A bit of a grab bag in today’s collection of recommended readings. But that’s never stopped me before, so let’s get started!

Behind the Wall Book CoverFirst up, I read another travel book by Colin Thubron.  This one is “Behind the Wall,” his first book on travel in China.  As you may have noticed, since beginning this column, I have slowly been working my way through all of Thubron’s travel books.  This one might be the weakest so far, but it is still worth reading.  Thubron spent about four months moving across the country in the mid 1980s, when the effects of the Cultural Revolution were still evident. To some extent it seems to lack the scholarship and erudition of the other Thurbon works I’ve mentioned here and veers into a depiction of the strangeness of the country.  You can get a copy on Amazon, or borrow it for free via the Open Library.  

Next, I read the January 17 issue of “The New Yorker” Magazine.  Now, you might wonder why a regular guy like me is reading such a fancy magazine.  Well, it’s because they have a really good subscription deal right now.  You can get 12 issues sent to you anywhere in the world for just $10.  And they’ll also send you a cute tote bag.  It is a good bag, too: my wife put our cat in the bag and carried him around the apartment for ten minutes.  All three of us were quite happy.  If you’ve got ten bucks to spare, the magazine is worthwhile. Much of the content is silly, but each issue has at least one good article with an academic bent.  In this issue, I enjoyed “The Great Siberian Thaw,” which talks about the effects of melting permafrost in Russia.  It’s a long article, but it is the sort of topic that you might find in the reading section of the TOEFL.  Indeed, I could even imagine a solution/problem integrated writing question based on this story.

After that, I glanced at the February issue of National Geographic at my local library.  At this point I should mention that if you are planning to stalk me, I’m often found at Doksan Library in Seoul.  It’s quite nice there.  Anyway, the magazine contained a decent article about the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  I was surprised to learn that the damage caused by the recent fire there was not severe, and that the restoration may be finished by 2023.  The article talks about the ongoing work, and also discusses the history of the famous site.

Finally, while visiting my other local library, I found a copy of the February issue of Reader’s Digest.  That amused me quite a lot, since I had no idea that Reader’s Digest was still published.  Also, it reminded me of a much simpler time, before everyone got irrationally angry about the state of the world.  I don’t think I’ll make reading it part of my monthly routine, but it is really reassuring to know that I could read it.  And, hey, if you want a mixture of casual and formal English content perhaps you can find a copy for yourself.   This month’s issue contained a decent article about the Danube Express, a train that travels between Istanbul and Budapest.  The thing about Reader’s Digest is that it prints edited (shortened) versions of popular articles.  If you want to read the full version of this story, you can find it in Travel and Leisure.

Okay.  That’s it for now.  Next month I’ll have yet more travel writing, a few more magazine articles and maybe a non-fiction book about a familiar topic.

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