100 books like How the Red Sun Rose

By Hua Gao, Stacy Mosher (translator), Guo Jian (translator)

Here are 100 books that How the Red Sun Rose fans have personally recommended if you like How the Red Sun Rose. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Kerry Brown Author Of China

From my list on modern Chinese history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been working on China as a student, teacher, diplomat, business person, and academic since 1991. 
Currently, professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, my work involves trying to understand how the country’s deer and more recent history has created the remarkable country that we see today. I have written over 20 books on modern China, and lived there in total 5 and a half years. I have visited every single province and autonomous region, and have lectured on China in over 40 countries, across four continents.

Kerry's book list on modern Chinese history

Kerry Brown Why did Kerry love this book?

Perspectives on one of the most bewildering and turbulent periods in modern Chinese history – the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, in the decade from 1966, by one of contemporary China’s foremost historians. Yang, who has worked on the era of the great famines in China prior to this, is well served by two excellent translators. A book that brings the vastness of this revolution down to the stories of specific people and places, including those who were most involved in creating and directing this seminal event.

By Yang Jisheng, Stacy Mosher (translator), Guo Jian (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a major political event and a crucial turning point in the history of the People's Republic of China, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) marked the zenith as well as the nadir of Mao Zedong's ultra-leftist politics. Reacting in part to the Soviet Union's "revisionism," which he regarded as a threat to the future of socialism, Mao mobilized the masses in a battle against what he called "bourgeois" forces within the Chinese Communist Party. This ten-year-long class struggle devastated traditional Chinese culture as well as the nation's economy.

Following Tombstone, his groundbreaking and award-winning history of the Great Famine,…


Book cover of Making China Modern: From the Great Qing to XI Jinping

Kerry Brown Author Of China

From my list on modern Chinese history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been working on China as a student, teacher, diplomat, business person, and academic since 1991. 
Currently, professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, my work involves trying to understand how the country’s deer and more recent history has created the remarkable country that we see today. I have written over 20 books on modern China, and lived there in total 5 and a half years. I have visited every single province and autonomous region, and have lectured on China in over 40 countries, across four continents.

Kerry's book list on modern Chinese history

Kerry Brown Why did Kerry love this book?

To understand where China is now, and where it has been travelling from since 1949 when the People’s Republic was established, you need to grapple with the complex history that preceded that. German sinologist Klaus Muhlhahn expertly does this, succinctly drawing out the key theme of institution-building and showing how this provides the link between the final imperial period of the Qing to its collapse in 1911, and then the slow rise to power of the Communists over the 1920s to the 1940s when China was fragmented and beset by war. Accessible, authoritative, and ambitious.

By Klaus Mühlhahn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Thoughtful, probing...a worthy successor to the famous histories of Fairbank and Spence [that] will be read by all students and scholars of modern China."
-William C. Kirby, coauthor of Can China Lead?

It is tempting to attribute the rise of China to Deng Xiaoping and to recent changes in economic policy. But China has a long history of creative adaptation. In the eighteenth century, the Qing Empire dominated a third of the world's population. Then, as the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion ripped the country apart, China found itself verging on free fall. More recently, after Mao, China managed…


Book cover of The Killing Wind: A Chinese County's Descent Into Madness During the Cultural Revolution

Kerry Brown Author Of China

From my list on modern Chinese history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been working on China as a student, teacher, diplomat, business person, and academic since 1991. 
Currently, professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, my work involves trying to understand how the country’s deer and more recent history has created the remarkable country that we see today. I have written over 20 books on modern China, and lived there in total 5 and a half years. I have visited every single province and autonomous region, and have lectured on China in over 40 countries, across four continents.

Kerry's book list on modern Chinese history

Kerry Brown Why did Kerry love this book?

A searing account by a retired Chinese journalist of the impact of social unrest and factional clashes in a rural area of central Hunan province in the late 1960s during the Cultural Revolution. Tan’s haunting account starts with his memories of passing through this area around the time the events he goes on to recount as a young journalist decades before. With research and investigation, he finds that the quiet but unsettling place he remembers witnessing was in fact consumed by murder and bloodshed. Some of these events he documents. A book that describes but does not judge, making its impact even more powerful.

By Tan Hecheng, Guo Jian (translator), Stacy Mosher (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A spasm of extreme radicalism that rocked China to its foundations in the mid- to late 1960s, the Cultural Revolution has generated a vast literature. Much of it, however, is at a birds-eye level, and we have very few detailed accounts of how it worked on the ground. Long after the event, Tan Hecheng, now a retired Chinese writer and editor, was sent to Daoxian, Mao's home county, to report on the official investigation into the massacre that took place there during
the Cultural Revolution.

In The Killing Wind, Tan recounts how over the course of 66 days in 1967,…


Book cover of Catastrophe and Contention in Rural China: Mao's Great Leap Forward Famine and the Origins of Righteous Resistance in Da Fo Village

Kerry Brown Author Of China

From my list on modern Chinese history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been working on China as a student, teacher, diplomat, business person, and academic since 1991. 
Currently, professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, my work involves trying to understand how the country’s deer and more recent history has created the remarkable country that we see today. I have written over 20 books on modern China, and lived there in total 5 and a half years. I have visited every single province and autonomous region, and have lectured on China in over 40 countries, across four continents.

Kerry's book list on modern Chinese history

Kerry Brown Why did Kerry love this book?

A tremendous piece of scholarship by American Ralph Thaxton, looking at a specific village during the late 1950s and early 1960s as it experienced the great famines. This shows the impact of that tragedy on everyday Chinese lives, and the ways in which the suffering of that period was to overshadow so much of what happened afterward. Beautifully written, with wonderful deployment of other scholarship, an exceptional work, and one that is part of a trilogy that takes the story forwards in the late 1960s.

By Ralph A. Thaxton Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book documents how China's rural people remember the great famine of Maoist rule, which proved to be the worst famine in modern world history. Ralph A. Thaxton, Jr., sheds new light on how China's socialist rulers drove rural dwellers to hunger and starvation, on how powerless villagers formed resistance to the corruption and coercion of collectivization, and on how their hidden and contentious acts, both individual and concerted, allowed them to survive and escape the predatory grip of leaders and networks in the thrall of Mao's authoritarian plan for a full-throttle realization of communism - a plan that engendered…


Book cover of Ten Years of Madness: Oral Histories of China's Cultural Revolution

Fan Wu Author Of Beautiful as Yesterday

From my list on China’s cultural revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born and raised in China, I grew up on a remote state-run farm where my parents, as condemned intellectuals during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, lived for 20 years. It wasn't until mid-80s they were allowed to return. I have heard many stories and read many books about this tumultuous period in China. I didn’t know much about my parents’ personal experiences until I was in my 30s. Today’s China is very different but I believe that history extends its roots deep into the present. As a writer, what interests me the most is the impact of history on individuals and society. My latest book is a historical wartime novel set in China and Europe.

Fan's book list on China’s cultural revolution

Fan Wu Why did Fan love this book?

Oral history as a literary form is relatively new in China. When asked why he wrote the book, Mr. Feng replied that it was because of his guilt as a survivor and as a witness. The Cultural Revolution has devastated and scarred generation after generation in China, yet most people are silent about their personal experiences. Feng conducted numerous interviews with ordinary people who had lived through that period and wrote these intimate stories in the collection. Every voice is different and deeply personal; together, they portray one of the most disturbing and tumultuous times in Chinese history. 

By Feng Jicai,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ten Years of Madness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ten Years of Madness is a groundbreaking book that draws some parallels to Studs Terkel's "Working" in that it portrays a wide cross section of the Chinese people, but with a harrowing twist: how they survived the disastrous Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976. Families were destroyed; an entire generation of artists and intellectuals was lost. These oral histories, expertly conducted and arranged by noted writer and cultural critic Feng Jicai, are essential in preserving the memory of those who survived and those who did not survive China's most calamitous period in its modern history.


Book cover of Really Enough: A True Story of Tyranny, Courage and Comedy

Bob Zeidman Author Of Election Hacks: Zeidman v. Lindell: Exposing the $5 million election myth

From my list on little-known books about historical events.

Why am I passionate about this?

In school, I was a math and science nerd but also loved to write. I got good grades, except in history; memorizing dates and events was boring. My dad loved history. When he told stories about historical figures, I was fascinated. In twelfth grade, my history teacher told stories like my dad, and I started acing the class. Since then, I’ve become obsessed with history and devour good historical books, particularly when they focus on the people who change history. And now, I’ve actually been in places at times when history was made. 

Bob's book list on little-known books about historical events

Bob Zeidman Why did Bob love this book?

When Chairman Mao initiated the Cultural Revolution in China, Margaret Zhao and her family became enemies of the state. This memoir is full of hope, humor, and love despite the horrific situation of this young girl attempting to survive while many were doing everything to destroy her and her family.

I’m fascinated by how this true story describes the evils of communism in contrast with the opportunities provided by Western Civilization and capitalism. I also find it encouraging that someone could go through such terrible situations, always fearing for the life of herself and her family, and still hold so much optimism that she would one day find her way to America and freedom.

By Margaret Zhao, Kathleen Martens,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This astonishing, intimate memoir by Margaret Zhao with Kathleen Martens charts one young woman’s daunting struggle for survival, freedom and forbidden love while exposing the shocking lives of the Enemies of the State under the tumultuous rule of Chairman Mao. Set against the backdrop of a China in chaos, Really Enough is a relatable and touching celebration of rising up against all odds. Born into a disenfranchised family in rural China in the 1950s and branded an Enemy of the State, Margaret Zhao quickly learned her abject lot in life. With Chairman Mao Zedong’s new Communist Party policies—virtually hidden from…


Book cover of The Miracles of Chairman Mao

Daniel Kalder Author Of The Infernal Library

From my list on dictators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in the former Soviet Union for ten years, primarily in Moscow, the home of many a brutal tyrant. My obsession with dictator literature began after I discovered that Saddam Hussein had written a romance novel, following which I spent many years reading the literary output of all of the 20th century’s most terrible tyrants, from Mussolini to Stalin to the Ayatollah Khomeini. This monumental act of self-torture resulted in my critically acclaimed book The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, And Other Catastrophes of Literacy

Daniel's book list on dictators

Daniel Kalder Why did Daniel love this book?

This is a collection of primary sources from Mao Zedong’s China, and a very curious type of source at that — newspaper stories about people who experienced miracles after reading Mao’s works. Unlike Jesus, who performed his miracles in person, Mao did not even need to be in the vicinity to make wondrous things happen to his followers. The mere act of reciting his words and believing them was enough to cure cancer, save you from drowning or even emerge victorious in in international ping-pong championships. The full extent of the madness that gripped China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution is little understood in the West, so reading Urban’s collection is like opening a portal into another, bizarre world. Urban’s book takes us to the outer limits of propaganda.

Book cover of Anatomies of Revolution

Graeme Gill Author Of Revolution and Terror

From my list on understand why, as Mao said, “revolution is not a dinner party”.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became passionate about this subject when I was at university and I realised that so many revolutions that were conducted in the name of high ideals ended up involving considerable suffering and death on the part of the ordinary people. And not just the ordinary people, but the revolutionaries as well. Why, I wondered, was this the case, and did it mean, as many in the 1960s and 1970s argued, that revolution was ultimately self-defeating? The quest to answer these questions remains on-going, but the books I have suggested have helped me to make some headway towards a resolution.

Graeme's book list on understand why, as Mao said, “revolution is not a dinner party”

Graeme Gill Why did Graeme love this book?

I loved this 2019 mainly theoretical study because of the ambition it reflected and the major advances it provided. Lawson’s distinctions between revolutionary situations, revolutionary trajectories, and revolutionary outcomes provide an innovative framework for understanding revolutions.

Its analytical methodology, combined with some case studies, constitutes an immensely rich and engaging study of revolution, which helped to clarify much of my own thinking on this subject. This combination of theory and case studies made this a joy to read.

Book cover of Forbidden City

Robyn Ryle Author Of Fair Game

From my list on women who just won’t quit.

Why am I passionate about this?

Tenacity—that can’t quit, won’t quit attitude—isn’t always seen as a particularly good quality to have for women and girls. As a tenacious woman myself, I know from where I speak. My mother once told me no one would ever marry me because I argued too much (she was wrong). That was part of the inspiration for Amanda in Fair Game—a young woman who just won’t quit, even when she’s not sure exactly what winning looks like. Here are some of my favorite stories about women and girls refusing to give up in the face of challenging circumstances.

Robyn's book list on women who just won’t quit

Robyn Ryle Why did Robyn love this book?

How do you tell stories about the people who don’t show up in history’s official records?

That’s the question Vaness Hua explores in Forbidden City, which was inspired by a couple of lines Hua read about Chairman Mao Zedong’s love of ballroom dancing. Party officials would bring young women to the Forbidden Palace to dance with Mao and his party faithful. 

Any more detail about the lives of these young women is lost to history, but recreated with astonishing insight and beauty by Hua in Forbidden City. The main character, Mei Xiang, has to navigate the dangerous world of politics during the beginnings of the brutal and violent Cultural Revolution in China.

I love the questions this book raises about all the unknown women and girls whose stories of survival have been lost to time.

By Vanessa Hua,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A teenage girl living in 1960s China becomes Mao Zedong’s protégée and lover—and a heroine of the Cultural Revolution—in this “masterful” (The Washington Post) novel.
 
“A new classic about China’s Cultural Revolution . . . Think Succession, but add death and mayhem to the palace intrigue. . . . Ambitious and impressive.”—San Francisco Chronicle

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, PopSugar • Longlisted for the Joyce Carol Oates Prize

On the eve of China’s Cultural Revolution and her sixteenth birthday, Mei dreams of becoming a model revolutionary. When the Communist Party recruits…


Book cover of The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years

Zhang-Yue Zhou Author Of Achieving Food Security in China: The Challenges Ahead

From my list on understanding China’s great famine.

Why am I passionate about this?

My desire for food-related studies originates from my personal experience of starvation. Born in 1957 in rural China, I soon stepped into China’s Great Famine (1958-1962). During this famine, over 30 million people died of hunger, mostly peasants, including my grandpa (my mother’s father). As a growing child, I was hungry and today I still remember how my family struggled to feed us. After becoming a student at an agricultural university, I had the opportunity to think and started to ponder over food-related issues. After graduation, I became an academic and have since focused my energy on studies concerning food, chiefly, China’s food supply and food security. 

Zhang-Yue's book list on understanding China’s great famine

Zhang-Yue Zhou Why did Zhang-Yue love this book?

Numerous studies have confirmed that China’s Great Famine was man-made, its architect Mao Zedong. Yet, many of those affected do not blame Mao for what happened to them.

Still, in today’s China, many, including those affected by the catastrophe, worship Mao. The presence of such a ludicrous act is attributed to the communist regime’s mythicizing Mao and meantime censoring any media exposing Mao’s immense cruelties.

This book by Chen helps uncover and make explicit the testimonies of those involved in the human catastrophe. The book also exposes testimonies concerning political violence before and after the famine, which is very beneficial for one to ponder over why political violence and man-made tragedies recur in contemporary China and whether China by itself is capable of ensuring similar tragedies never again occur.

By Lingchei Letty Chen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is now forty years after Mao Zedong’s death and the end of the Cultural Revolution, and more than fifty years since the Great Leap Forward and the Great Famine. During this time, the collective memory of these events has been sanitized, reduced to a much-diluted version of what truly took place. Historical and sociological approaches cannot fully address the moral failure that allowed the atrocities of the Mao era to take place. Humanist approaches, such as literary criticism, have a central role to play in uncovering and making explicit the testimonies of both victims and perpetrators in “memory writing”…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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