Category Archives: 52 Books

Gone With the Zhouzhuang


Oh, I’ve been soooo busy and things are terribly hectic and I hardly have time to sit still for a moment.

Huh. “Yeah, right.” you say.

I can’t get my head out of Gone With the Wind. It’s like 5 books in one. I’m hardly more than halfway through and I can’t imagine how there can be another half to the story. It really makes me want to spend some time in the south and see this old America I hardly know about.

I went on a day trip this last Wednesday (despite stomach distress, but what else is new) to Zhouzhuang (no, I don’t expect the town name to ring some bell for you). It’s an old canal town that has been kept in pristine condition by tourism. It’s almost like a chinese disneyland with no rides or people in costume. There were quaint bridges, old architecture, a lot of cheap touristy goods and fair number of tourists.

I went with the visiting mother of Jesse’s boss and his wife and they were fun. We took it slow (didn’t try to go on every ride), had a leisurely lunch overlooking a canal, and took a short boat ride, very venician-style, down the canal.

This is definitely the place to bring visiting family. I’ll share some pictures to get you all excited about it once I get them off the camera.

So, how was your week?




I’ve come down with a small doozie of a cold. My head feels sort of like a throbbing balloon filled with peanut butter (I think I just came up with the weirdest analogy ever, yuck!) and I’m sore all over here and there where my lymph nodes are swollen. I left Anatomy and Physiology before we studied the lymphatic system, but I can pick out where many things are going on by the soreness in my neck, back and hips/thighs. Anyway, I’m cranky and sneezy. Jesse brought me tea in bed this morning (and I brought him coffee).

I finished “The Handmaid’s Tale” and it had an ambiguous ending, the kind you have to make for yourself. In these cases, as the optimist always will, I devise the happiest possible outcome. I remember finishing “Life of Pi” (**SPOILER** don’t continue if you plan to read it) and not even really considering that the tiger and the kid were one and the same; I guess I agreed with the storyteller (and author? I don’t remember terribly well) that it made a better (and happier) story the way it was written. I sort of thought the author was leaving it up to you to decide. After Jesse read it, he informed me that there was no deciding, the author wrote it the one way, as in “what makes a better story?”, not “what makes a better truth?”. I think all that might not make any sense, sorry, I’m a little fluffy-headed. I’ll have Jesse check that paragraph to make sure it’s somewhat coherent. (side note: Jesse’s not sure it makes sense, but, too bad, this is my head-rambling and you came to read it, so there.)

I’ve moved on to reading Gone With the Wind and, though I chose it for it’s 1000+ pages, I also think it’ll be fun to read. I think I need to make a rule for myself. No books under 400 pages; they go too fast.

Jesse and I bought the DVD set of “Desperate Housewives” the other night. It’s seasons 1, 2 and 3 all together on only 3 DVD’s from a street vendor and it looks terrible. Way too fuzzy to watch. The soundtrack, of the entire thing, is about 2 seconds ahead. It’s OK, though, we spent just over $2 on it.

Well, then, this just about gets you up to speed.

In response to Emily’s comment on the previous entry, we have gone to see one movie, it was that cook in NY movie, um, “No Reservations”, that’s it. We were the only ones laughing, but not very much because it wasn’t very funny (or that good). And, Emily, it IS expensive in Shanghai! And not too late to see Suzhou, come on over!

In response to Kathy’s, I thought Eva Luna was awesome, BUT, I liked Daughter of Fortune better. It’s one of my top books.

In response to Nordli’s many sweet (and funny – you cursed!) comments, thank you for all the lovely “hello’s”. I think a 6 month motorcycle trip around North America sounds terribly adventurous and romantic.

And Allan, hi! Happy Birthday to all and to all a good night.

Good Tuesday


I’ve nearly finished the Margaret Atwood and it’s good. I’ve had to put it aside for the day so I don’t finish it too soon. The thing that’s rough about getting really sucked in to a good book is then it’s over and you’re left with that feeling of, “What? What just happened? Where am I and why aren’t I Cambridge in the post-apocalyptic future?”

I’ve had a lovely day. It didn’t start out so hot, as I keep waking up in the morning with these awful back-of-head and neck headaches and I’m blaming it on bad posture and a new pillow. I have used the same pillow at home, taking it to Japan and Spain, for the last, oh, 10 years? I didn’t bring it here as I thought it was getting too flat. I think I was wrong. Here’s the thing, it’s old, right? But it’s feather and it smells like home. It has been so squished over the years that there’s hardly pillow left of it. It was still soft and fluffy and squishy, but crumpled up into almost nothing when under my head. I miss it.

But, about my day. Jesse and I went to breakfast, which was delightful, and then I came back home to work and was still a bit down, missing family, blargh. I got the sweetest emails from Erin and Momm and things just went up from there. Momm’s email made me laugh out loud and I had to call her right then and there so we could laugh together about her dog (who ate a bag of chocolate covered espresso beans and was cuckoo all evening) and talk about good stuff. That conversation was just exactly what I needed. I think it did her some good, too.

Then Jesse came home and we went out walking, finding small alleys, old markets and discovering what’s behind the façade of new, modern China. It’s all still back there, on side streets, in alleys, and behind apartment buildings. There were markets selling thrashing fish; crabs getting away down the street and being fetched back into the box by children. We saw a cute old man set up on the sidewalk with an ancient sewing machine (black enameled, painted with bright flowers and characters, pedal-type) taking on random people’s mending. There are also fruit and vegetable stands galore and huge piles of garbage – not quite as picturesque.

Of course, we forgot the camera again.

52 Books in 52 Weeks


I’m well on my way to reading a kajillion books while here in China. I’m not working as much as I was in Japan, I’m not studying Spanish like I was in Spain, and I’m not in school trying to learn Microbiology. I think I may keep track! I’ve so far read about a book a week, and I’m thinking I may go for the 52 books in 52 weeks thing. I’ll tell you what’s holding me up. The big one, obviously, is where am I going to get these 52 books in a language I can read? There are small foreign books sections in a few bookstores, but the books are all at least the price they would be at home, usually more. It seems hugely extravagant to contemplate buying that many books. I’m hoping some kind of book exchange or used books place will manifest itself.

My other issue, and a vain one, is that I don’t always read quality literature. I read for pleasure, for fun, for a little experience of something, somebody or sometime else. This means some of the books I read last me 2 days (Cocktails for Three, by Madeleine Wickham) and are a bit embarrassing to admit having read. I almost feel like they shouldn’t count. BUT, I’m going to do it anyway and admit to you all along the way what I, in fact, read.

So, here we go, what I’ve read so far, in order:

Gabriella & Alexander, Nora Roberts (found on plane ride over, free book!)
A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
How to Be Good, Nick Hornby
Playing With Boys, Alisa Valdez-Rodriguez
Eva Luna, Isabel Allende
Cocktails for Three, Madeleine Wickham
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

And this puts me right on track. I’m a bit ahead of schedule, actually, by a few days. I’ve just started The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood; if I’m remembering correctly, it’s Heidi’s favorite book. Is this right, Heidi? It’s an immediately gripping book and makes me wish I’d brought the copy of The Blind Assassin that I’d tried a few times to get into at home but failed.

I’ll keep you posted when I’ve got a few more books to add on.

List Update, November 28th, 2007

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Breathing Lessons, Anne Tyler

And now it’s on to the Traveling Pants book!