These are books I have read that are either by western authors who know China and who have set their books in China or some ex-pat Chinese who now write in English, or they are books written by Chinese authors whose work has been translated into English.

The section on fiction is not absolutely up-to-date; I have far more books than I have listed as yet, but I hope to catch up soon (although doing that would leave me less time for reading!!).

Books listed are arranged in alphabetic order by author surname, in the case of Chinese authors, the surname usually comes before the personal name.



The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Silhouettes of Peking by D. de Martel and L. de Hoyer

The Year of the Goose by Carly J. Hallman

The Chinese Alchemist by Lyn Hamilton (crime)

Passing Under Heaven by Justin Hill

A Most Immoral Woman by Linda Jaivin

The Dim Sum of All Things by Kim Wong Keltner

Bad Traffic by Simon Lewis (thriller)

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li (short stories)

The Dog – Stories by Jack Livings (short stories)

Excess Baggage by Karen Ma

The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell (crime)

Firemaker by Peter May (crime)

An Insular Possession by Timothy Mo

A Cup of Light by Nicole Mones

The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones

Missee Lee by Arthur Ransome

The Pool of Unease by Catherine Sampson (crime)

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Something Like a House by Sid Smith

The People’s Republic of Desire by Annie Wang

The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang (crime)

Paper Butterfly by Diane Wei Liang (crime)

The Chinese Bell Murders by Robert Van Gulik

The Chinese Lake Murders by Robert Van Gulik

The Maker of Heavenly Trousers by Daniele Varè

The Gate of Happy Sparrows by Daniele Varè

The Temple of Costly Experience by Daniel Varè

The Dragon’s Tale by Adam Williams

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu


CHINESE FICTION (translated into English)

Under the Hawthorn Tree by Ai Mi

The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung (thriller)

Balzac & The Little Chinese Seamstress by Da Sijie

The Flowers of War by Geling Yan

The Uninvited by Geling Yan (also published as The Banquet Bug)

Village of Stone by Guo Xiaolu

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Guo Xiaolu

Waiting by Ha Jin

The Bridegroom by Ha Jin

Black Holes by He Jiahong (crime)

Hanging Devils by He Jiahong (crime)

K: The Art of Love by Hong Ying

Rickshaw Boy by Lao She

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan

Leave Me Alone – a novel of Chengdu by Murong Xuecun

Red is Black by Qiu Xiaolong (crime)

Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong (crime)

A Case of Two Cities by Qiu Xiaolong (crime)

A Loyal Character Dancer by Qiu Xiaolong (crime)

Don’t Cry, Tai Lake by Qiu Xiaolong (crime)

Northern Girls by Sheng Keyi

The Boat to Redemption by Su Tong

Madwoman on the Bridge by Su Tong (short stories)

Miss Chopsticks by Xinran Xue

Feathered Serpent by Xu Xiaobin

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li

Brothers by Yu Hua

To Live by Yu Hua

English by Wang Gang

When Playing for Thrills by Wang Shuo

The Civil Servant’s Notebook by Wang Xiaofang

The Ancient Ship by Zhang Wei

Grass Soup by Zhang Xianliang

Shanghai Baby by Zhou Wei Hui

The Picador Book of Contemporary Chinese Fiction



Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Life & Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng

Four Sisters of Hofei by Anping Chin

China to Me by Emily Hahn

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler

Kosher Chinese  – Living, Teaching and Eating with China’s Other Billion by Michael Levy

A Chinese Life by Li Kunwu  (Graphic memoir)

Maiden Voyage by Denton Welch

Falling Leaves: the Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline YenMah

Socialism is Great! by Zhang Lijia

The Diary of Ma Yan: the life of a Chinese schoolgirl


Biographies: [subject’s name in brackets]

Mao: the unknown story by Jung Chang [Mao Ze Deng]

The Corpse Walker: Real-Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up by Liao Yiwu

Confucius And the World he Created by Michael Schuman [Confucius]

Burying the Bones by Hilary Spurling [Pearl S. Buck]

The Soong Dynasty by Sterling Segrave                                                                                      [The [three Soong sisters: Ai-ling, Mei-ling & Ching-ling]

Bomb, Book & Compass by Simon Winchester [Joseph Needham] title in the USA: The Man Who Loved China


History & Sociology:

Nineteen Seventy-Six by Ragnar Baldursson

The Mummies of Urumqi by Elizabeth Wayland Barber

The China Mirage – the Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia by James Bradley

A Choice of Evils by Meira Chand

Factory Girls by Leslie T.Chang

Two Years in the Forbidden City by Princess Der Ling

Mao’s Great Famine by Frank Dikotter

The Yellow Peril : Dr Fu Manchu & the Rise of Chinaphobia by Christopher Frayling

The Dynasties of China by Bamber Gascoigne

Women at the Siege: Peking 1900 by Susanna Hoe

Foreign Devils on the Silk Road by Peter Hopkirk

What Does China Think? by Mark Leonard

The Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu

The Wisdom of China by Lin Yutang

The Opium War by Julia Lovell

The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor

China’s Urban Billion by Tom Miller

Chinese Characteristics by Arthur Henderson Smith

The Long March by Sun Shuyun

The Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence

Wild West China: The Taming of Xinjiang by Christian Tyler

Life along the Silk Road by Susan Whitfield

Did Marco Polo Go to China? by Frances Wood

Buy Me the Sky – the Remarkable Truth about China’s One-Child Generations   by Xinran Xue

The Good Women of China by Xinran Xue

What the Chinese Don’t Eat by Xinran Xue

China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation by Xinran Xue


Chinese Poetry:

Three Hundred Tang Poems –  Everyman Library; translated and edited by Peter Harris

I Too am Salammbo by Hong Ying


Chinese Art & Culture:

Chinese Gods by Jonathan Chamberlain

Chinese Folk Customs by Fang Huawen

Paint by Numbers: China’s Art Factory from Mao to Now by Claire van den Heever

Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs by C.A.S. Williams



Country Driving by Peter Hessler

A Bend in the Yellow River by Justin HillC

In Manchuria – A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China                               by Michael Meyer

From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang & Tibet by Vikram Seth

Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud by Sun Shuyun

Teaching Little Fang by Mark Swallow

Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train through China by Paul Theroux

Behind the Wall: Journey Through China by Colin Thubron

Maiden Voyage by Denton Welch

Slow Boats to China by Gavin Young

Tao te Ching: an Illustrated Journey by Lao Ze



The Chinese Garden by Maggie Keswick

The Garden Plants of China by Peter Valder


Food and Drink:

To The People, Food is Heaven by Audra Ang

Musings of a Chinese Gourmet by F.T.Cheng

A Cook’s Guide to Chinese Vegetables by Martha Dahlen

Chinese Culinary Culture by Du Fuxiang & Li Xiaoqing

Every Grain of Rice – Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchia Dunlop

Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchia Dunlop

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Peppers: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop

The Art of Tea in China by Guo Danying & Wang Jianrong

Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China by Jen Lin-Liu

A Decent Bottle of Wine in China by Chris Ruffle

Baijiu: the Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits by Derek Sandhaus

The Food of China by Nina Simonds

Chinese Cuisine – Recipes and Their Stories by Zhang Enlai



Chinese Gods by Jonathan Chamberlain

The Kuan Yin Chronicles by Martin Palmer and Jay Ramsay with Man-Ho Kwock



Sport and Leisure:

The Book of Mahjong by Amy Lo

Bamboo Goalposts by Rowan Simons

The Red Dragon & The West Wind  [mahjong] by Tom Sloper

The Forbidden Game: Golf and The Chinese Dream by Dan Washburn


Chinese Language:

Niubi! The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School by Eveline Chao

Dirty Chinese: Everyday slang from “what’s up?” to “F*%# Off” by Matt Coleman and       Edmund Backhouse



City of Heavenly Tranquillity by Jasper Becker

The Last Days of Old Beijing by Michael Meyer



State of China (Atlas) by Stephanie Donald

ABC Dictionary of Chinese Proverbs by John S. Rohsenow

2 Responses to Books

  1. Loraloozi says:

    Hi, just want to let you know that I enjoyed reading your blog. I’m impressed by your dedication in learning about China and sharing your experience with insightful observations. Thank you for the list of books – it’s a useful reference.

  2. Tom Brock says:

    I really enjoyed the tribute to your Father on the Royal Bombay Sappers site. My late father was also an acting Major with the Sappers through to Partition. He was London born, top in science at Alleyns school and commissioned at Aldershot in September 1941. He was in Bombay at the time of the harbour explosion. In the Anderman Islands he constructed a POW camp for several thousand Japanese…..they just fenced of part an an island. After the war be returned to London but his old stomping ground had been flattened so he returned to India for Partition. He then came to New Zealand after which family got in the way of further education.

    As your Parents were architects they should have been well aware of the Scottish painter, David Roberts R.A. 1796 – 1864, as be was one of the best Topographical artists. As you are an avid reader, try Catherine Sim’s biography on Roberts. What interests me is that his oldest grandson, Henry David Bicknell, came to New Zealand as a commissioned office.b He left Portsmouth in April 1863, the same month his family sold 1100 art works through Christies. I believe he took with him a least 3 art works, a David Roberts, a Edwin Landseer and one other.

    Being in Wanganui, New Zealand, it is difficult doing the ground work research. Are you able to help?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s