Just as America has Oprah to tell its people what they should be reading, China has Xi Jinping.
With his annually instructive televised New Year’s greeting last week the Chinese president and literary giant helped readers across the country add on to their personal Goodreads list.
After the speech, netizens scoured the bookshelves of Xi Dada’s office and found them crammed full with many diverse works ranging from Chinese classics to foreign books on history and international politics.
Some spotted classics of Chinese literature including “The Book of Songs” and works from the Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song, as well as works from more modern masters like Lu Xun and Lao She.
But, Xi’s literary collection is not just limited to his homeland. Netizens also spotted “The Lessons of History” by Will and Ariel Durant, as well as Henry Kissinger’s “World Order,” which just so happens to warn about the potential risks of a clash between a rising China and the West.
Still a good student of chemical engineering, Xi also has held on to a work by Justus von Liebig, the 19th century founder of organic chemistry, as well as work on geometry by René Descartes.
In the past, Xi has often taken the opportunity to show off his literary tastes while on overseas visits. During his speech in Seattle last September, Xi talked about how he visited the El Floridita bar in Havana to sample the mojitos in order to better understand one of his favorite books, Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”
Never shy to name drop, China’s No. 1 reader has boasted of having read Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Gogol while visiting Russia and Flaubert, Stendhal and Molière while in France. During his visit to the UK in October, he even quoted Shakespeare, saying: “What’s past is prologue.”
He’s also been known to read: Byron, Shelley, George Bernard Shaw, Dickens, Goethe, Schiller, Heinrich Heine, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Jack London.
However, recent events seem to indicate that Xi is not a fan of all literary genres.
And anyway, if Xi ever gets bored of reading in his office, there is always those pictures of himself to stare off into:
But hey, if this whole thing makes Chinese people read more than just the “Secret Garden” then that’s a win in our book.