Iris Chen

Iris Chen

Multicultural Consultant

Intriguing Connections, eh?

Aug 14, 2019

TAIWANfest 2019 - Intriguing Connections

I am alone therefore I read
I read to be independent

(Originally published: https://link.medium.com/GA7c8q8WOY)

Reading is to have an intimate conversation with the author.

“Reading is the most participative of the arts. There is more brain activity when you are reading that kind of intense text than watching tv or film.⋯⋯Writers provide readers with a score, a score that the readers will then interpret.”, said Margaret Atwood.

Reading helps people develop the ability of independent thinking; to read, is to understand the meaning of independence.

I returned to Taiwan this May to visit my family and friends, and spent most of my spare time wandering around bookstores. In recent years, China’s sharp power has been felt globally; one significant sign is the increasing self-censorship in overseas Chinese media. The principles of journalism and the freedom of press are not valued, and often replaced by propaganda. I find myself reading fewer and fewer Chinese publications, newspapers, or social media blogs. Although I have no problem getting first-hand information written in English, and therefore do not need to rely on translation, my craving for original, genuine, and well-crafted Chinese articles and books is still very strong.

While wandering around the eslite R79 Underground Book Street in Taipei, the “Indie Publishers Exhibition” caught my eye. Under a big “Reading Changes The World” poster, books were arranged according to publishing houses. Most of the writers were very foreign to me, but the variety of topics and unique book cover designs were very interesting, and one could not help but have to pick them up and check them out. A few days later, I was fortunate enough to have lunch with a few independent publishers, and got first hand information regarding how they pick and evaluate books to be published as well as their preferences. It is so great to be able to turn passion into profession.

After much bookstore hopping, I realized that in recent years Taiwan’s independent publishing industry and independent bookstores have become incredibly vibrant. Popular subjects written from different points of view, unique and innovative styles, and topics for niche markets, are picked up and published, then shared and promoted through book related events. The freedom-of-expression spirits in the Chinese language world are alive and thriving in Taiwan.

Therefore, in this year’s Taiwanfest, after visiting the “courage” themed Taiwan Bookstore, you may want to walk across the street to visit the “alternative” themed Intriguing Connections Independent Bookstore.

If you are an avid reader who enjoys studying a subject from alternative points of view, you may find an intriguing connection with one of the interesting souls, alive or dead, behind the books. 

You are also welcome to join the Facebook Group: Intriguing Connections 讀獨書棧.

Special thanks to @Fred Jame. Fred not only connected me to a few publishers, but also wrote the Chinese calligraphy of the name of the independent bookstore –  could you tell it was written with Apple pencil on iPad? 

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