Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Willis Wu is a first-generation Chinese American whose dream is to become a movie star. Not just any movie star, but the role of Kung Fu Guy—the pinnacle of Asian acting, according to childhood memories. It turns out those memories weren’t so off-base, at least in Hollywood, and Kung Fu Guy is hard to get as it is. Wu soon finds himself in an uphill battle to escape the role of Generic Asian Man, stuck as Guest Star in a crime TV series called Black and White with no room for Asian leads. Meanwhile, he watches the people in his life—father, mother, girlfriend—morphing between different roles and stereotypes, trying to find a good life for themselves and their families.

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North Korea’s Hidden Revolution – Jieun Baek

This was a great book on North Korea, far more encompassing than I expected. It aggregates many personal accounts into a cohesive but careful picture of life in North Korea today, focused especially on how foreign media is smuggled into the country. The policy and psychological analysis were truly fascinating, and I felt the author tried to present a balanced viewpoint while maintaining her thesis, that new information empowers long-term change. One of my favorite reads of the year so far!

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Never Powerless: Václav Havel’s Open Letters – Part 1

A kind of bi-polar political thinking is becoming more and more common in today’s politically polarized world…everyone is expected to be unquestionably loyal to the position he belongs to or has been assigned to.

Václav Havel wrote that in 1986. You know I’m not a loud person, but when I read that, I could’ve opened the window and shouted. Someone understood…someone got it.

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A Life in Books: T. E. Lawrence AKA Lawrence of Arabia

Just chatting about the life, books, and adventures of T. E. Lawrence (1888–1935). Lawrence was the young British officer who, during World War I, became “Lawrence of Arabia” – the face, strategist, and de facto leader of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turkish Empire. A complicated person, he battled greatly with conflicted feelings about his personal identity and his role as a “hero” of the British Empire.