The novel revolves around the story of White Night Bookstore in Chengdu and its founder Chai Yongming. The story begins with the protagonist, Xia, attending a screening of a documentary that features the life of Chai Yongming. Xia is inspired by the writer's life and journey and decides to explore more about the bookstore.
As Xia delves deeper into the history of the bookstore, he unravels the bond of friendship amongst the poets and writers who frequented the bookstore in the 80s. The story also explores the creative collaborations and experimentation of these writers with Chai, who was known for her artistic flair and love of teamwork. Xia is intrigued by the bookstore's success and realizes that Chai's contagious energy and humor played a vital role in its popularity.
While exploring the bookstore, Xia comes across a set of old books that lead him to a new world of Chinese literature. The books have rare insight and meaning to him, and he begins to understand the importance of preserving the memories and works of the past. He realizes that White Night Bookstore's legacy is not just in its popularity but in the writers and poets who contributed to it.
As Xia reflects on his past education, he is reminded of the pressure he encountered as a student to perform well and the constant pursuit of grades. Xia feels that the education system cannot measure a person's creativity, passion, or curiosity. Xia's experience in the bookstore prompts him to contemplate the flaws of the system and find ways to incorporate more creativity into education.
The story also sheds light on contemporary Chinese politics, discussing the impact of Maoism on Chinese society and culture. The protagonist finds inspiration in the unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures and values he discovers at the Beijing Winter Olympics. As he contemplates these values, Xia gains insight into the potential of human understanding and the importance of embracing diversity.
Throughout the story, Xia reflects on the power of community, the importance of preserving culture, and the value of creativity in education. The novel reveals the beauty of human connection and the significance of preserving art in the face of change.