Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Recommended Reading: China

Going to China? Here are the iLP office's favorite reads on the Middle Kingdom. Let us know what you think!


Wild Swans puts a personal face on almost a century of wild Chinese history. Jung Chang tells the story of three generations of strong Chinese women: her grandmother, a warlord's concubine; her mother, a Maoist revolutionary; and herself, a Chinese expatriate now living in London. Banned in China (so read it before you go!), Wild Swans is highly recommended reading for the detail-heavy scoop as well as the true story of a really neat family. Love!

An oldie but a goodie, Pearl S. Buck's award-winning novel about a farmer and his family in imperial China is beautiful and sad. The Good Earth is excellent book-group fodder as well as a personal look into the Chinese countryside and what shapes it today. Still widely in print.

 A more modern look at Communist China through the eyes of an idealistic college student in the 70s. Jan Wong is a reporter and has a knack for telling stories in a funny, conversational style. Red China Blues is an excellent summation of the last fifty years of Chinese history and a firsthand look at everything from Mao's reformation camps to Tiananmen Square.

Jasper Becker knows his stuff. For a more economic and political look at modern China and how it plays into foreign affairs, check out The Chinese. A very interesting read covering a lot of territory (literally and figuratively).

 The thoroughest travel book in the business. No way one single tome could cover all of China, but this one comes the closest. Expect a lot of information on the more tourist-frequented areas, but when it comes to the road less traveled, you may have to write your own submissions.


 Nien Cheng was arrested in 1966 during the Cultural Revolution. She spent years in prison and solitary confinement for being a member of the upper class. Then, she wrote this book. Firsthand, fascinating look at a crazy time in China's history. (Again with the banned, so read it ere you leave).

Have you read any of these? Thoughts? What other books on China do you recommend?


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