China, and living in Shanghai, has made me realise how little you need in the way of belongings to live therefore, since being back in the UK, I’ve further realised how much stuff I have crammed into my Victorian terraced house (luckily there is and never will be anything in the huge loft space) and how much stuff I don’t actually need. A mass clear out has commenced! Boxes and bags are being filled to the brim for charity shops, clothes are being passed on to family friends’ children, and a very specific pile of better items is forming for (hopefully) successful ebay sales…oh and a lot is heading to be recycled and to the tip. I think the tip monkeys will have a field day. Does anyone drink dry fino sherry? As I’ve somehow acquired a litre bottle of it and it’s not my tipple. Seriously, some of the things you hold on to for no reason astounds me. I used to find clearing out books one of the hardest things to do because as you know, I love them, the weight and how they feel in your hands as you read, the texture of the cover and the smell of their freshly printed pages. However, this time it’s actually been quite easier to part with many. I feel very pleased with myself at having a sudden sense of detachment to them. It’s a very cathartic process right? I’ve also realised that it is good for me to read other things that aren’t so related to my PhD to give me a sense of escape. My brother and Mom bought me a couple of books for my birthday, as did a friend in Shanghai…these along with a couple of others now sit in a stack by my UK bed some waiting to be read, others started. So I thought I’d share my current reading list with you…don’t you just love all the different colours of the books’ spines?
- ‘Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1’ by Joseph Gordon-Levitt – bought for me by my brother. A beautiful collection of short stories compiled by the actor Gordon-Levitt (I particularly like his non-acting endeavours through HITRECORD). Perfect for when eyes are particularly tired and won’t stay open for long.
- ‘When China Rules the World’ by Martin Jacques – bought for me by my Mom and funnily enough a good friend in Shanghai bought it to read as well just before I left Shanghai, so we are going to both read it and compare notes.
- ‘Cranford’ by Elizabeth Gaskell – bought as a Christmas gift. A novel based in Knutsford, Cheshire, where I once worked. It is a tale of a young girl and her friends returning to Cranford to find their long-lost brother. Not usually the type of book I’d read but I’ll give it a go.
- ‘Eastern Philosophy’ by Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad – loosely related to my PhD but I always have to have a spiritual text in there somewhere to continue the questioning.
- ‘Shanghai Snapshots’ by Valentine Sorret – a birthday gift from my Shanghai ballet class friend Tania. Written by a local Shanghai author who I’ve met on a few occasions, again another collection of short stories that all try to ask what is China?
- ‘Habit of a Foreign Sky’ by Xu Xi – again bought for me by my Mom because of the nature of the story. A tale of a woman’s life between New York, Hong Kong and Shanghai…very apt for me right now and a great read. I’m almost half way through.
- ‘On China’ by Henry Kissinger – not quite got around to opening this yet, I’m scared by it’s historicism, though it needs to be read.
I loved ‘Cranford’, and have now read almost all Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels. Meaty reading. Her short novels are deceptively light. I like her particular combination of personal stories, and the bigger picture – and written at a time when much of what was happening in England is the same as what’s happenig to China now. Now I shall look for the Xu Xi novel!