Must Read Books Before your Trip to China
A History of China by John Keay
Former special correspondent for the Economist offers a solid overview of China’s entire 5000 year’ history from 200BC and the ancient emperors to the China of the XXI century.
China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wu-Dunn
Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, who spent five years (from 1988 to 1993) in China reporting for The New York Times. China Wakes covers a huge variety of topics including recent history of China, human rights, pollution, energy production, women’s rights, the one-child policy and modernization.
Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 by Frank Dikötte
From 1958 to 1962 the Communist Party of China led by Chairman Mao Zedong was determined to overtake the capitalist West and the Soviet Union through rapid industrial development. The campaign known as Great Leap Forward caused the deaths of 45 million people. The book documents the lives of the ordinary people during these troubled times in China’s history.
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
A bestselling author Jung Chang tells a gripping story of her own family in China between 1909 and 1978, with her grandmother, mother and herself as the protagonists. From the imperial era to the reign of Mao Zedong and his successors, Jung Chang’s family witnessed the rise of the Communist Party, the Cultural Revolution and the death of Chairman Mao.
Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie Chang
In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing tells a story of two young migrant workers living in Dongguan, a factory town in southern China. The author spent two years documenting on everyday life, struggles and dreams of China’s migrant workers.
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
Evan Osnos reported from China for The New Yorker magazine from 2008 to 2013. The book chronicles his travels in the country, where he interviewed people swept up in China’s “radical transformation” A winner of the 2014 National Book Award for nonfiction Age of Ambition offers a fascinating view on contemporary China.
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler
Peter Hessler describes his life and experiences in China in 1996 and 1997 when as Peace Corps volunteer he taught English and American literature at the local college in the town of Fuling on the Yangtze River.
Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China by Paul Theroux.
Paul Theroux describes his travels through China by rail in the 1980s. Through his observations and many conversations with locals he meets on his journey, Theroux provides a unique account of China of the 80’s that is highly entertaining, somewhat cynical and very informative.
Lost on Planet China: One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation by J. Maarten Troost
A humorous and slightly sarcastic account of a foreigner traveling through China. Mixing the usual facts about contemporary China with his own experiences, J. Maarten Troost keeps the reader both informed and entertained.
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li
A 2005 collection of short stories that explores the destructive effects of the Cultural Revolution on modern Chinese society and cultur, both in China and among Chinese Americans in the United States. The title story and The Princess of Nebraska were adapted into films directed by Wayne Wang.