Westlake News ACADEMICS

Westlake Spring Reading Special: Books of the Year

01, 2022

Email: zhangchi@westlake.edu.cn
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Office of Public Affairs

Since World Book Day in 2019, we've advocated reading at Westlake. President Yigong Shi kicked off the Westlake Spring Reading event by recommending a book he found inspiring. The baton was then passed on to different scientists to recommend books that they adore with each issue of our magazine. We also handed out questionnaires to collect ideas on what to read.

In the Westlake Spring Reading Special, the baton was handed to the libraries on the Yungu and Yunqi campuses.

Our libraries would tell us what Westlakers have been reading, and which are their favorites. Today we will announce the most borrowed books (as of the end of October).

As research-related publications are usually borrowed for academic purposes, we only counted books covering literature, social sciences, history, economics, and other fields. We hope you might find a few outliers that spark your curiosity. We also interviewed several borrowers on how they came across and chose the books.

Popular Book List

(In no particular order)


1. Seasons in Life

By Hongzhen Ji

Peking University Press

This is a collection of essays by Hongzhen Ji, a famous literary critic, essayist and writer who connected her life experience with the 24 solar terms, and presented a unique picture of life that was both magnificent and filled with specific happy moments such as fishing, harvesting wild vegetables, doing embroidery, watching movies, reading old books and people-watching at a station.

2. Angel Ears (Tenshi no Mimi)

By Keigo Higashino

People's Literature Publishing House

Keigo Higashino is one of the most renowned and productive Japanese mystery novelists. His work includes worldwide best-sellers Journey Under the Midnight Sun, Naoko and The Devotion of Suspect X. Angel Ears is a collection of short stories written 30 years ago on the aftermath of traffic accidents.

3. The Catcher in the Rye

By J.D. Salinger

Yilin Press

This book is considered a classic of American literature. The story of Holden Caulfield, an idling 16-year-old high school student from a middle-class family in New York City, was published in 1951 and has influenced generations of young people all over the world. In 1983, this book was published in China for the first time by Lijiang Publishing House. In the blink of an eye, it has been almost 40 years since it was introduced to Chinese readers.

Social Science

1. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

By Yuval Noah Harari


As the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari has been a regular on the best-selling author list across the world. In his latest book, he takes a closer look at the problems faced by humanity, which will shape our present and near future.

2. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

By Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel

Translated by Feng Deng


Learning could be easier. Eleven cognitive psychologists offered concrete techniques for becoming productive and efficient learners. The result may vary depending on people's different learning styles. After all, one man's meat is another man's poison.

3. PsychSmart

By McGraw-Hill Editors

Posts & Telecom Press

There are many introductory books on psychology, each with a different focus. It may be taxing to read them all, so how about choosing the articles of your interest and starting from there? PsychSmart organizes the content by categories: Neuroscience and Behavior, Sensation and Perception, States of Consciousness, Learning, Thinking, Language and Intelligence, Motivation and Emotion. Take your pick!

4. The Shenzhen Miracle: Forty Years of Shenzhen and the Reform and Opening-up of China

By Siping Zhang


2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. This former fishing town was one of the first special economic zones, and an important window for China's reform and opening-up. The author, Siping Zhang, former member of the Standing Committee of the Shenzhen Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, Guangdong Province, and the head of the United Front Committee of the Municipal Committee, had a front-row seat to Shenzhen's economic takeoff. He summarized and contemplated the development of this city in the book.

5. Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average

By Joseph T. Hallinan


Have you ever fallen into a mind trap? Don't rush to answer as you may not know what those traps are. Joseph Hallinan, Pulitzer Prize winner, Nieman Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, Wall Street Journal reporter, and columnist, introduces 13 pitfalls, including why we always pay for fitness classes that we would never attend.

6. Attitude

By Jun Wu


This is a collection of 40 letters written by Jun Wu, former vice president of Tencent and winner of the National Wenjin Book Award, to his daughters, covering the specific life problems that every young adult would encounter. From the right attitude in life, to ways to reject someone more politely, this book can be used as a guide to our everyday life.


1. The 20 Years of 50 Men

Edited by Gang Fan, Gang Yi, Xiaoling Wu, Shanda Xu and Fang Cai


This book was born from the Chinese Economists 50 Forum, a nonprofit academic organization initiated by Chinese economists in Beijing in June 1998. On the 20th anniversary of the forum, members shared their stories over the 40-year history of China's reform and opening-up, covering the macroeconomic regulation, fiscal and taxation systems, financial innovation, rural revitalization, and international economic and trade relations.

2. Red Swan: How Unorthodox Policy-Making Facilitated China's Rise

By Sebastian Heilmann


Sebastian Heilmann, founder and president of the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin, and professor of Chinese political economy at the University of Trier, Germany, refers to China's unique development model and state governance method as "the red swan" in his collection of papers.


1. The Stories of National Southwest Associated University

By Manling Zhang

SDX Joint Publishing Company

In an interview with China Youth Daily, writer and producer Manling Zhang said, "Young people should read more. They should read the stories of people who have pushed history forward to expand their horizons and strengthen their ideals and spirit." This book is the result of Zhang's efforts to save and organize the historical materials of National Southwest Associated University over the past 10 years. The prose-like writing and precious images piece together the fragments  of this period of history.

2. The Old Regime and the Revolution

By Alexis de Tocqueville

Translated by Tang Feng, Yufang Gui and Zhilian Zhang

Commercial Press

This is the signature work of French politician, sociologist, and historian Alexis de Tocqueville who re-examined the famous French Revolution in 1789. In history class, we were taught that the revolution "abolished the French monarchy, shook the feudal system across the entire European continent, and spread the progressive ideas of liberty and democracy", but have you ever wondered why it started in France? Why were the French the ones who fought against feudal privileges? Tocqueville offered his thoughts.

3. The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo

By Yutang Lin

Hunan Literature & Art Publishing House

Su Dongpo is known by the Chinese as a Song Dynasty poet and prose master, but this book offered another way to understand him: This is an English biography written by Lin Yutang for Western readers. The book might not be rigorous in historiography, but it showed Lin's love for Su. Also, you can read it for learning English.

Popular Science

1. Nothing: Surprising Insights Everywhere from Zero to Oblivion

By Jeremy Webb

Commercial Press

Has it ever occurred to you what nothing is? Where can it be found? Twenty leading writers and scientists did and came up with this book. Contributors include mathematician Ian Steward, popular science writer Marcus Chown, and astronomer Nigel Henbest.

We interviewed staff and students about their choices of books.

Perhaps, we are looking for interpretation and perspectives on public agendas and life circumstances.

“People are obsessed with the existential crisis. This book talks about the opposite – nothingness – and it opens up the space for our mind and soul exponentially. It offers a cool new perspective on our day-to-day lives.”

-       Yi Zhu, a mental health counselor from the Office of Student Affairs

Perhaps, we are looking for something that relaxes our body and soul, and offers an escape from reality.

“I was attracted the title of the book – Seasons in Life - in the library last year. The author skillfully weaved her life stories into the 24 solar terms, which made it personable.

I find it relaxing as bedside reading. The book reorients me after a busy day of research work and I can go back to enjoying life. Those moments of being touched by the world so deftly captured by the author reminded me of similar moments in my own life. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to discover those heartwarming moments in life.”

-       Lei Zhang, Ph.D. student

Perhaps, we are looking for inspiration and nourishment for the soul.

The Stories of National Southwest Associated University is a book that I reread many times. Each time after I read it, I get this lingering feeling that I have yet to grasp the profound belief and determination that the intellectuals had back then. They lived in a time when the future of our nation, race and individuals was unclear, yet many of them managed to become outstanding educators and scientists. I want to draw strength from their stories and fuel my own advancement.”

-       Shiyue Weiyang, Ph.D. student

Or perhaps, we are looking for a clue to where humankind will go in the future.

“From Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, we learned how Homo sapiens rose to the top of the food chain. From Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, we uncovered where humankind would go. Yuval Noah Harari always manages to impress. In 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, I want to know what he thinks of the agendas that determine the destiny of humankind.”

-    Qiaomu Qiaosheng, Ph.D. student

We hold the family, the country, and the world in our heart.

This is what drives Westlakers to read and explore.