Meet the Best Springtime in Books

It’s the best time in the Yanyuan Garden,

With delightful scenery outside windows.

It’s the best time to immerse in the scent of books,

Bathed in spring warmth and breeze.

We organized an online “shared reading” session to celebrate this year’s World Book and Copyright Day. Although physically distant, our YCA Scholars joined the virtual interactive reading experience to read and share their thoughts on the selected books’ themes.

Desk and bookshelves: Everyone has a unique private library

Every bookworm could be particular about how to organize their bookshelves’ collections. More often than not, the desk and bookshelves are more than their practical purposes. They are part of one’s life, or even life itself.

Gao Sicheng (China) | 2021 Cohort, China Studies (Politics and International Relations):

The study is part of life for an educated Chinese – a private retreat to receive only the most valued guests. Feng Jicai, a renowned contemporary Chinese scholar, once commented, “My study is a world; it is accessible only to me. But it is a world that houses the entire universe.” That is precisely what my desk at the YCA Library means to me.

Qiu Zheqian (China) | 2021 Cohort, China Studies (Literature and Culture):

I really appreciate the time spent in the YCA library – my paradise in PKU!

Wong Hui Xin (Malaysia) | 2021 Cohort, China Studies (History and Archaeology):

Books connect me to the past, the future, and the wildest adventures and imaginations.

Merle Kartscher (Germany) | 2020 Cohort, China Studies (History and Archaeology):

Since my parents, grandparents, and entire family are avid readers, books have played an important role in my life from early childhood. You can see a large chunk of the books I have accumulated over the past decades on these shelves. Although I do enjoy seeing my personal little book collection grow, I love going to public libraries (wonderful institutions!) to browse, check out books, or work.

Pierre Lack (UK) | 2021 Cohort, China Studies (History and Archaeology):

I have three small bookcases here. The first, with the hand-painted purple wizard above, is where I put my favorite books I have read before.

Sophia Dooly (USA) | 2020 Cohort, China Studies (History and Archaeology):

Cherished shells from ebbing tide: Everyone has a private collection of favorite books

We have come across one book after another in life. But several favorites remain on our minds ever since we read them.

Merle Kartscher (Germany) | 2020 Cohort, China Studies (History and Archaeology):

Blaues Reich. Winterstadt (Blue Empire. Winter City) by Hinrich von Haaren

Thinking it was just another orientalist travelogue, I was skeptical, but the book was nothing like I imagined. Instead of centering China as the main subject, the book follows the narrator and his group of friends navigating their life in 1980s Berlin, where they study Sinology at university. After the tragic death of one of his friends, the narrator decides to take a trip to China, where he grapples with the events and finally comes to terms with them. The narrator’s experiences eerily mirror my own time at university when I lost a close friend and struggled with feelings of grief, relief, and guilt. Reading about someone else reflecting on these complicated, big emotions was upsetting and freeing to me and helped me accept that they can coexist. I read the book in one sitting, and I think about it often.

Pierre Lack (UK) | 2021 Cohort, China Studies (History and Archaeology):

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The book I want to share is The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. It is a collection of short gothic stories with feminist and natural themes. The writing is so intricate and densely symbolic. It is one of the first things I read that taught me to see symbols and meaning in environments, objects, and actions; in other words, the things behind the veil which bring significance to the world.

Gao Sicheng (China) | 2021 Cohort, China Studies (Politics and International Relations):

Strategy: A History by Lawrence Freedman

Everyone needs strategy; strategy runs through history; strategy is everywhere.

The two main lines of this book are strategic practices and strategy in social science theories. This book tells us that strategy is not a means of mastering situations but a way of coping with the fact that no one can fully control situations. This knowledge is precisely the advantage of strategy – it provides people with a package of tools to solve problems. People need to assess the situation according to objective conditions and use the tools strategy offers to solve problems. Strategies are tools but not direct answers. This is why strategic awareness is unnatural and needs to be cultivated consciously and acquired actively. To summarize “strategy” after reading this book, I would say that its true meaning lies in the balance and dynamic adjustments between long-term and short-term, planning and flexibility, rationality and passion, conservative and radical, and violence and peace.

Luo Hanyi (China) | 2020 Cohort, China Studies (Law and Society):

Le voleur d’ombres (The Shadow Thief) by Marc Lévy

It is a story of childhood, growing up, and gains and losses. Lévy’s intricate writing evokes memories of my childhood: I saw that little girl who was curious, empathetic, and perceptive. Losing hurts, but life prepares rewards at any unexpected corner. The small town remains what it used to be in the whirling world. But are you still the child who chatted with shadows in the bright moonlight?

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

All grown-ups were once children. But they forgot. We grew up, and we lost many things. Adults are no longer innocent, pure, and simple as children are. They are tainted by the desire for success and profits, vanity and void. We need to slow down. Put aside everything and look into the starry sky or breathe in the flower scents. In this, we recall and relive the most important moments in life. In this, we regain the capability to cherish, be friendly, and love.

Journey under the Midnight Sun by Higashino Keigo

I read the book in my senior middle school days and lamented the impacts of the family of origin on a person. I was shocked by the darkness, hatred, and despair in the book. I couldn’t understand the main characters’ decisions and actions. Their life was too far away from mine. And my heart ached at the friendship between the two eleven-year-olds, particularly at Ryōji’s belief in existence as protection. Their friendship was distorted into “symbiosis” but remained the only light in their life.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The book was sharp on the “lost innocence.” Both children and grown-ups can be frustrated and miserable. The protagonist saw through the “phoniness” of the adult world through which he must go. Images like the duck, younger sister’s CD, and cap indicate the grown-up and loss of innocence. The Catcher in the Rye tried to pull back the children falling from the cliff of the adult world and safeguard their invaluable innocence.

Sophia Dooly (USA) | 2020 Cohort, China Studies (History and Archaeology):

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

This book of adventures is my favorite. I read the English version before; now, I’m reading its Chinese version. The fantastic epic story remains intoxicatingly attractive with the Rings.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

A book as romantic as a fairy tale. I read it every week in my middle school years.

BGM in life: Everyone keeps on with music

Tunes of music echo, and heart and mind calm down. Put aside the tediousness and worries, and have a carefree dance.

Merle Kartscher (Germany) | 2020 Cohort, China Studies (History and Archaeology):

The album “Yearbook” by Sleeping at Last is a great choice!

Pierre Lack (UK) | 2021 Cohort, China Studies (History and Archaeology):

When reading, you want droney, repetitive, and unobtrusive music. I think pipe organ music does the trick. Kali Malone’s “The Sacrificial Code” is perfect – an austere, serene, and beautiful selection of minimalist drone tracks using a pipe organ with a particularly dense, detailed sound.

The pandemic may change the world, but not the love of reading and books. The library is like a retreat. The Yenching Academy Branch of PKU Library is housed in Building 6, sharing Shaoyuan Garden with YCA dormitories. Our Scholars have easy access to this beautiful place. The library boasts a collection of over 5,500 books, 70% of which are English classics and new publications of literature, history, philosophy, politics, economics, and law. This retreat-like library is an ideal place for reading, book borrowing, studying, meditating, and discussing, and it is equipped with web searching, photocopying, scanning, and printing amenities. The library is also an accessible post for newspapers, periodicals, and students’ papers. Yenching Scholars and teachers are served with 24h service, including projected information and updated push notification.

Come to read by your desk at the Yenching Academy Branch of PKU Library anytime on any day.

YCA Library is with you wherever you are. YCA Library is a beam of sunshine through the clouds of the pandemic.

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