms while their Chinese partners marched off in their own different directions, they watched their millions begin sliding towards the abyss. Faced with no option but to fight, they embarked on a series of desperate battles to regain control of their businesses. Their struggle reveals the human face of this vast and complex country that knows it must modernise but throughout history has always kept the advantage when dealing with outsiders. Clissold tells his at times surreal story with amusement and affection, and the result is exhilarating, an eye-opening account of the arcane world of traditional Chinese business and an instructive insight into the limitations of Wall Street and western business-school training. He opens a window of understanding between East and West in a truly exciting human-interest story that is a mix of adventure, farce and high finance.

by Pankaj Mishra

An End to Suffering is a search to understand the Buddha’s relevance in today’s world, where religious violence, poverty, and terrorism prevail. Traveling extensively through the West as well at the East, Pankaj Mishra explores the myths and places of the Buddha’s life, examines the West’s “discovery” of Buddhism, and considers the impact of Buddhist ideas on modern politics. The result is the most ambitious,convincing book on the Buddha that we have.

James McGregor

With 1.3 billion mouths to feed, China’s consumer market is larger than North America and Western Europe combined. Foreign companies are flocking there to both buy and sell. Now, the first book to present a coherent picture of China’s emergence as a global economic power, One Billion Customers maximizes the expansive knowledge of a respected journalist, well-known advisor, and the ultimate China business insider. A Communist dictatorship determined to practices its own form of capitalism, China has long perplexed foreign investors, who find Chinese business practices opaque and contradictory. This definitive text navigates the treacherous waters of Chinese business, offering compelling narratives of personalities, business deals, and lessons learned-from Morgan Stanley’s creation of a joint-venture Chinese investment bank to the pleasure dome of a smuggler whose $6 billion operation demonstrates how corruption greases the wheels of Chinese commerce. With more than one hundred strategies for conducting business in China, this unprecedented account pairs practical lessons with the story of China’s remarkable rise to power.