I recently dusted off the book Wild Swans by Jung Chang and started reading it again. Rarely do I read books twice but I read this one many years ago and recall it impressed me. It was before I ever thought I would be living in China so I am now reading it with different eyes.
Someone asked me recently if I had read any books about China and I decided to have a look on the bookshelf, both wooden and digital. Apart from the obvious culture-shock-avoiding and roads-less-travelled type of guides, there are a few more books I have enjoyed.
River Town by Peter Hessler, an American Peace Corps volunteer who spent two years in Fuling (Sichuan province) in 1996, teaching English at the local college. He recently returned to the river town and wrote an article about it for the National Geographic: Return to River Town.
Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows was quite entertaining. The experiences of an American living in China and learning Mandarin. The first few chapters had me constantly in stitches as there was a lot of recognition.
Miss Chopsticks by Xinran Xue, an easy read about three peasant girls moving to the big city (Nanjing) in search for work. The author, who now lives in Britain, has written many books on China and also has an English blog.
Then there are still some on my shelf waiting for their turn:
Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang about the everyday lives of migrant factory workers in China. The author also did an interesting Ted Talk on the subject.
Life and death are wearing me out by Mo Yan. ‘The book is a historical fiction exploring China’s development during the latter half of the 20th century through the eyes of a noble and generous landowner who is killed and reincarnated as various farm animals in rural China‘ (Wikipedia).
The Civil Servants Notebook by Wang Xiaofang, the story of a power struggle within a government department of a fictional Chinese city. The author served as a private secretary to the corrupt and later executed Ma Xiangdong so am I guessing fact and fiction are intertwined. An interesting article by The Economist can be found here.
How the city moved to Mr Sun by the Go West Project.
‘Twenty years ago Mr Sun was a simple Chinese farmer. Today he owns a block of flats in the centre of a city of millions. And he didn’t move an inch.’
You can’t change China, China changes you by John van de Water, a Dutch architect recounting his experiences as a western architect working in China. See also Q&A with the author on Designers & Books.
And if this isn’t enough, the Foreign Language Bookstore in Shanghai [map] has many more titles. Also on Fuzhou Lu, along with plenty of art supply stores, is the Design bookstore which has some English titles. Garden books [map] also has a good selection and the Point to Life store at Bridge 8 [map] is still on my list to visit.
Then lastly, for those interested in learning more about Suzhou, I just found two lovely books at the tourist information office.
The second is one in a series by the Foreign Language Press called Cities of China, focussing on the smaller cities of China, like Suzhou and Nanjing.
In red embroidered shoes – sipping the essence of Suzhou by David W. Ferguson.