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What are the first 10 books you read? What are the first 10 you WOULD read now that you know better?

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DavyJonesLocker

I presume you mean outside graded readers? 

I'm at the same position myself now . 

A major factor would be trying to balance difficulty with interest. I think using a tablet to read ebooks and pleco OCR helps a lot in terms of reading fluidity thus allowing you to tackle content with a lot of unknown words.

 

I think the standard advice of reading at 95% comprehension level is too theoretical and quite flawed in terms of practicality. In reality you could well have a understanding at a 7k word comprehension level, yet pick up a 3k reader and still find that you're nowhere near the 95 or 98% mark.

(Not sure what the optimal level is supposed to be).

Further I  believe the difficulty of sentences, grammar, abstract nature, cultural references and so on  are the determining factor in what to read,  not the "unknown word count". (within reason of course).

 

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imron
On 3/23/2019 at 4:01 PM, DavyJonesLocker said:

I think using a tablet to read ebooks and pleco OCR helps a lot in terms of reading fluidity thus allowing you to tackle content with a lot of unknown words.

Personally, I'd avoid this.  Yes it lets you read more advanced content, but it holds you back from developing the very skills needed to be able to read more advanced content by yourself because you outsource those skills to the device.  Paper books are the way to go because they force you to address your shortcomings.

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zander1
57 minutes ago, imron said:

细雨中呼喊

 

Oh god I remember grabbing this after reading quite easily through 活着 and finding it totally impenetrable, I think it’s still lying discarded somewhere in my house 

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imron
6 minutes ago, zander1 said:

Oh god I remember grabbing this after reading quite easily through 活着 and finding it totally impenetrable,

It's red for a reason :mrgreen:  This is what I had to say about it at the time.

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DavyJonesLocker

@imron

 

excellent and helpful list, many thanks 

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imron
1 hour ago, imron said:

Once you've got 10-20 books under your belt you can then start to branch out in to more serious literature.

Something else I forgot to mention, 10-20 books is probably around the point where you could branch out in to reading books in the other character set (traditional or simplified, depending on which one you'd started with) and be able to pick up that set with very little difficulty just through reading a book or two and looking up the characters you don't recognise.  You could do it sooner if you wanted, but it wouldn't be as easy.

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imron

The other point I wanted to mention, is that I think there is definitely use and benefit in reading (and struggling) through books above your level, it's just that everyone is limited in the amount of time they can spend on studying Chinese, so while it's possible to derive some benefit from such activities, it won't provide as much benefit as just going through a bunch of easier stuff first to build up your knowledge, experience and stamina.

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Lu
3 hours ago, imron said:

《家》《春》and《秋》.  Those books are worthy of reading for the insight they give you in to China during that period of time, but in hindsight, I would have been better off reading them later.  I had to force myself to finish 《春》because it was boring me to tears.  《家》and 《秋》were much better in that regard but still contained enough archaic and old-fashioned language that I wouldn't recommend them as first books (I know others disagree with this).

Yes, me 🙂 I must admit that I read 家 when I already had a number of books under my belt, but I found it pretty easy. Sure there is some old-fashioned vocabulary (words for old-fashioned things and old-fashioned words in general), but the total number of different words is relatively low, making them easier to digest. So perhaps not as a first book, but if you are interested in this period of history, know that you can read 家 quite early on (in my opinion). I do agree that 春 was boring. I never read 秋.

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murrayjames

The first ten Chinese-language books I read are, in chronological order:

  1. 《新使用汉语课本第一册》 刘珣(主编)
  2. 《新使用汉语课本第二册》 刘珣(主编)
  3. 《新使用汉语课本第三册》 刘珣(主编)
  4. 《新使用汉语课本第四册》 刘珣(主编)
  5. 《新使用汉语课本第五册》 刘珣(主编)
  6. 《白色日本童话》 王泉根(主编)
  7. 《基本乐理通用教材》 李重光
  8. 《盛世—中国2013》 陈冠中
  9. 《毛主席语录》 毛泽东
  10. 《活着》 余华

This order worked for me; I wouldn’t change it. I started with Chinese-language learning textbooks, then continued with children’s stories, an accessible non-fiction textbook in my field (music), then finally onto modern literature.

 

The reading advice and book suggestions that @imron and @Lu have shared on these forums have been incredibly motivating and helpful. Others, too: @roddy, @bokane, @renzhe, @skylee, @Meng Lelan. I would not have had the nerve to start reading 20th-century Chinese literature without their good example.

 

I am reading 余华’s 《在细雨中呼喊》now. Don’t listen to the haters. It is good. The 《婚礼》chapter is a modest masterpiece with an existential kick as powerful as anything in 《活着》or 《许三观卖血记》.

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murrayjames

I just went through Lu and Imron’s reading lists again. Some good stuff in there. Added 张洁’s《无字》 and 金庸’s《碧血剑》 to my list of books to read. 

 

@imron, why do you consider 张爱玲’s 《色、戒》a work to “avoid entirely”? I recommend it, partly for the rich descriptions of Shanghai at night, partly for the questions 张爱玲 raises about love, patriotic duty, and female agency (questions 李安 would later explore in greater depth in his film adaptation).

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imron
4 hours ago, murrayjames said:

why do you consider 张爱玲’s 《色、戒》a work to “avoid entirely”?

One thing to clarify, when I say《色、戒》I was referring to the entire book which is a collection of short stories of which《色、戒》is but one, rather than just《色、戒》the individual story. 

 

It's been years now since I read the book so although I have a distinct impression that I didn't like it, the specifics of why are a little hazy.

 

From memory the reason was because it was a series of short stories but the stories aren't so much stories with a start, beginning and end, but rather just a window in to people's life at a certain point in time, and you observe that for a short while and then stop.  And then move on to the next one, and then stop.  It's just the feeling of being left hanging and nothing really happening.  It's fine if you are looking for rich descriptions and snapshots of life, but frustrating if you are trying to figure out where things are going (which my mind tends to do automatically when I'm reading) and then it just ends - hah no story arc for you!

 

And then it happens again in the next story, and again in the next.  It might be that the individual story《色、戒》wasn't like this, but a large number of the stories in the book were.

 

It's a writing style that I tend to find frustrating and unrewarding, and one that is a very common feature of Chinese novels (far more so than English novels), and although that writing style doesn't bother me as much as it used to, there needs to be compelling characters that hold my interest and that I want to know more about, and that's much harder to do with short stories.  平凡的世界 is an example of this 'window to your life' style of writing that held my interest.

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murrayjames
7 hours ago, imron said:

when I say《色、戒》I was referring to the entire book which is a collection of short stories of which《色、戒》is but one

 

Ah. Haven't read that collection.

 

I do know the kind of unsatisfying storytelling you're talking about. A story with a promising premise; a fascinating character or two; a plot that begins in media res, that contains a few interesting narrative set pieces, then ends abruptly without resolving the established conflict. I tend not to enjoy stories like this, either.

 

Not sure if the short story 《色、戒》 is this kind of unsatisfying story, on your view. I found the story super interesting from a formal perspective. Many of the events of the story occurred in the past. These events are conveyed through a series of flashbacks. Meanwhile, in the present, the main character 王佳芝 sits in a coffeehouse alone, waiting for her married collaborationist lover 易先生 to arrive. Much of the story is characterized by inaction: a woman waits for a man; and only after the man arrives does the story continue. This middle part of the story is bookended by scenes of 易先生’s wife and her friends playing majiang at home. It is a novel narrative structure. On a plot level, the story is about a female spy (王佳芝) who is tasked with killing her collaborationist lover (易先生). But on a structural level, the story moves from the betrayed wife (易太太) to the adulteress (王佳芝) and back to the betrayed wife.

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imron
2 hours ago, murrayjames said:

A story with a promising premise; a fascinating character or two; a plot that begins in media res, that contains a few interesting narrative set pieces, then ends abruptly without resolving the established conflict.

That's exactly the feeling I'm talking about.  You start to invest yourself in the story and them *bam*, story's gone.

 

I don't recall if the《色、戒》story was like that, but many of the other stories in the collection were.  Maybe I'll try and dig up my copy from whatever box it's currently in and try reading just that one again.

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Lu

Thanks for explaining why you didn't like 《色,戒》. The description is useful, it sounds like something I would like. It also sounds a lot like 《半生缘》, which I read in Dutch and liked a lot.

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