How To Choose Fiction Books the Chinese Way

Today I’ve inspected the English books my college Chinese students have chosen for their book report and got quite a shocker. Most of them have chosen classics even Shakespeare! And while I should be glad, I know their level is too low for these heavy hitters. The language is too complex for them to grasp.

Here is how they chose the books:

  • How thin it is
  • How pretty the cover is

I got a student who chose Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler never knowing that it was an erotic tale that talks about prostitutes. Now the entire class knows what red-light district means.

They never dream of looking beyond the cover. Nor of reading the back portion and opening the book to get the sense of the language. And when they see how thin it is, they get all excited because it means that they can finish it quickly never knowing that you can have a thin book with long flowery language filled with a lot of difficult vocabulary like Albert Camus’ The Stranger and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby compared to a thick page-turner with graspable vocab like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind which so many have devoured in days or even just a day without sleeping.

Tomorrow’s lesson: Don’t judge a book by its cover.


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