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The Fifth Book of Peace

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  312 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
A long time ago in China, there existed three Books of Peace that proved so threatening to the reigning powers that they had them burned. Many years later Maxine Hong Kingston wrote a Fourth Book of Peace, but it too was burned--in the catastrophic Berkeley-Oakland Hills fire of 1991, a fire that coincided with the death of her father. Now in this visionary and redemptive ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published September 2nd 2003)
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Jenny Shipp
Mar 21, 2010 Jenny Shipp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book just took me in. It starts out with the fire in the Oakland Hills. She is coming home from her father's funeral and finds the hills and her home on fire. she loses the first hundred or so pages of a book she was writing. the middle of the book is her attempt to recreate that story. the rest of the book is about a writing group she begins for veterans of war. It is moving and much of it is what she says about writing, and going deeper and healing. AND she talks about being "Eldest Siste ...more
Jul 21, 2007 jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with a craving for inner peace
i find this book amazing beyond words. if i had written it, i would think that my life work is done and i'd start preparing for death. okay, this is way too morbid. let me just say that i read this book at a point in my life when life really sucked, and by the time i finished it life was a large, generous, calm river teeming with colorful boats, peace, and possibilities.

i taught it and no one liked it. there must be truly few of us who find this book amazing. at least read the first stunning cha
Sharon Villainelle
This might well be my favorite of Kingston's works, and that's saying a great deal. Her language is simultaneously lyrical and grounded, a perfect weaving for a narrative that is itself a patchwork of truth and fiction. She examines themes of loss and resurrection, peace and turmoil, object and idea. In short, it is a work that examines the space where oppositions come together to create life.
Ashanti Miller
Nov 17, 2011 Ashanti Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unstructured, but good. You really have to be in the mood for a meandereing story. The first part is great, but you will need a glass wone wine to slow your mind down to appreciate the rest of the book lest you miss all the hidden treasures. Whittman Ah Sing has always been difficult to fathom, yet strangley compelling. Crafty monkey...
Jul 15, 2012 Philippa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Review published in the New Zealand Herald, November 2003

The Fifth Book of Peace
Maxine Hong Kingston
(Secker & Warburg, $34.95)

Reviewed by Philippa Jamieson

This is a book to read in large chunks. A few pages before bed makes it hard to get into. Don’t expect a plot. Don't expect a novel, or autobiography, or memoir – it's the Chinese form of 'talk-story', a collage of mythical, real and imaginary worlds.
Maxine Hong Kingston searches in vain for the lost books of peace of Chinese mythology. Di
Sep 25, 2007 Tia marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the patient reader.
I couldn't finish this book. That's a first for me. Maybe in a time when I can enjoy it somewhere other than the Metro, I'll reread it; but I'm not promising anything.

This is a journey. It's more than the book Kingston lost in a fire. The reader gets the rewritten version of her lost text - a family moving to Hawaii in order to avoid the draft. Two artists raising their child to love and not fight, and they are surprised by their "welcoming" and stay. I assume the chapters following "Water" expl
Dec 04, 2007 Lanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all, especially those going through life transitions (aren't we all, though?)
Shelves: on-pause
I met Maxine at a post-play party and a few days later, while taking shelter from the pouring rain in the SF public library, this book seemed to jump off the shelf. It was the perfect time in my life to find the book.

She was working on the "4th Book of Peace" for years, and then the entire manuscript was burned in the Oakland fires. The first chapter, her description of running through the hills, trying to save her book, is impossible to put down. It's incredibly poignant and I think speaks volu
Susan Emmet
Apr 15, 2012 Susan Emmet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reread this book after years away from it. I so liked The Woman Warrior and this novel/memoir is one fine book, too.
Kingston takes readers into the loss of her home in Oakland CA, prey to a huge wildfire. She tries to recover treasured family items, as well as the draft of The Fourth Book of Peace, to little avail. A professor at Berkeley, she finds some comfort in friends and family, but is determined to find the Book of Peace.
The next segment traces the journey of the the Ah Sing family (Tan
Feb 23, 2014 Helen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Fifth Book of Peace is split into four parts, Fire, Paper, Water, and Earth. The first two sections and the last chronicle Kingston's journey from her house burning down with her unfinished manuscript for a novel entitled the Fifth Book of Peace, and how this loss inspired her to create a writer's workshop for war veterans, specifically of the Vietnam War, to write their own books of peace. These are great, the writing is interesting, the stories of the devastating loss of Maxine's home and ...more
Apr 28, 2007 Parag rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: apa, fiction, nonfiction
I have stories to tell about this book, which I'll spare for now. But I found this book for $1 on the shelves of a bookstore in the Poconos, bought a few copies, and have dispersed them hence. There's something about the combination of fiction and non-fiction in this particular book, from the story of how Kingston lost the book she was writing in the flames of the Oakland fire that consumed her house to how she was coping with her father's death before that...

And I think the way she was able to
Feb 10, 2011 Maggie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting combination of fiction and memoir from a Berkeley professor who lost her home in the Berkley/Oakland Hills fire in 1991 as well as the book she was writing at the time - "The Fourth Book of Peace". Here she recreates the history of the original 3 books of Peace, the fictional story of the Fourth Book and her experience working for peace as she conducts writing workshops for veterans and incorporates mindfulness meditation, Buddhist traditions and more.
The vets' writings based on th
This book is really 3 books
the book of how she lost her book in the Oakland Fire
the book re-written (our heros from Tripmaster Monkey)
and the book of her work with veterans.

She is very wise and her brain works in some of the strange ways mine does, and my friends and colleagues from the Bay Area. But sadly she writes in one long constant steady rhythm that lulls me to sleep and makes it hard to finish all 400 pages. I'm always glad when I read a chunk, but I have been reading it off and on for a
Oct 26, 2008 A rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although all of Kingston's books have had an impact on me, this had the greatest. Maybe it's because I grew up in Oakland, and although I didn't live there when the fire happened, the area is familiar to me, as Stockton, where she had been to her father's funeral.

The book is about loss and not really re-birth, but re-finding. She takes a journey with Vietnam Veterans and they all discover something within themselves. It became very emotional for me. Even though I knew people who had been in the
Mar 08, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about war and peace and loss. I'd read other books by this author and saw this one, which starts out with her losing the novel she'd been writing. Her house burned down, her whole neighborhood burned down. The book is about the fire and the process of rewriting the lost book, with the rewritten book included. The writing has magical elements. It's a really compelling book that made me think a lot about war and peace and what it means to have peace, especially when you have been at ...more
Sep 01, 2008 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
So far, not bad. I have been a Kingston fan ever since The Woman Warrior , and in this newest book she still straddles that terrifyingly blurry line between fiction and nonfiction. Her narrator tends to wander to and from matters of her family, literature, opposition the 1991 Gulf War...but the writing is strong, literary and engaging. I look forward to seeing where she goes with this.
Oct 06, 2011 Leigh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006
One section of this is fictional and takes place in Hawaii during the Vietnam War. The rest is non-fiction and discusses ideas of peace, community and loss. She talks about the loss of her house and manuscript to a fire in Oakland. Also her involvement with a combination creative writing and meditation workshop with Vietnam veterans. Her writing is so different - fragmented and trippy, but still graceful and powerful.
The Amazing Jill
Sep 02, 2007 The Amazing Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hippy-ish
I got to have lunch with the author, actually.

But anyway, this is really good. Mrs. Kingston has a very strange and yet unique style of writing. Her sentences are sometimes short, brief, yet meant to provoke a pause for thought. You'll pause quite often to think with this book.

We need more books of peace. Go write one.
Jul 22, 2010 Kasey is currently reading it
I've been reading this book for...3 or 4 years. It's very complex and moves in and out of space and time and it's something you need the time to just sit and read. It's not a causal read at all. I am determined to finish it this summer because it is beautifully written and I do want to see how the stories pan out.
Jul 21, 2007 Venessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, pro-peace peeps
A beautiful book: Kingston's book was destroyed in a fire that swept her home in CA and she recreates it in this book, separated into five different parts. Also comments on the current Iraq War, and peace.
Apr 12, 2015 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I actually finished this book, but it's still relatively memorable, years later. I believe that I read it fairly close to the time I read The Opposite of Fate, a memoir by Amy Tan. They melded together in an interesting way. Different stories, common threads.
May 10, 2014 Valerie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars. Hong Kingston is a wonderful writer, and she does talk story so artfully. Her message is compelling and the descriptions of loss are profound, but the disorganization of the book detracts greatly from this.
May 28, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Kate by: found it in the library
This book has been incredible for me to read. It's achingly beautiful and carries such a strong message of peace. Peace in a deeper way than I have ever understood peace. Please read this book. Especially in this time of war, we need this book.
May 28, 2008 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
a memoir that fits in nicly with my current reading list of books about China. She refers to aspects of Chinese history - that I leared about recently. There is a reason to read in depth - new information soon becomes comfortable, old information.
Sep 16, 2014 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Probably just me, but I gave up on this one pretty early on. Too much loss.
Feb 02, 2008 Gena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apr 27, 2011 LH rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still digesting the weight of this book. Don't understand the fictional center part of the book about the draft dodgers & sanctuary in Hawaii, but loved the rest of the non-fiction of the book.
Nov 19, 2012 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerful. Beaut.ifully Lyrically written
Meghan Davison
Can a book be both peaceful and irritating at the same time?
Diana Biggs
May 30, 2016 Diana Biggs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read and extremely well written.
Hansoul Kim
Dec 30, 2009 Hansoul Kim is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
can rarely go wrong with m.h. kingston...
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She was born as Maxine Ting Ting Hong to a laundry house owner in Stockton, California. She was the third of eight children, and the first among them born in the United States. Her mother trained as a midwife at the To Keung School of Midwifery in Canton. Her father had been brought up a scholar and taught in his village of Sun Woi, near Canton. Tom left China for America in 1924 and took a job in ...more
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“The difference between mad people and sane people . . . is that sane people have variety when they talk-story. Mad people have only one story that they talk over and over.” 16 likes
“The images of peace are ephemeral. The language of peace is subtle. The reasons for peace, the definitions of peace, the very idea of peace have to be invented, and invented again” 8 likes
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