Until I started this blog I had almost no one to talk books with. After I read something amazing I’d walk around feeling like I was going to explode unless I SHARED ALL MY FEELINGS ABOUT THIS BOOK.
Sometimes I couldn’t hold it in, I would start talking about the latest great book to someone, anyone. I had to say the words out loud. I had to beg someone to PLEASE PLEASE OH GOD PLEASE READ THIS IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE I SWEAR!
I’ve only been blogging for a few months. I’ve been reading for decades. Can you even imagine how many books I’ve read and loved? Hundreds. Can you imagine all the feelings I’ve had to stuff down so that I didn’t bore my family members and friends to death? Hundreds more.
I’m starting a regular feature to pimp some books that I loved before I was a blogger. Perhaps a semi-regular feature? Maybe a whenever I feel like it sort of feature. Maybe just this one post. We’ll see. Be patient with me people, I’m a newbie.
“Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up to and overtake Britain in less than 15 years The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives.” So opens Frank Dikötter’s riveting, magnificently detailed chronicle of an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented because access to Communist Party archives has long been restricted to all but the most trusted historians. A new archive law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that “fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era.” Dikötter makes clear, as nobody has before, that far from being the program that would lift the country among the world’s superpowers and prove the power of Communism, as Mao imagined, the Great Leap Forward transformed the country in the other direction. It became the site not only of “one of the most deadly mass killings of human history,”–at least 45 million people were worked, starved, or beaten to death–but also of “the greatest demolition of real estate in human history,” as up to one-third of all housing was turned into rubble). The experiment was a catastrophe for the natural world as well, as the land was savaged in the maniacal pursuit of steel and other industrial accomplishments. In a powerful mesghing of exhaustive research in Chinese archives and narrative drive, Dikötter for the first time links up what happened in the corridors of power-the vicious backstabbing and bullying tactics that took place among party leaders-with the everyday experiences of ordinary people, giving voice to the dead and disenfranchised. His magisterial account recasts the history of the People’s Republic of China.