Bookends

British author Alec Ash has a new book, Wish Lanterns: Inside Young Lives In New China.
British author Alec Ash has a new book, Wish Lanterns: Inside Young Lives In New China.PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER CHERRY

Who: British author Alec Ash, 30, has been living in China since 2008.

His new book, Wish Lanterns: Young Lives In New China, looks at the lives of six young Chinese as they chase their dreams and overcome challenges in this coming- of-age narrative.

Based in Beijing, the English literature graduate from the University of Oxford is a journalist for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

He studied English literature at the University of Oxford and has also written for The Economist, BBC and Dissent, an American magazine, among others, and is also the co-editor of last year's While We're Here: China Stories From A Writers' Colony.

Wish Lanterns: Young Lives In New China, is available at Books Kinokuniya for $32.95.

What are you reading now?


Street Of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz

I'm reading Street Of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz. It is a wonderfully empathic account of the lives of individuals who lived or had businesses on one street that runs through the heart of Shanghai.

The idea began as a radio series, but has bloomed into a book and Schmitz follows his characters' meandering stories with great humanity. Shanghai is a vibrant city, a hub where different social strata meet to pursue their dreams.


John Keats, selected by Andrew Motion

These individual stories paint a larger portrait of Chinese society in transition. In that respect, it is a good companion book to my own, where Beijing is more the focus.

What books would you save from a burning house?

There is an edition of John Keats' poetry, selected by Andrew Motion, that sits on the bookshelf above my study desk. It's so travel-worn and thumbed through from my university days that I would just have to save it.


Way Of Dog by Cherry Denman

Next to it is Way Of Dog by Cherry Denman, a book that fuses ancient Chinese wisdom with drawings of dogs - two of my great loves.

But most likely, the police would find my charred remains clutching bags of books I failed to save trying to get out.

• Street Of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz (2016, Hodder & Stoughton General Division (GB), $33.50) and John Keats, selected by Andrew Motion (2016, Faber & Faber, $24.61) are available at Books Kinokuniya. Way Of Dog by Cherry Denman (2016, Penguin Books China, $22.77) is available for pre-order from Amazon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 10, 2016, with the headline 'Bookends'. Print Edition | Subscribe