My strategy to expand knowledge horizons by making books an essential part of daily life
Published: Jun 20, 2023 10:33 PM
Editor's Note:

"Read ten thousand books, and your pen will be guided as if by the gods" is an ancient Chinese idiom that can be seen in students' textbooks. China's Ministry of Education has published an action plan to further promote reading among students across the nation. With new and diverse book recommendations, the reading scene is expected to be revived not only at schools, but also across society. To contribute to this endeavor, the Global Times launched "My Reading Life" essay contest for middle school students.

Please pick up a pen and share your stories with us at

Participants will be rewarded once the article has been selected.



Reading is a big part of my daily routine, these days, as eating and sleeping. However, that wasn't always the case.

Ironically, although I grew up in a family with two bookworms for parents, I only rarely read books myself when I was young. Books were too ordinary to capture my attention. They were strewn about on furniture. They featured in decorations and on the wallpaper. They were everywhere, but I couldn't see them. Every day, returning home from primary school, I went straight to the TV set instead. 

"How can boring books compare with the excitement of watching soap operas?" I'd say to my parents. In fact, however, I didn't truly love watching TV dramas either. Turning them on, I might giggle and feel entertained for awhile; but when I turned them off, I only felt emptiness.

New discovery

One day, when I was 12 years old, tidying up a cabinet at home, a hardcover book dropped from a pile of lonely companions and fell to the floor. Picking it up and finding myself intrigued by its sky-blue cover and its mysterious title, Cards On The Table, I started to read it. As it turned out, the book was, in fact, a mystery - by Agatha Christie. A few pages in, I was completely hooked! Thus began a long period of "Agathamania" for me, reading book after book, that lasted through all of high school. I love reading Christie's mystery novels perched on the windowsill in my living room, a steaming cup of hot chocolate by my side, surrounded by the sounds of Bach's Goldberg Variations. It thrills me to learn about every move of detective Hercule Poirot as he solves crime after crime. All of this reading has been great fun. In a way, I have always known that books like these are no weightier than the TV series I used to watch. They are also ordinary to some extent. 

If all I ever did, as a reader, was read detective novels, then I wouldn't feel compelled to write this article. The reason I'm writing it is because my reading life was truly transformed in this, my senior year in high school. It was my classmates who spurred my serious interest in reading. Surrounded by bookworms of my age, and inspired by their example, last year I started to read all sorts of books out of sheer intellectual interest and pleasure. Doing this has felt like discovering an entirely new continent. For the first time in my life, I really see the beauty and power of books. 

When I feel sad, reading memoirs has given me comfort and strength. When I'm upset, reading art books has helped to calm me down. When I am confused, academic books have pointed the way to answers and encouraged me to keep exploring. Recently, I have been going back and forth between Marc Auge's An Anthropologist in the Metro, Harold Schonberg's The Great Pianists, and Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, absorbing different kinds of knowledge.

A new perspective

Not only does reading help me to acquire new knowledge, it also sharpens how I think and perceive the world. For example, books help me to understand different human lives. Reading Karen Ho's Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street and Bill Porter's Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits, I see the world through the wildly contrasting eyes of investment bankers working on Wall Street versus hermits living in Mountain. 

Reading also makes me more tolerant and understanding of different cultures. When I began reading Nigel Barley's The Innocent Anthropologist, I couldn't identify at all with the members of the Dowayo tribe he discusses. Their local customs and rituals struck me as bizarre at first. However, the more I read about Dowayo's history and culture, the more I understood the rationale behind their practices and that they are, actually, deeply meaningful and have a logic of their own.

Books have opened up entirely new worlds for me. The dull parallel lines of my past now intersect in fascinating ways. Every time I open a book, I experience a new beginning, and I am excited to discover where it will lead me. 

Books, for me, are still ordinary, but in a completely different sense: They are now an ordinary part of my daily life - a habit, a necessity. 

The author is a student at the Experimental High School Attached to Beijing Normal University.