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Title: 世界偉人:牛頓
Translated title: Giant Biography – Newton
Language: Chinese
Year: 2006

At the end of last month, I decided that I should try to read more Chinese. More specifically, I said that I would read more without focusing too much on language, grammar and new words, but simply read because it’s nice and because quantity really is king when it comes to learning a language. This is the second book I read in Chinese, after 小故事大道理: 民間故事 and even though I would not say that it is more difficult, it is certainly different in many regards.

The purpose of this series is to introduce giants of Western history to Taiwanese children. The series comprises twelve biographies and I decided to start with Newton, simply because I had quite a good grasp of what he did, but almost no notion whatsoever what his personal life was like. Since that is the goal, this book is fairly suitable, because it mentions almost nothing about Newton’s professional life or his achievements. It also focuses a lot on his childhood, which is a bit irritating because it means there is no room for his adult life. Still, I find the contents interesting and fairly well-balanced between being entertaining (dialogues, for instance, which are probably not historically correct, but makes it a lot easier to read) and educating (elaborating mainly on Newton’s attitude towards learning, studying and experimenting).

What about the Chinese, then? The biggest difference between this book about Newton and the previous book I read is the volume. 世界偉人:牛頓 contains over 200 pages and approximately 30 000 characters (compared to only about 7000 in my first book). The language might be a bit more difficult, but since the setting is a little bit more familiar, it’s not that hard to understand. Also, I read to understand the basic concepts, not to fully comprehend the meaning of every single character. This picture is from the book I’m currently reading about Bach, but it gives you an idea of what the books in this series look like:

On the whole, I’m very satisfied with my choice, because this level I can read without a dictionary and I can also learn a little bit about Newton at the same time. After reading the one about Bach, though, I will try to read books that are related to Chinese society and history, but I might return to this series later.

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  1. greg scott’s avatar

    Even your reviews of books I can’t read are interesting.

    How about stating the number of pages in a book at the top of a review?:
    Year: 2006
    Pages: 237

    This is like being informed of someone’s height. The image of the open book was a nice touch, sort of like also being informed of the person’s weight.


    1. Olle Linge’s avatar

      I think number of pages is a bit light height, actually, which means that most of the time it’s not very important. Sometimes, when page number is important or interesting (such as in this review), I do mention it, but most of the time it’s not that important. I’ve seen that many other reviewers include lots of information about the book, but I’ve tried to minimise the default information. It might not be the best way, but if many people think the number of pages is important, I’ll reconsider including it!


      1. greg scott’s avatar

        I don’t understand the function of the word “actually” in your reply. I said that pages were like height, and the page photo was like weight.

        Also, I don’t understand the thinking behind the assertion “which means…it’s not very important”. Countless women have started their list of desired traits in a man with “tall…”. There have been many studies showing taller men are over-represented at the top of organizations. An example is “Height as a Measure of Success in Academe”, which stated that “height is important not in itself but because it is a predictor of social dominance.”

        Although I do not think highly of studies in the fields of sociology and psychology, I do think there is something to the common conclusion that height is related to social dominance.

        Perhaps you were taking a philosophical approach, in which social dominance itself is not important?


      2. Olle Linge’s avatar

        I was thinking more from a personal point of view, I think. If I would describe a person (review a person, if you will), length would only be mentioned if it differed a lot fromthe average or was important in some other way. Of course, other people might think length is important, but likewise, many people also think the number of pages is important.

        I see now my sentence isn’t super clear, but what I was thinking was that I meant “actually” as in “actually I do agree with you, pages is like height, which isn’t something I think is particularly interesting.