Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

What’s the last great book you read?

The last great book I read was “Permanent Record,” by Edward Snowden.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

I stopped reading classic novels before I was 24 years old.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

My ideal reading experience was when I was living in exile at a detention camp with my father, Ai Qing, during the Cultural Revolution. At that time, we burned all of his books to avoid further political persecution. I was not yet 10 years old; I believe it was 1967.

It confirmed in me how powerful those words printed on paper, and the images in between, could be. My sister helped me when I asked her to bring me more books. She sent me books such as “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” by Vladimir Lenin, and “The Communist Manifesto,” by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. I completely disassociated with the concepts in those books, but I can still feel the power of the language and logic structure.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

I have a book called the “Yingzao Fashi,” which was a Song dynasty-era construction manual originally written 1,000 years ago.

What book, if any, most influenced your decision to become a visual artist or contributed to your artistic development?

I would say that Ludwig Wittgenstein’s and Franz Kafka’s works have been influential, and, if you include artists, [Marcel] Duchamp’s writing as well. It’s just a few, but still, shining intellectual minds.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Victoria

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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