10 books like Factory Girls

By Leslie T. Chang,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Factory Girls. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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River Town

By Peter Hessler,

Book cover of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

Considered by many to be the gold standard of the Peace Corps memoir genre, this volunteer’s account is resplendent in its imagery, witty insights, and down-to-earth prose. The depiction of day-to-day life serving as a schoolteacher in China, interspersed with the challenges of learning a new language and culture, and the occasional plunge into the history of the region (anthropologically, geographically, and politically) round out the narrative to give the reader an immersive cultural experience unlike any other. The narrative’s boots-on-the-ground perspective gives the reader a true insider peek at life in China—at turns baffling, humorous, poignant, and, above all, fascinating.

River Town

By Peter Hessler,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked River Town as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Peter Hessler went to China in the late 1990s, he expected to spend a couple of peaceful years teaching English in the town of Fuling on the Yangtze River. But what he experienced - the natural beauty, cultural tension, and complex process of understanding that takes place when one is thrust into a radically different society - surpassed anything he could have imagined. Hessler observes firsthand how major events such as the death of Deng Xiaoping, the return of Hong Kong to the mainland, and the controversial consturction of the Three Gorges Dam have affected even the people of…


Just One Child

By Susan Greenhalgh,

Book cover of Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng's China

China's gargantuan size has haunted its efforts to become a modern nation. Anthropologist Greenhalgh argues that in the late 1970s, Chinese rocket scientists, influenced by doomsday policymakers in the West, convinced the Chinese government to impose a one-child family planning program. The draconian enforcement of the one-child policy subjected millions of women to intimate corporeal surveillance that resulted in uncounted numbers of forced abortions, hidden births, and suffering for the masses. By 2016, when the two children policy was instituted, family planning contributed to an unbalanced gender ratio, delayed marriages, and a possibly irreversible population decline. Social engineering is a modus operandi of the Chinese state, and ironically, its most famous strategy threatens the nation's sustainability as a world industrial power.

Just One Child

By Susan Greenhalgh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Just One Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

China's one-child rule is unassailably one of the most controversial social policies of all time. In the first book of its kind, Susan Greenhalgh draws on twenty years of research into China's population politics to explain how the leaders of a nation of one billion decided to limit all couples to one child. Focusing on the historic period 1978-80, when China was just reentering the global capitalist system after decades of self-imposed isolation, Greenhalgh documents the extraordinary manner in which a handful of leading aerospace engineers hijacked the population policymaking process and formulated a strategy that treated people like missiles.…


Van Gogh on Demand

By Winnie Won Yin Wong,

Book cover of Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade

This engaging book looks at globalization and art from a perspective well beyond the conventional art world. Wong analyzes the work of artists in the Chinese "urban village" of Dafen where some five million paintings are produced a year–copies of Western masterpieces. Rather than viewing this industry condescendingly, Wong takes Dafen as a laboratory for understanding what qualities make an artist, and how creativity exists even in contexts of reproduction and replication. 

Van Gogh on Demand

By Winnie Won Yin Wong,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Van Gogh on Demand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the Guangdong province in southeastern China lies Dafen, a village that houses thousands of workers who paint Van Goghs, Da Vincis, Warhols, and other Western masterpieces, producing an astonishing five million paintings a year. To write about life and work in Dafen, Winnie Wong infiltrated this world, investigating the claims of conceptual artists who made projects there; working as a dealer; apprenticing as a painter; surveying merchants in Europe, Asia, and America; establishing relationships with local leaders; and organizing a conceptual art show for the Shanghai World Expo. The result is Van Gogh on Demand, a fascinating book about…


Deep China

By Arthur Kleinman, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun, Sing Lee, Everett Zhang, Pan Tianshu, Wu Fei, Jinhua Guo

Book cover of Deep China: The Moral Life of the Person

This collection, by anthropologists and psychiatrists, gives us a glimpse of soul searching by ordinary people as China compresses centuries of industrial growth into two decades. The unprecedented fragmentation of families and loss of culture have scattered lives and disoriented minds. The chapter authors consider intimate topics --  death, sex, depression, stigma, suicide, and madness -- that lie beneath the glossy images of Chinese achievements. They reveal the deep confusion of ordinary people as they struggle with questions of morality and humanity in a relentless, turbulent world.

Deep China

By Arthur Kleinman, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun, Sing Lee, Everett Zhang, Pan Tianshu, Wu Fei, Jinhua Guo

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Deep China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Deep China" investigates the emotional and moral lives of the Chinese people as they adjust to the challenges of modernity. Sharing a medical anthropology and cultural psychiatry perspective, Arthur Kleinman, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun, Sing Lee, Everett Zhang, Pan Tianshu, Wu Fei, and Guo Jinhua delve into intimate and sometimes hidden areas of personal life and social practice to observe and narrate the drama of Chinese individualization. The essays explore the remaking of the moral person during China's profound social and economic transformation, unraveling the shifting practices and struggles of contemporary life.


Land of Big Numbers

By Te-Ping Chen,

Book cover of Land of Big Numbers: Stories

Drawing from her work as a journalist, Chen gives us unsettling stories crystallized by the ferocious competition that engulfs everyone in the vast anonymous landscape that is contemporary China. The endless micro-struggles of small-town individuals to escape poverty or gain an educational foothold reveal their warped understanding of society and life. Mindless mishaps, fears, and even cruelty are everyday experiences of people struggling to survive and protect their families. The great hidden human costs of China's rise are simply mind-boggling. 

Land of Big Numbers

By Te-Ping Chen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Land of Big Numbers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A dazzling debut collection which, deftly and urgently, tells the stories of those living in the biggest and most complicated country on earth.

A BARACK OBAMA READING LIST SELECTION FOR SUMMER 2021

'In this magnificent collection of stories, the author vividly captures the desires and losses of a richly drawn cast while drawing on the realities of contemporary China' Cosmopolitan

A brother competes for gaming glory while his twin sister exposes the dark side of the Communist government on her underground blog; a worker at a government call centre is alarmed one day to find herself speaking to a former…


The Party

By Richard McGregor,

Book cover of The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers

The Chinese Communist Party is a mystery and this book is the best journalistic guide to try to understand it. This book inspired my reporting in China. It made me understand that the party is at the heart of every important decision made by Beijing though its decision-making is rarely visible. Written by a former Financial Times reporter, the book documents the big role the party plays in everything from picking the CEOs of China’s biggest firms to revamping the military.

The Party

By Richard McGregor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Party as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A masterful depiction of the party today. . . . McGregor illuminates the most important of the contradictions and paradoxes. . . . An entertaining and insightful portrait of China’s secretive rulers.” —The Economist

“Few outsiders have any realistic sense of the innards, motives, rivalries, and fears of the Chinese Communist leadership. But we all know much more than before, thanks to Richard McGregor’s illuminating and richly-textured look at the people in charge of China’s political machinery. . . . Invaluable.” — James Fallows, National Correspondent for The Atlantic

In this provocative and illuminating account, Financial Times reporter Richard McGregor…


The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom

By John Pompfret,

Book cover of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present

We are used to thinking about how much China has changed in the past 50 years, thanks to the actions of the United States. But we rarely think about China’s historic impact on the U.S. This magisterial book by a former Washington Post reporter with long experience in China corrects that imbalance. There is a reason the author uses 1776 in his subhead. The tea tossed into Boston Harbor was shipped from Xiamen, and America’s founders were inspired by Chinese society which they viewed as a meritocracy. China’s democratic reformers looked to the U.S. for inspiration too.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom

By John Pompfret,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Remarkable History of the Two-Centuries-Old Relationship Between the United States and China, from the Revolutionary War to the Present Day

From the clipper ships that ventured to Canton hauling cargos of American ginseng to swap for Chinese tea, and the Yankee missionaries who brought Christianity and education to China, to the Chinese who built the American West, the United States and China have always been dramatically intertwined. While we tend to think of America’s ties with China as starting in 1972 with the visit of President Richard Nixon to China, the patterns---rapturous enchantment followed by angry disillusionment---were set in…


The Last Kings of Shanghai

By Jonathan Kaufman,

Book cover of The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China

A great deal has been written about the Jewish refugees who flooded into Shanghai during World War II, but that’s not the case with the story of the wealthy Sephardic Jewish families who arrived in the early days of opium trading and built fabulous fortunes. In Last Kings of Shanghai, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jonathan Kaufman weaves the epic tale of the Sassoons and the Kadoories, stretching from Baghdad to Shanghai to London and Hong Kong. It’s a story of business acumen and political intrigue, of wartime survival and the choices that saw one family perpetuate its wealth and influence in China, and the other fade into history.

The Last Kings of Shanghai

By Jonathan Kaufman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Last Kings of Shanghai as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In vivid detail... examines the little-known history of two extraordinary dynasties."--The Boston Globe

"Not just a brilliant, well-researched, and highly readable book about China's past, it also reveals the contingencies and ironic twists of fate in China's modern history."--LA Review of Books

An epic, multigenerational story of two rival dynasties who flourished in Shanghai and Hong Kong as twentieth-century China surged into the modern era, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

The Sassoons and the Kadoories stood astride Chinese business and politics for more than one hundred seventy-five years, profiting from the Opium Wars; surviving Japanese occupation; courting Chiang Kai-shek; and…


The Good Women of China

By Xinran,

Book cover of The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices

This collection of hidden testimonies of women in China, based on call-ins to a radio show in the 199Os, depicts what women think and feel about their world and their realities. We hear women speaking for the first time about forced marriages, poverty, persecution, love – and their triumphs. It is key to understanding the thoughts and feelings behind what we think we know.

The Good Women of China

By Xinran,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Good Women of China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For eight groundbreaking years, Xinran presented a radio programme in China during which she invited women to call in and talk about themselves. Broadcast every evening, Words on the Night Breeze became famous through the country for its unflinching portrayal of what it meant to be a woman in modern China. Centuries of obedience to their fathers, husbands and sons, followed by years of political turmoil had made women terrified of talking openly about their feelings. Xinran won their trust and, through her compassion and ability to listen, became the first woman to hear their true stories.

This unforgettable book…


Dragon Lady

By Sterling Seagrave,

Book cover of Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China

This book takes what you think you know about China’s Last Empress, Cixi, and turns it upside down. Far from the monster created by puerile Western conquerors to justify their imperial domination over China, this historical account uncovers the reality behind the woman who held great power in China. This reality is core to the destruction of the Dragon Lady stereotype in Western culture that I lay out in my book.

Dragon Lady

By Sterling Seagrave,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dragon Lady as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author of The Soong Dynasty gives us our most vivid and reliable biography yet of the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, remembered through the exaggeration and falsehood of legend as the ruthless Manchu concubine who seduced and murdered her way to the Chinese throne in 1861.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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