In Other Words

What They’re Reading: Taiwan’s Crossover Chic

At the 24-hour Eslite bookstore complex in Taipei, which is Taiwan's largest bookstore and one of Asia's cultural hubs, the city's literati can attend book signings, peruse the art gallery, sip tea at the cafe, or simply flip through 3,000 different magazine titles. FP spoke to I-Hui Lin, who works in marketing and planning for Eslite.

FOREIGN POLICY: What are the reading trends in Taiwan?

I-Hui Lin: Novels from Taiwan, the United States, and Japan are popular. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in Chinese has already sold more than 100,000 copies. In translated literature, Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress is the bestseller so far this year, and Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore was the most popular translated novel of 2004. Internet novels are also very popular, especially in the last two or three years.

FP: Which Taiwanese authors are consistent favorites?

IL: Tom Wang Wenhua’s books, such as Protein Girl and There’s Only Me and You Baby are very popular with young people in Taiwan, as well as the mainland. The stories are about young people and relationships, like in Sex and the City. Protein Girl, which is about two young men in search of love and the girls they meet, sold more than 1 million copies in China, was made into a television show, and is being made into a movie by Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai. The most popular Taiwanese author in mainland China is Jimmy Liao, whose illustrated books, such as Mr. Wing and Separate Ways, are very good at conveying emotions and daily life.

FP: Which mainland author is most popular in Taiwan?

IL: A few authors from the mainland sell quite well in Taiwan, such as Wang Anyi, one of the best-known female writers. In books like Songs of Everlasting Sorrow, she depicts old-style Shanghai, where she was born and raised.

FP: Which books are your staff recommending to customers?

IL: I think the 2008 Summer Olympics will be very important. We in Taiwan will be watching as Beijing hosts the games, so we are now recommending 100 Reasons to Enjoy Beijing.

FP: Do Taiwanese readers take a great interest in political issues surrounding the mainland and Taiwan?

IL: I don’t think so. Taiwanese people don’t feel much concern about the politics, because it is so complex.

FP: Are books or magazines more popular with your younger readers?

IL: Magazines. The boys like reading about computers, and the girls like reading about fashion. It’s like it is worldwide.

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