Epoch Booklist: Recommended Reading for July 21–27

Epoch Booklist: Recommended Reading for July 21–27
This week, we feature a look at “perfect” Scandinavian societies and an absorbing novel about a girl longing to practice medicine in China’s past.

Historical Fiction

‘Lady Tan’s Circle of Women’ By Lisa See

This captivating story begins in 1469, the fifth year of the Chenghua Emperor’s reign. The protagonist is a girl named Tan Yunxian, who’s inspired by a woman physician from the same era, a rarity at that time. Yunxian’s early interest in medicine is the catalyst for the challenges she faces growing up in an elite family as a clash of traditions dictates her destiny. A fast friendship with Meiling, a midwife in training, and their combined quest to help other women make for a triumphant tale.

Scribner, 2023, 368 pages

Current Affairs

‘The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia’ By Michael Booth

Scandinavian nations score high in international surveys. The Danes are the happiest people in the world, and Finland has the best education system. All regularly end up in the top 10 places to live. What is the real story? Have these countries really achieved Utopia? This book attempts an answer by examining each nation to reveal their fortes and foibles. Readers experience life in every Scandinavian country and see how history and geography shaped each. Lightheartedly, it explains their contradictions.

Picador, 2015, 400 pages


‘The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights’ By Shaun Assael

The life and death of Sonny Liston remains one of the United States’ great sports mysteries and tragedies. Liston had risen from poverty, abuse, and crime to become the heavyweight champion of boxing. But some things never left him. The book shows how his harsh upbringing developed an unstable man who reached for anyone who would lend a hand. Those hands came from the criminal underworld, which Assael strongly intimates were the author of his demise. It is a gripping investigation into the tragic champion.

Blue Rider Press, 2016, 320 pages


‘Robert E. Lee on Leadership: Lessons in Character, Courage, and Vision’ By H.W. Crocker III

Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt both praised Robert E. Lee for his military genius and for his nobility. Crocker analyzes the man’s personal and public life and extracts lessons appropriate for today. Using in particular Lee’s style of command on the battlefield, he provides his readers insights into how they may benefit from a study of his leadership in business and in the general art of living. This 1999 release is a fine and approachable reflection on the man and on the meaning of excellence.

Regnery History, 2023, 256 pages


‘Li Po and Tu Fu: Selected Poems’ By Li Po and Tu Fu

Selected and translated by Arthur Cooper, this collection contains the best verses of two of China’s greatest poets. These were such close friends that they are often referenced as “Li-Tu.” Their eighth-century poems remain fresh and beautiful in their simplicity of language and their appeal to the heart. This particular collection also offers a brief history of the time and brief biographies of the poets, teaches a bit about Chinese poetry in general, and includes notes on individual poems.

Penguin Classics, 1973, 256 pages

For Kids

‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ By Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

This classic memoir from 1948 is a hilarious look at the life of a very large family of 12 children and their parents. What’s even funnier is that the father is an expert in efficiency and tries to run his family like a factory. Lighthearted and family-focused, this is a great read for summer—and can even be followed up with one of the film adaptations.

Harper, 2005, ‎224 pages
Dustin Bass is an author and co-host of The Sons of History podcast. He also writes two weekly series for The Epoch Times: Profiles in History and This Week in History.
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