Roger’s recommended reading

In my real life, when I’m not running obscure errands, curating this site or undertaking strange renovation projects for Knox, I read and do my best to think constructively. When books are not readily available, I often turn to the internet and the world of non-fiction. The stories on this page cover a broad range of topics; I found some good in them and I think you will too. This is Roger’s recommended reading.

Lawrence Wright: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology (added 6 July 2012)

I read this New Yorker article when it came out last year, and just reread it last night. I have my own thoughts on Scientology, but regardless of how you feel this article is fascinating. An exhaustive account of a high profile defection from the Church. Read the full text off-site

 Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld: Obituary (added 2 July 2012)

There’s no way I could put it better than The Telegraph does with this introduction: Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld, who has died aged 88, escaped from Occupied France to join the Special Operations Executive (SOE); parachuted back on sabotage missions, he twice faced execution, only to escape on both occasions, once dressed as a Nazi guard. Read the full text off-site

Richard Ford: Good Raymond (added 26 June 2012)

Richard Ford’s cadence and meter are flawless, and reading his work is a pleasure. Before Raymond Carver died of lung cancer in 1988, the two rising stars of the American literary world developed a meaningful friendship that lasted until his death. Ten years later, Richard Ford reflects on life, friendship and the what the world lost with his passing. Read the full text off-site

Jonathan Watts: Witnessing the birth of a superpower (added 19 June 2012)

A thorough, gripping retrospective look at ten years as the China correspondent for the The Guardian. The article itself works as a map to his writing through the years, with links to old stories peppered throughout. It is reflective, insightful and thought provoking. A must-read. Read the full text off-site

Sascha Matuszak: Foreign Men, Represent (added 23 April 2012)

As a China-based expat for the better part of the last decade, Sascha Matuszak has witnessed multicultural love from all angles. The fact that many foreign men gravitate towards local women is no secret, but it is the type of dalliance most commonly seen that he takes exception to: a dalliance infused with high heels, skanky skirts, bottles of booze and little to no actual love connection. It is the best of Chinese women, he argues, that are most underrepresented in these encounters, and he is urging the laowai men of China to work a little harder, dig a little deeper and find that Chinese Queen. Read the full text off-site

North Korea: “We Are So Great” (Added 16 April 2012)

The DPRK’s major news outlet, Korean Central News Agency—which, according to its website, “develops the friendly and cooperative relations with foreign news agencies”—is, well, interesting. The news vacillates between boring cookie-cutter propaganda, strange and absurd reporting on strange and absurd things, and outright fabrications. The isolation of the North Korean people is probably the greatest success of any modern-day totalitarian state, and this isolation allows the propaganda arm of the Kim family to make some outrageous claims. This time around the failed-missile-launch-carousel the KCNA reluctantly reported on the failure, but the last time they botched a missile launch, in 2009, they weren’t so forthcoming. Hat tip to Evan Osnos for digging this gem up. Read the full text off-site

William Dalrymple: The Monk’s Tale (added 9 April 2012)

There is little to say about this piece, other than that it will encourage you to think about the Tibetan problem. This interview with a monk who was a part of the Dalai Lama’s security entourage during his escape to India in the late 1950’s is absolutely riveting, and heart-pounding, and so much more. This story seems to me, at least, like a beautiful monument to humanity; the things we do for what we believe in, especially for those who possess deep faith. Read the full text off-site

Lauren Hilgers: Laos Vegas (added 5 April 2012)

Having spent a good portion of last week in Sichuan losing money playing dòu dìzhÇ” (斗地主, a Chinese card game which translates to “struggle with the landlord”), I can personally attest to the Chinese people’s love for gambling. They are good at it. Or at least, they are better than me. Either way, with gambling banned in Mainland China, entrepreneurs are looking ever to the borders for legal (or semi-legal) gambling havens. Gazing southwest, one man has landed in the wilderness of Laos, and the Kings Roman Casino is a brash neon cluster amidst the thick jungle. This story is a look into how it all came to be, and a look into the future for the casino and the surrounding regions. Read the full text off-site

Evan Osnos: The God of Gamblers (Added 5 April 2012)

Even Osnos looks at gambling off another Chinese coast, the glitzy, gaudy Special Administrative Region of Macau. This article has a wide scope: an unstoppable card player; the grey areas surrounding money in Macau casinos; the gangs that do the shady debt collecting across the Mainland border; a moral assassin and the ensuing fallout. It goes on. It is, as all the best New Yorker articles are, exhaustive and entirely interesting. Read the full text off-site

Leonardo Da Vinci: My Most Illustrious Lord (added 2 April 2012)

There is little argument that Da Vinci was a man of many talents (The Last Supper and The Mona Lisa come to mind, to cite two boring examples). In light of contemporary recognition of his genius, it is difficult to imagine the quintessential renaissance man applying for a job. But apply he did! And boy, did he do it right; a cover letter for the ages, highlighting his lesser-known skills in the realm of war-time engineering. It includes, but is by no means limited to, bridges, cannons, mines, winding secret passages, “beautiful” mortars, unassailable vehicles, and much more. An excellent read. Read the full text off-site

Leslie Chang: Do Chinese Factory Workers Dream of iPads? (added 28 March 2012)

The American media’s discussion of the working conditions in Chinese factories reached a peak this month, as it was revealed that Mike Daisy had lied about key moments in the retelling of his investigation into the Shenzhen Foxconn factory (where some Apple products are made). The discussion has been dominated by two things: the abstract idea of what-is-truth-anyway as it concerns investigative journalism, and the idea of American morality—should we feel bad about buying Apple products? But at the center of this American discussion of working conditions in China is, fittingly, Americans. Leslie Chang reminds us to consider the people the story is really about. Read the full text off-site

James Fallows: Obama, Explained (added 16 March 2012)

In the years to come, there will be no dearth of I-told-you-so and how-did-we-miss-that and who-was-hotter-Jackie-or-Michelle histories and memoirs of the Obama administration, with contributions from the left and right alike. For now, in what is no doubt the most complete and well-thought attempt to assess Obama I have read yet, we will have to make do with this exhaustive Atlantic article courtesy of James Fallows.  Read the full text off-site

Sam McDougle: Humans are Nicer Than We Think  (added 16 March 2012)

This concise essay on the evolution and psychological realities of human morality is, at first glance, a light-hearted look at the ways in which we interact with one another (humans “have a strong built-in ‘try-not-to-punch-that-dude’ mechanism”). But as the world more frequently engages in warfare that is waged in remote military bases and requires no physical contact, the implications of what we are learning about human morality takes a decidedly unsettling turn. Read the full text off-site

Personal testament: An Ex-Resident’s Story (added 24 February 2012)

The author of this unsigned testimony bears a striking resemblance to the late David Foster Wallace, both in terms of writing style and in the overarching message of trying live a clean, balanced life free of alcohol and drugs. Who wrote it may be in question, but the story’s eloquence and value are most certainly not. Read the full text off-site

Mùróng Xuěcūn: Caging a Monster (added 24 February 2012)

Mùróng Xuěcūn (慕容 雪村), the Chinese writer and outspoken proponent of human rights and free expression, delivered this speech in Oslo in the fall of 2011. The speech, entitled Caging a Monster (把怪物关进笼子里), is above all else a loving plea for China to make steps to advance the integrity of its institutions. The full text is provided here, with the original Chinese and an excellent English translation. Read the full text off-site

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