Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard

“I just decided to try my best to ignore the voices that told me I was a failure.”

3/5 stars.
Paperback, 272 pages.
Read from August 14, 2019 to August 25, 2019.

I adore books about running and racing. I also love true-story books involving animals. This book brought those two worlds together for me. After having this book on my TBR list for a while after a friend’s recommendation, I spotted a paperback copy of this book while I was slightly drunk at an airport. Drink having contributed my book-buying issue, I compulsively purchase this book. However, I did share it with a family member afterwards so it was worth it.

Dion Leonard is an accidental elite runner. He doesn’t run because he likes it but because he wants to challenge himself and be competitive. It all started after he made a bet with his friend that he would beat him in a half marathon, despite having never done one or trained for one. After successfully beating his poor friend (honestly, that would piss me off so much) he decided to keep running and set his sights on some of the most competitive and challenging marathons and ultras in the world. Dion decides that he wants to tackled a 155-mile race through the Gobi desert in China. It’s during this race that he meets a durable, resilient, and tiny dog that follows him for a whole 77-miles of the race. This little dog taught Dion some lessons about running that made his journey more about just trying to finish first. After such a journey, Dion knew that this dog, who he named Gobi, had to come home with him. However, things don’t go to plan and Dion struggles to get Gobi back home with him.

As a runner, I really enjoyed reading about the specifics of Dion’s race, though I’d be lying if wasn’t in envy of his speed in doing a sport he didn’t particularly enjoy that much outside of the competition and winning. Thankfully Gobi managed to teach Dion a thing or two about that. It was interesting what Dion mentioned about Tommy Chen during the race. I feel like we only got a censored or partial part of that story.

Dion had to manage some steep hurdles in getting Gobi home, especially trying to manage the Chinese media which I’m sure had its own unique challenges. I wondered if there were aspects and experiences that Dion wanted to be a bit more honest about but felt he couldn’t in the book in case there was some sort of backlash.

I think Dion is likely a better runner than a writer as there were aspects of this book that felt a bit unnecessary, such as the back story on his family.  This story probably could have been a short novella or a feature-length magazine article instead of a full book and I felt the excitement waivered shortly after the race was finished. The book and the story are slightly self-serving in the way Dion discusses his running and the media hype that came with Gobi, but the story of the two of them is sincere so it was wonderful to know that everything all worked out in the end for them both.

For those that don’t have a large interest in anything running related, the first part of this book might be a bit dull for you but after that, the story revolves fully around trying to get Gobi.  Overall, a nice easy read for any dog-lover or runner.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

“Tea reminds us to slow down and escape the pressures of modern life.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 384 pages.
Read from June 24, 2018 to June 26, 2018.

Apologies for the lull in posts, I have been away visiting family and did not prepare as well as I would have liked since I was fairly overwhelmed with work prior to leaving. #excuses?

It isn’t very often that I read a description that legitimately makes me want to read a book and sticks with me. It hit a few things off my list: the plot is set in rural China, which since I am living out in Hong Kong I always find intriguing, secondly, tea is a major topic and anyone that follows this blog knows how much I love tea! I found this book on Netgalley but the jerks didn’t approve me for it. The book clicked around in my head for a few months and I finally decided to cave and purchase it, I have no regrets. This is also my first Lisa See novel and at this point, I can assure you it won’t be my last.

Li-yan and her family live in a remote village in Yunnan and are a part of an ethnic-Chinese minority called the Akha. Growing up, Li-yan’s life is ruled by strong traditions, superstitions and, of course, tea. Tea is the lifeline of her family and of her people. It is backbreaking work but it is what her family has always done. As Li-yan grows, she becomes the only educated person in her family to speak the mainland’s language and when a stranger appears in their village wanting to make his own pu’reh tea on their land, Li-yan becomes his main correspondence. The connection will transform the way their small village has lived for many years.  Li-yan falls in love with a young man her family does not approve of and when he leaves for work and she falls pregnant she breaks tradition, and instead of slaying her daughter she reluctantly gives her up for adoption. When her man returns a few months later she tries to rectify her terrible mistake but she is too late, her daughter has been adopted out to a family in the United States.  She leads a terrible life with her husband in Thailand before returning to China to start her own tea business.  She is very successful but the hole left in her heart from her daughter never goes away. After a remarkable meeting with an old woman near a marriage market, her life takes a turn she could never have expected. There may be hope that she might see her daughter again…

This story is captivating yet is also a very easy read. Lisa See knows how to sculpt her characters and draw her readers in. I also really connected with Li-yan, maybe it’s an age thing or perhaps the strength of her character.  If this is what Lisa See’s stories are normally like, then I definitely need to add more Lisa See to my TBR pile.

This book would appeal to a wide variety of readers. Anyone that is interested in a happy ending, China, tea, family and survival stories would adore this book. It is a well-rounded story and Li-yan will touch the hearts of many.

The China Tea Book by Luo Jialin

Looking for an informative, yet beautiful picture book to show off your obsession with tea? Look no further.

Looking for an informative, yet beautiful picture book to show off your obsession with tea? Look no further.

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 220 pages.
Read from May 26 to June 01, 2016.

This is another book I picked up to try and learn a bit more about about the culture that I’m currently living in. I also have an obsession with tea so it was a good pairing.

The book is full of beautiful pictures of tea farms and ceremonies as well as anything you’ve ever wanted to know about tea. From the different types, how it’s farmed and processed, to how long to steep it, tasting etiquette as well as any cultural and historical connections with the tea in relation to China. It also briefly goes over the difference between a Chinese tea ceremony versus a Japanese ceremony.

Here are some cool tea facts that I learned:

– The Japanese tea ceremony is more about the ceremony and the actions performed, whereas the Chinese one focuses very much on the tea itself rather than meticulous actions. It may seem less extravagant than the Japanese version but it is just as important to Chinese culture.

– Black and green tea can be made from the same leaves. The difference is that black tea is fermented, whereas green tea is not.

– Green tea is often compared to youth, as it is not fermented and the leaves are still pretty fresh in some types, whereas black or oolong tea is compared to middle age as it is moderately fermented, and pureh tea to older age as this tea is extremely fermented and usually appeals to people with an older palate.

– Different types of tea are classified and named based on the location that it’s grown and farmed in, as well as the way that they are rolled, or not rolled, or fermented or not fermented.

– Proper loose tea leaves can be brewed numerous times. In fact, the first brew is often considered the worst and many will dump out the first batch.

– “During the Sui Dynasty (581-618), tea was used for its medicinal qualities. In the fourth and fifth centuries, rice, salt, spices, ginger and orange peel, among other ingredients, were added to tea. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), tea drinking became an art form and a drink enjoyed by all social classes“. – China.org

– “Tea became a popular drink in Buddhist monasteries after the caffeine proved to keep the monks awake during long hours of meditation. For this reason, many monasteries cultivated vast tea fields. Lu Yu (Chinese: 陆羽), author of “The Book of Tea”, was an orphan brought up and educated in a monastery. It is likely that his experience growing up surrounded by tea inspired his book written during the Tang Dynasty. In “The Book of Tea”, Lu Yu recorded a detailed account of ways to cultivate and prepare tea, tea drinking customs, the best water for tea brewing and different classifications of tea.” – China.org

– While tea can be brewed in any tea pot, some types of pots favor different types of teas better. The most popular and also the most expensive is the purple yixing clay tea pots. They can go for hundreds to thousands of dollars.

– Tea is still a prominent part of Chinese culture. While there aren’t as many tea houses around as there was, groups of Chinese people will meet at these beautiful locations to drink tea and socialize.

– Tea and gardens go hand and hand. Many tea houses are set in beautiful gardens.

– Tea became a major currency for trade outside of China. The old tea routes are some of the oldest in the world and still exist today.

This book was surprisingly easy to read and really interesting. I am very interested in learning more! Overall this is the perfect coffee table book for any tea lover.