The once mysterious Middle Kingdom has long since been opened to the outside world, and where there was previously a dearth of good literature, there’s now a mountain of China books.
But not all of them are worth the time, especially for the casual reader. So for today’s episode we’ll sift out some of the most worthy titles for readers of varying interests.
Helping us to figure out what makes a good China book and to share some of their recommendations are Penguin China publicist Mengfei Chen and our old friend Alec Ash, China correspondent for the LA Review of Books and curator of The Anthill writer’s colony.
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River Town, Oracle Bones, Country Driving – Peter Hessler
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China– Evan Osnos
China Candid: The People on the People’s Republic– Sang Ye
Chinese Lives: An Oral History of Contemporary China – Sang Ye & Zhang Xinxin
China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know – Jeffery Wasserstrom
Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land – Jeffery Wasserstrom & Angilee Shah
Niubi!: The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School– Eveline Chao
Society / Politics
The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers – Richard McGregor
In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade – Damien Ma & William Adams
Restless China – Perry Link, Richard Madsen & Paul Pickowicz
Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations – Wang Zheng
The China Story Yearbook: 2012: Red Rising, Red Eclipse, 2013: Civilising China
The Book of Chuang Tzu [Zhuangzi] – Martin Palmer
Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu – Victor H. Mair
The Analects of Confucius – Simon Leys
Monkey: Folk Novel of China – Wu Cheng’en, Arthur Waley
The Story of the Stone [The Dream of the Red Chamber] – Cao Xueqin, David Hawke
Jin Ping Mei [The Plum in the Golden Vase] – David Tod Roy
China Ink: The Changing Face of Chinese Journalism – Judy Polumbaum & Xiong Lei
Corpse Walker, For a Song and a Hundred Songs, God is Red – Liao Yiwu
This Generation: Dispatches from China’s Most Popular Literary Star (and Race Car Driver) – Han Han
The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck
Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Postsocialist China – Tiantian Zheng
Chairman Mao Would Not Be Amused: Fiction from Today’s China– Howard Goldblatt
The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai – Wang Anyi, Michael Berry
Coming Home Crazy – Bill Holm
The Search for a Vanishing Beijing: A Guide to China’s Capital Through the Ages – M.A. Aldrich
Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now – Jan Wong