During my time here in China I have found a number of enlightening books on Chinese thought, culture, events, history and politics. The following is a list of my favorites with some information about why you might find it interesting. (* Means I really think you might like it)
If you have questions about what to read because you are interested in reading more about some aspect of China, just send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). There are also countless Newsweek articles in the online archive that cover a range of topics related to Chinese society and economy.
This is the first book I read about China. I read it before I left and again since I have been here (it was two different books!). It resonates because the author was not only a Peace Corps China Volunteer, but the book specifically discusses his experiences volunteering in Sichuan.
This is somewhat a follow-up of River Town. It follows Hessler’s work while in Beijing after Peace Corps. The style is like River Town with a combination of Autobiography and Chinese History. It is very readable non-fiction about China and the history connected to Oracle Bones.
The Rape of Nanking*
This is one of the most eye-opening books that helps to explain the relationship between common Chinese people today and the Japanese. This is an event that few Westerners know about; one would be wise to try and understand it better.
Individualism and Collectivism
Harry C. Triandis
This is a very well researched book about the differences between collectivist and individualist societies. It analyzes these two aspects from many different angles, though it can be a bit dry at times. This is for anyone who wants to know more about the social science of individualism and collectivism.
Encountering the Chinese*
This is by far the most readable book about everyday aspects of modern Chinese culture. For anyone interested in basic differences between Chinese and Americans, this is a good place to begin.
This was a wonderful autobiography about a man who studied in China. He tells the stories of his classmates, most of whom were directly influenced by the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Very readable.
Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn
I am just finishing this book and it has been worth the read. The chapters alternate writers (they are husband and wife). This is probably the most openly critical book I have read about China. Aspects of current problems in certain *ahem* autonomous regions are also alluded to throughout the book.
China (Cambridge Illustrated History)
Patricia Buckley Ebrey
This is an illustrated history of China’s History, covering everything. As such, it treats most topics rather superficially (as a High School History textbook might), but provides amazing photographs and maps to help illustrate the location of “China” throughout the dynasties.
A Bitter Revolution
Mitter covers the modern Chinese developments beginning with the events surrounding the movement of 1919 and continuing to the present day. This is a book more about the politics of China during this period. The author spends most of his time arguing that the May 4th movement of 1919 was the defining moment for modern China (from which all things have been influenced).