Monday, April 15, 2013

On My Nightstand

Just finished Odd Arne Westad's Restless Empire: China and the World since 1750 (New York: Basic Books, 2012). Westad who is a East Asian scholar tackles the history of China and its relationship with the west to answer questions about China's rising population, military power and political clout. The book tackles not only domestic issues but also international relations and China's tortured relationship with western ideas. Westad tries to contextualize current Chinese policies and ideologies which are often at odds by describing China's history. For anyone interested in this period or Chinese history it would be an interesting read. 

Following my foray into China I picked up Rory MacLean's Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India (Brooklyn: Ig Publishing, 2009) is an odd book to categorize. It is part travelogue, part oral history and part journalism. In short segmented chapters MacLean travels not only the trail but in the process discovers former travellers revisiting their own pasts. His writing brings to life the magic of the world that called out to those who traveled along the old Silk Road and he questions how they were influenced and influenced themselves the worlds they encountered. While MacLean paints beautiful word pictures for the people and worlds he encounters, in a manner that is similar to Kerouac and Ginsberg he also provides wonderful chants about modern history. There is a language, a style and almost a poetry at work in the book. It is a chance for anyone interested in the subject to travel alongside MacLean, but one still can't help wondering about the people he encounters, sometimes their stories are just too good to describe (and at times to believe). 

At the same time I have been enjoying bits of Bess Lovejoy's Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013). The book is a collection of short pieces on famous corpses and what became of them. While the subject is macabre it is sometimes gruesome, often funny and always peculiar. It is one of those books that you can read a little, put in down and read more without ever losing your place. 

Lying in wait: 
Harvy Luskin Molotch's Against Security: How We go wrong at airports, subways and other sites of ambiguous danger
Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious account of Native People in North America

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