Upcoming Event

Ken Liu at Harvard Book Store


Laozi's Dao De Jing:
A New Interpretation
for a Transformative Time


August 20, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes KEN LIU—Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories and The Dandelion Dynasty series—for a discussion of his new book Laozi's Dao De Jing: A New Interpretation for a Transformative Time.

About Laozi's Dao De Jing

Laozi’s Dao De Jing was written around 400 BC by a compassionate soul in a world torn by hatred and ambition, dominated by those that yearned for apocalyptic confrontations and prized ideology over experience. By speaking out against the cleverness of elites and the arrogance of the learned, Laozi upheld the wisdom of the concrete, the humble, the quotidian, the everyday individual dismissed by the great powers of the world. Earthy, playful, and defiant, Laozi’s words gave solace to souls back then, and offer comfort today. Now, this beautifully designed new edition serves as both an accessible new translation of an ancient Chinese classic and a fascinating account of renowned novelist Ken Liu’s transformative experience while wrestling with the classic text.

Throughout this translation, Liu takes us through his own struggles to capture the meaning in Laozi’s text in a series of thoughtful and provocative interstitial entries. Unlike traditional notes that purport to be objective, these entries are explicitly personal and unapologetically subjective. Gradually, as Liu learns that true wisdom cannot be pinned down in words, the notes grow sparser until they fade away entirely. His journey suggests the only way out of struggle is to engage with texts that have survived the millennia, wrestling with ideas that gesture at something eternal, in hopes that we might eventually reach that moment of transcendent joy.

Liu’s translation, by eschewing cleverness, paradoxically reveals the slipperiness of Laozi’s original. The Dao De Jing has been translated countless times and will be translated countless times in the future. In that constant change and flow, we finally find our home in Dao, the eternal principle that allows us, finite beings in time and space, to reckon and reconcile with the infinite.

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Ken Liu
Ken Liu

Ken Liu

Ken Liu is an award-winning American author of speculative fiction. His collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, has been published in more than a dozen languages. Liu’s other works include The Grace of Kings, The Wall of Storms, The Veiled Throne, and a second collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories. He has been involved in multiple media adaptations of his work, including the short story “Good Hunting,” adapted as an episode in Netflix’s animated series Love, Death + Robots; and AMC’s Pantheon, adapted from an interconnected series of short stories. “The Hidden Girl,” “The Message,” and “The Oracle” have also been optioned for development. Liu previously worked as a software engineer, corporate lawyer, and litigation consultant. He frequently speaks at conferences and universities on topics including futurism, machine-augmented creativity, the history of technology, and the value of storytelling. Liu lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Photo Credit: Lisa Tang Liu

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

Unable to attend a Harvard Book Store author event? You can still pre-order a signed book by one of our visiting authors.

While we can't guarantee fulfillment of a signed book pre-order, our authors are almost always able to sign extra books to fulfill such orders.

Ordering a signed book on harvard.com:

  • Add the book to your shopping cart and then click Checkout.
  • Specify in Order Comments that you want a signed copy of the book.
  • Please note: online orders for signed copies must be placed at least one business day before the event. If you are ordering the day of, please call us instead.

Ordering a signed book by phone:

  • Call us at (617) 661-1515 and one of our booksellers will take your order. Specify you'd like a signed copy.
  • If you are requesting a personalized inscription and/or requesting your book be shipped, we'll need to take down credit card information. If you are planning to pick up the signed book in the store, you can pay on pick-up.


Can I request a personalized inscription?
Unless otherwise noted, we are happy to take requests for the author to sign your book to a specific person, but we can't guarantee it. If you do get a personalized inscription, the book will be non-returnable. We will require credit card information when you place the order.

Do signed books cost more?
There is no extra fee for a signed book!

Do I have to pick it up in the store, or can you deliver my signed book?
As with all web or phone orders, we can hold your book for in-store pickup, or ship it anywhere in the country.

I am planning to attend an author event. Do I need to pre-order a book?
No need. We'll be selling books at the event, and nearly all of our events include a signing at the end of the talk.

More questions? Give us a call!

General Info
(617) 661-1515

Media Inquiries

Accessibility Inquiries

Classic Totes

Tote bags and pouches
in a variety of styles,
sizes, and designs
, plus mugs, bookmarks, and more!

Learn More »

Shipping & Pickup

We ship anywhere in the U.S. and orders of $75+ ship free via media mail!

Learn More »

Noteworthy Signed Books: Join the Club!

Join our Signed First Edition Club (or give a gift subscription) for a signed book of great literary merit, delivered to you monthly.

Learn More »