Oct 09 2018

5 Must Read Books about China!

Here at ChinaUniversities.org, we tend to talk about China a lot. While we love talking about China, we also love reading about it. We discuss everything from the political climate to the food to the people. Our students are always asking what they should read to try to understand China, and so we decided to condense the hundreds of great books about China down to a select few. Whether you are a long-time admirer of China or are just starting to learn about the Middle Kingdom, here’s the top 5 must-read books about China!

1. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze // Peter Hessler:

New Yorker writer Peter Hessler writes of his two-year experience teaching for the Peace Corps in the remote town of Fuling in Sichuan Province, China. Hessler captures the town, and the country at large, at a time of change through his often insightful and poignant observations. A staple of every Sinophile’s collection, River Town is great for anyone who wants to take a literary journey down the Yangtze.

2. On China // HenryKissinger:

In On China, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger goes through a political history of China and its relations with other world powers, including Japan, Russia, Great Britain and the United States. Kissinger offers commentary throughout on everything from Confucianism to Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing. If you want to understand China’s political history from someone who was there for a lot of its most exciting parts, this is the book for you.

3. The Search for Modern China // Jonathan D. Spence:

Yale University's Jonathan Spence writes an engaging and deep examination of China’s history that critics praise for its narrative richness. Covering four centuries of political history, The Search for Modern China makes an argument for what events led China to be the global power it is today,but doesn’t present its findings in textbook fashion, instead immersing its reader in an extended story. An enjoyable read for any history buff.

4. China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power // Nicholas Kristoff, Sheryl Wu-Dunn:

Two New York Times reporters, Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wu-Dunn, present a view of modern day China through the lens of economic and developmental progress. Interviewing hundreds of Chinese citizens, the duo investigates the current state of China and where they think it will go. Published over 20 years ago, the collections of stories, which alternate between a Western and Chinese perspective, allow readers to test the authors' predictions while at the same time delving into the China they lived in. An exciting read for those interested in a journalistic approach.

5. Understanding China // John Bryan Starr:

Finally, Starr’s Understanding China is a mammoth of a book that will serve the beginner to the expert well. Covering history, politics, culture, economics, social issues, and demographics, you can delve into whichever subject interests you most. Starr includes indexes, graphs and a plethora of information you might want to explore, but safely tucked in the back so that it does not overwhelm. A good book to keep on your China reference shelf.

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