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Summer reading fun

Translated by Ann Lee

Summer is an ideal time for a cornucopia of carefree diversions, from travel to recreation. One favorite warm-season pastime that goes well with almost any getaway, or can be enjoyed on its own, is relaxation with a good book. Whether you're lying on a beach, jammed into an airline seat, chilling at an outdoor cafe, or stretched out on your own living room sofa, an interesting read guarantees hours of cheap portable fun.

To assist you with your reading selection this season, Compass Magazine has tracked down a wide variety of individuals--many of them well-known--from around the island and asked them to recommend a favorite book they would like to share with you. There are novels, histories and books on travel, advice and society, in English, Chinese or both languages. All are available at bookstores (including on-line sellers) in Taiwan. Happy summer reading!

Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu

Recommended by: Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu
Book: The Secret
Author: Rhonda Byrne, translated by: Hsieh-Ming-xian
Published by: Fang Zhi Eurasian Press

As city mayor, I consider myself a Taichung partner for promoting culture. Compass Magazine and the taiwanfun.com website invited me to recommend an ideal summer book. This is quite a challenge for me, as I am a great fan of books and really enjoy reading. I usually read a couple different books throughout the week, so it's hard for me to pick a favorite to recommend.

But, finally, I've chosen "The Secret". This best-seller is truly an easy read. The language is easy to comprehend, so it's really suitable for readers of any age. It's the kind of book that you can keep by your bedside, and read it over and over again. Since it's published in both Chinese and English, it's easily purchased in bookstores island-wide. A lot of Compass readers are bilingual, so I thought this would be the perfect book to share. That way, everyone can understand the big "secret" that makes our universe tick.

"The Secret" tells us that the biggest secret in the universe is similar to the Chinese saying, "What the mind believes, becomes reality over time." If we know how to apply "the secret", then we know the key to getting everything we want in life, which is why I want to recommend this particular book. In this fast-changing world, people seem to forget what their dreams are. This book tells people how to reach their goals, appreciate and be thankful of people, incidents and objects in their daily lives, and to welcome changes with a positive attitude. By doing this, we'll get the most out of our lives and share more with other people.
I truly hope that everyone adds "The Secret" to their summer reading list; it will help you discover just what life has in store.

Stephen Young, Director of the American

Recommended by: Stephen Young, Director of the American
Institute in Taiwan (AIT)
Book: The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War
Author: David Halberstam
Published by: Hyperion (September 2007)

I bought this book at the recommendation of my friend Sandy Vershbow, currently the U.S. Ambassdor to the Republic of Korea, and when I finished it, I gave it to my father, a veteran of the Korean War, who read it with great interest. While doing research on "The Best and the Brightest", about the Vietnam War, the late, great, prolific author David Halberstam realized that many of the soldiers he interviewed were profoundly affected by their previous experience in Korean War and had kept in close touch with their former squad mates. But because it occurred before television, the American public knows far less about the Korean War than the Vietnam War.

Halberstam approaches the Korean War both from the top down and the bottom up, going from geopolitical strategy and high-level politics -- including brilliant vignettes of Douglas MacArthur, Mao Tse-tung, Joseph Stalin, Syngman Rhee and Chiang Kai-shek -- right down the experiences of ordinary soldiers in the pitched battle that raged up and down the Korean Peninsula, finally ending in an armistice at the 38th parallel. It confirmed an impression my father earlier conveyed to me, that the fierce, close combat in Korea during bitter winter cold was perhaps even more difficult than what our soldiers encountered a decade and a half later in the jungles of Vietnam. It is a fascinating read, and it also brings us to a better understanding of the East Asia we live in today. The Korean War dispelled any illusions the U.S. might have had about the intentions of Stalin and Mao, who believed that if they attacked fast enough, the United States would not come to South Korea's defense. The Korean War led also the U.S. to take a stronger position toward the defense of Taiwan, which has persisted to the present day.

Douglas Habecker, co-Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of Compass Magazine

Recommended by: Douglas Habecker, co-Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of Compass Magazine
Book: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Published by: Eurasian Press

When it comes to summertime reading, I generally gravitate towards books that will both entertain and help me escape from reality into another world, like a really amazing movie that lasts for days instead of hours. In this regard, it's no surprise that one of the most enjoyable books I've read lately is the creation of Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who now also moonlights as a scriptwriter in L.A.
"The Shadow of the Wind", already a huge best-seller in Europe and America, reads like a classic Gothic tale of mystery. Set in post-war Barcelona in the 1940s and '50s, it is narrated first-person by a boy whose story starts with a secretive 1945 visit with his father to the "Cemetery of Forgotten Books". Here, he discovers a single volume that, unexpectedly, will take him on a riveting, coming-of-age journey encompassing love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, humor and horror, loss and redemption, down an often-dark and twisting trail of secrets that leads back decades through modern Spain's most traumatic era. Although the protagonist is a boy, this is definitely adult fiction. Ruiz Zafon's often-poetic descriptions and dialogue, combined with a spine-tingling knack for suspense, will keep you up late reading this one. I'm already waiting for the author's follow-up prequel novel, which should be out in time for next summer's reading list.

Janet Hsieh, host of Discovery Channel's "Fun Taiwan"

Recommended by: Janet Hsieh, host of Discovery Channel's "Fun Taiwan"
Book: Badlands
Author: Tony Wheeler
Published by: Linking Publishing Company

When American President George W. Bush first coined the term the "Axis of Evil" in his State of the Union Address in 2002, most people shuddered at the thought of these weapons-of-mass-destruction-armed, terrorist-harboring, hostile nations.

But not Tony Wheeler. His first thought was probably something like, "Wow. I have GOT to travel there." It's not surprising if you knew that Tony Wheeler is also the founder of the world famous travel book series, The Lonely Planet.

In "Badlands", Tony has traveled to countries that we hear about daily in the news, but actually know very little about. He takes in these "slightly misguided, mildly malevolent, seriously off course, extraordinarily reclusive and much misunderstood" countries and shows them to us through the eyes of a traveler, thirsty for cultural and life experiences.

Sometimes, it's easy for us to forge an opinion on a country or its people based on what we hear in the news, and what I love about this book is that Tony completely blows all of those preconceptions away. He has portrayed countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea and Cuba in an unusually beautiful way and, in the meantime, inspired this reader to add these countries to my personal "places to see before I die" list.

And, even if you can't or have no desire to travel to these countries this summer (or ever), it's still a very humorous, sometimes educational, often touching, and very eye-opening book that's a great read.

Wen Cui-qin (CEO at Sunny Radio 89.1)

Recommended by: Wen Cui-qin (CEO at Sunny Radio 89.1)
Book: The Empress Wu Tse-tien
Author: Meng-Man
Published by: Macmillan

This book talks about the most controversial empress of the Tang dynasty, Wu Tse-tien, and her place in the history of China. It has a message for the women of today as well. Just as the empress created a non-conventional lifestyle for herself, women today must shift from "gentle, submissive, and not opinionated" to wise, powerful pillars of society. This book speaks to women today, especially business owners and career women, and provides a one-of-a-kind, independent and strong management philosophy. What's even better is that this is a great read for both genders.

Emily David, ICRT DJ

Recommended by: Emily David, ICRT DJ
Book: The Other Boleyn Girl
Author: Philippa Gregory
Published by: Pocket Books

When a book inspires a film, it is always a good indication that the book is worth reading, even if the film doesn't live up to its literary counterpart. While I haven't seen the big screen adaptation of "The Other Boleyn Girl", the novel--written by best-selling author Philippa Gregory--is a real page-turner that I think would make for a very satisfying summer read.

The book, set in 15th-century Europe, revolves around the lives of two beautiful sisters, Mary and Anne Boleyn, whose ambitious father drives them to compete against each other to win the affections of King Henry VIII. Both sisters seduce; they succeed and they fail. They love, they hate, they trust and they betray. So who wins?
Read the book to find out why and which sister became The Other Boleyn Girl - and how she survives such an extraordinarily complicated existence.

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