View Full Version : Best books about China

Feb 7, 2010, 21:38
I have selected for you the books I have enjoyed most about the Middle Kingdom.

The first I read, back in 2002, was Jung Chang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jung_Chang)'s autobiographic novel. Born in China at the beginning of the Maoist regime, she tells the story of 20th-century China through the tragic events of her family, from the fall of the Qing empire experienced by her grandparents to her own experience of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. An extremely moving and eye-opening book.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang
http://www.wa-pedia.com/images/books/wild-swans.jpg (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0007176155?ie=UTF8&tag=eupedia-21&link_code=as3&camp=2506&creative=9298&creativeASIN=0007176155)

Another biography relating to the history of China, The Man Who Loved China is about the life of Joseph Needham, a brilliant British biochemist from the University of Cambridge who fell in love with the country in his late thirties, learned to speak and write Chinese, then managed the breathtaking and herculean task of writing an 18-volume encyclopaedia compiling the complete history of Chinese science and inventions. His biographer is none else than the celebrated writer and BBC journalist Simon Winchester.

The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom, by Simon Winchester
http://www.wa-pedia.com/images/books/needham-china.jpg (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0060884614?ie=UTF8&tag=eupedia-21&link_code=as3&camp=2506&creative=9298&creativeASIN=0060884614)

Another excellent book by Simon Winchester, this time about his own travel from the estuary of the Yangtze all the way upstream to Tibet. Highly informative about this amazing and majestic river and the history of places on its banks.

The River at the Centre of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time, by Simon Winchester
http://www.wa-pedia.com/images/books/yangtze-china.jpg (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0140249125?ie=UTF8&tag=eupedia-21&link_code=as3&camp=2506&creative=9298&creativeASIN=0140249125)

The two other works are also by British citizens. China Road is the account of journalist Rob Gifford on a journey along road 312 between Shanghai and Xinjiang. It is not merely a travelogue but a journalistic review of modern China.

China Road: One Man's Journey into the Heart of Modern China, by Rob Gifford
http://www.wa-pedia.com/images/books/china-road.jpg (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0747593353?ie=UTF8&tag=eupedia-21&link_code=as3&camp=2506&creative=9298&creativeASIN=0747593353)

China Cuckoo tells the story of Mark Kitto, the founder of a famous English-speaking magazine in China, whose flourishing business was taken over by the Chinese government. He decided to stay in China, restore an old colonial summer villa on top of Mt. Moganshan and turn it into a B&B with his Chinese wife. The book is more about the practicalities of buying a house in China (well actually renting from the Chinese government) and restoring it than about his previous life as a publisher. It is not dissimilar to Alex Kerr's Lost Japan (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1741795230?ie=UTF8&tag=eupedia-21&link_code=as3&camp=2506&creative=9298&creativeASIN=1741795230), in which he purchases and renovates a traditional thatched house in Shikoku.

China Cuckoo, by Mark Kitto
http://www.wa-pedia.com/images/books/china-cuckoo.jpg (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/184529940X?ie=UTF8&tag=eupedia-21&link_code=as3&camp=2506&creative=9298&creativeASIN=184529940X)

Finally, River Town relates the experience of a young American teaches English literature at a college in Fuling, in Sichuan, for two years. The book is praiseworthy for the quality of its prose as well as for its pertinent analysis of Chinese society and very observant reporting of divergences with Western culture, manners and political ideas. It artfully combines travelogue with socio-cultural studies.

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, by Peter Hessler
http://www.wa-pedia.com/images/books/River_Town.jpg (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0719564808?ie=UTF8&tag=eupedia-21&link_code=as3&camp=2506&creative=9298&creativeASIN=0719564808)