100 books like Midnight

By Mao Dun,

Here are 100 books that Midnight fans have personally recommended if you like Midnight. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Man's Fate

Paul French Author Of City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir

From my list on old Shanghai.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to Shanghai largely by accident back in the late twentieth century and found a city of art deco and modernism, of influences form east and west – then far less developed, smaller and more intimate, as if a dust sheet had been thrown over the city in 1949 and the metropolis underneath left to await a new era. The old city, the once international city that was the most modern in Asia – jazz, skyscrapers with elevators, streamline moderne villas, a hundred nationalities living cheek-by-jowl was still, seemingly, just within reach. I’ve never stopped being fascinated by that old world, or writing about it.

Paul's book list on old Shanghai

Paul French Why did Paul love this book?

Malraux’s novel is perhaps the most intricately atmospheric novel of old Shanghai, written in 1933 but set amid the 1927 Lefist Uprising and the massacre that follows. Malraux weaves the stories of Chinese revolutionaries, Russian agents, stateless refugees, foreign businessmen and poor workers into a portrait of the city. It is also a book that shows Shanghai as the most modern city in Asia between the world wars – neon, traffic jams, jazz….

By Andre Malraux,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Man's Fate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shanghai, 1927, and revolution is in the air. As the city becomes caught up in violence and bloodshed, four people's lives are altered inexorably: idealist and intellectual Kyo Gisors, one of the leaders of the Communist insurrection, who is also trying to deal with his own marital strife; Ch'en Ta Erh, an assassin and terrorist brutalized by killing; Baron de Clappique, a French gambler, opium dealer and gun runner; and Russian revolutionary Katov, who calmly watches events unfold, until he has to make the ultimate sacrifice. Each of these men must try to resolve their personal conflicts amid political turmoil,…


Book cover of Lust, Caution: The Story

Paul French Author Of City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir

From my list on old Shanghai.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to Shanghai largely by accident back in the late twentieth century and found a city of art deco and modernism, of influences form east and west – then far less developed, smaller and more intimate, as if a dust sheet had been thrown over the city in 1949 and the metropolis underneath left to await a new era. The old city, the once international city that was the most modern in Asia – jazz, skyscrapers with elevators, streamline moderne villas, a hundred nationalities living cheek-by-jowl was still, seemingly, just within reach. I’ve never stopped being fascinated by that old world, or writing about it.

Paul's book list on old Shanghai

Paul French Why did Paul love this book?

Set in wartime Shanghai in a time of espionage, betrayal, and murder. Chang knew of what she wrote – her own husband worked for the pro-Japanese collaborationist Chinese government of Wang Jing-wei and was considered a traitor. It’s a wartime novel where bombs don’t fall and soldiers don’t fight but everyone, including the main character of Wang Chia-chih (based on a real-life Nationalist Chinese spy Zheng Pingru, but with a fair amount of Chang herself thrown in), is faced with issues of resistance, collaboration, fighting back or staying quiet. A novella, but no less a masterpiece for being short.

By Eileen Chang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A major motion picture (2007) from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain): an intensely passionate story of love and espionage, set in Shanghai during World War II.

In the midst of the Japanese occupation of China and Hong Kong, two lives become intertwined: Wong Chia Chi, a young student active in the resistance, and Mr. Yee, a powerful political figure who works for the Japanese occupational government. As these two move deftly between Shanghai’s tea parties and secret interrogations, they become embroiled in the complicated politics of wartime—and in a mutual attraction that may be more…


Book cover of Shanghai: A Novel

Paul French Author Of City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir

From my list on old Shanghai.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to Shanghai largely by accident back in the late twentieth century and found a city of art deco and modernism, of influences form east and west – then far less developed, smaller and more intimate, as if a dust sheet had been thrown over the city in 1949 and the metropolis underneath left to await a new era. The old city, the once international city that was the most modern in Asia – jazz, skyscrapers with elevators, streamline moderne villas, a hundred nationalities living cheek-by-jowl was still, seemingly, just within reach. I’ve never stopped being fascinated by that old world, or writing about it.

Paul's book list on old Shanghai

Paul French Why did Paul love this book?

Riichi, an experimental, modernist Japanese writer, was perfectly suited to Shanghai, always an experimental modernist city. Shanghai was written after the author’s extended sojourn in Shanghai in the late 1920s. It is a fever dream of a city, cosmopolitan, deracinated, and louche yet almost impossible to grasp. Riichi’s Shanghai is not totally naturalistic yet his novel amazingly embodies the very spirit of old Shanghai.

By Riichi Yokomitsu,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Published serially between 1928 and 1931, Shanghai tells the story of a group of Japanese expatriates living in the International Settlement at the time of the May 30th Incident of 1925. The personal lives and desires of the main characters play out against a historical backdrop of labor unrest, factional intrigue, colonialist ambitions, and racial politics.

The author, Yokomitsu Riichi (1898-1947), was an essayist, writer, and critical theorist who became one of the most powerful and influential literary figures in Japan during the 1920s and 1930s. He looked to contemporary avant-garde movements in Europe -- Dadaism, futurism, surrealism, expressionism --…


Book cover of Mu Shiying: China's Lost Modernist

Paul French Author Of City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir

From my list on old Shanghai.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to Shanghai largely by accident back in the late twentieth century and found a city of art deco and modernism, of influences form east and west – then far less developed, smaller and more intimate, as if a dust sheet had been thrown over the city in 1949 and the metropolis underneath left to await a new era. The old city, the once international city that was the most modern in Asia – jazz, skyscrapers with elevators, streamline moderne villas, a hundred nationalities living cheek-by-jowl was still, seemingly, just within reach. I’ve never stopped being fascinated by that old world, or writing about it.

Paul's book list on old Shanghai

Paul French Why did Paul love this book?

This is a collection of short stories by one of China’s modernist masters, mostly translated by Andrew Field. However, Mu is largely forgotten and rarely read now either in Chinese or in translation. The reason is simple – he chose to collaborate with the Japanese in World War Two. Yet his short stories are so emblematic of old Shanghai, its dancehalls and bars; nightclubs and bordellos. Mu moves through a Shanghai demimonde of Chinese and foreigners, gangsters and tycoons, imported whisky, and Shanghainese cuisine. His writing is the epitome of the nighttime neon-lit old photography of the city we are so familiar with; his characters those we see on the old pre-war black and white movies from Shanghai’s film studios.

By Andrew David Field,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shanghai’s “Literary Comet” When the avant-garde writer Mu Shiying was assassinated in 1940, China lost one of its greatest modernist writers while Shanghai lost its most detailed chronicler of the city’s Jazz-Age nightlife. Mu’s highly original stream-of-consciousness approach to short story writing deserves to be re-examined and re-read. As Andrew Field argues, Mu advanced modern Chinese writing beyond the vernacular expression of May Fourth giants Lu Xun and Lao She to reveal even more starkly the alienation of a city trapped between the forces of civilization and barbarism in the 1930s. Mu Shiying China’s Lost Modernist includes translations of six…


Book cover of The Mustachioed Woman of Shanghai

Tom Carter Author Of An American Bum in China: Featuring the bumblingly brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans

From my list on expats in China.

Why am I passionate about this?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for what would become a two-year backpacking sojourn across all 33 Chinese provinces, the first foreigner on record to do so. Since then, I have published three books about China, with two specifically focusing on the expatriate experience. This quirky yet timeless subgenre is my guilty pleasure; the following are but five of five hundred I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on expats in China

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

Decidedly contemporary China’s most provocative foreign writer, Isham Cook has spent the past decade in Beijing penning books about taboo subject matter that heretofore few expat authors have been willing to publicly reveal about their lives here. Specifically, prurience and libertine excess. I liken him as a reincarnated Edmund Backhouse with a hint of Henry Miller and a dash of de Sade. In his putative memoir The Mustachioed Woman of Shanghai, Cook reimagines himself as an Asian woman in order to psychoanalyze his past relationships with Chinese girlfriends whom he tormented with polyamory. If nothing else, read this for its sheer audacity.

By Isham Cook,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An erotic thriller of "ambitious, Faulknerian structure" (Kirkus Reviews)exposing what's really going on with relationships in China today.

It is the Shanghai of courtesans and concubines, danger and decadence, updated to 2020. American expat author Isham Cook has disappeared. His last known history is chronicled by an exotic woman who seems right out of 1930s Shanghai herself, Marguerite, a mustachioed Afghan-American who weaves Persian rugs and deals in psychedelics. As she tells it, Isham's story all began with Luna, a beguiling but troubled Chinese woman who happens to have a mustache herself. Also vying for Isham's affection is the charismatic…


Book cover of The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet

Tom Carter Author Of An American Bum in China: Featuring the bumblingly brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans

From my list on expats in China.

Why am I passionate about this?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for what would become a two-year backpacking sojourn across all 33 Chinese provinces, the first foreigner on record to do so. Since then, I have published three books about China, with two specifically focusing on the expatriate experience. This quirky yet timeless subgenre is my guilty pleasure; the following are but five of five hundred I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on expats in China

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

Graham Earnshaw, who has resided in the Middle Kingdom for the past 40+ years (longer than any other living expat here today), has also been casually strolling from Shanghai due west toward Tibet over the past two decades. Fluent in Mandarin, his spontaneous conversations with local peasants he has encountered along the way make The Great Walk a delightfully pleasant and profoundly insightful read. Published in 2010 by a small Hong Kong indie press and tragically overlooked by most Sinophiles, I can’t recommend this enough to anyone seeking an upbeat, unpretentious narrative of a foreigner drifting among the Chinese.

By Graham Earnshaw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What kind of people would you meet if you decided to walk across the world's most populous country? The Great Walk of China is a journey into China's heartland, away from its surging coastal cities. Through surprisingly frank conversations with the people he meets along the way, the Chinese-speaking author paints a portrait of a nation struggling to come to terms with its newfound identity and its place in the world.


Book cover of Phantom Shanghai

Adrian Bradshaw Author Of The Door Opened: 1980s China: Photography: Adrian Bradshaw

From my list on colour photography books on China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went as a student to Beijing in 1984 with a camera and a suitcase of film but not much of a plan. I found myself in a country whose young people were suddenly empowered to put their skills to use rather than let state planning order every aspect of their lives. My academic studies rapidly evolved into a vocation to photograph the changes around me. There was demand for this: one of my first assignments being for Life magazine and then a slew of US and European publications eager to expand their coverage of all that was reshaping China and in turn the world. I chose street-level life as the most relatable to an international audience and in recent years also for Chinese eager to see how this era began.

Adrian's book list on colour photography books on China

Adrian Bradshaw Why did Adrian love this book?

Shanghai is a city that fascinates and repels both Chinese and foreigners alike. The harsh exploitative past and the contemporary resurgence embrace a sometimes unsettling mix of wealth, style and brutality. The architectural reshaping of the megalopolis of more than 20 million souls reflects this context and no one has captured it better than Greg Girard, a Canadian photojournalist who spent much of his career in Asia. The twilight of eerie neon tones in the smoggy half-demolished city is fertile territory for this image maker chasing the phantoms.

By Greg Girard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Shanghai—a city in the process of dismantling its history to accommodate China’s new cosmopolitan vision of itself.”—Greg Girard

As Shanghai modernizes and seeks acceptance as an international city, buildings and neighborhoods that were once preserved simply by lack of intervention are now being purposefully demolished.

Phantom Shanghai is a spectacular look at a Shanghai that won’t survive the vision the country has for itself. For the past five years, Greg Girard has been photographing the city’s buildings, shops, homes, and neighborhoods. This stunning photographic journey is a look at present-day Shanghai, where politically inspired neglect meets politically inspired development.

Greg…


Book cover of Night in Shanghai

Claire Chao Author Of Remembering Shanghai: A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels

From my list on China’s greatest city Shanghai.

Why am I passionate about this?

“Old Shanghai” is in my blood: though raised in Hong Kong, I was surrounded by all things Shanghai through my parents and their friends, who had grown up during Shanghai’s 1930s heyday. The classical culture … the modern glamour … the breathtaking scandals! Since childhood I’ve searched for connections to my heritage; this fascination led me, years later, to write Remembering Shanghai with my mother, by then in her eighties. Having immersed myself in Shanghai history and culture most of my life, I am passionate about intimate, authentic stories that are told against a rich historical backdrop—the kind that make reviewers say “you can’t make this up!”

Claire's book list on China’s greatest city Shanghai

Claire Chao Why did Claire love this book?

At the center of the novel Night in Shanghai is Black American musician Thomas Greene, who arrives in Shanghai from segregated Baltimore to find wealth, position, and love—only to have his life changed forever by the outbreak of World War II. Author Nicole Mones was a businesswoman in China in the 1970s; her China experience, coupled with meticulous research, makes this a pitch-perfect portrait of the city and its denizens. A talented storyteller, she describes the little-known Black American experience of Shanghai, taking the reader from go-go Shanghai to wartime, weaving in actual events, characters, and depictions of the nightspots and jazz clubs of my parents’ Shanghai.

By Nicole Mones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Night in Shanghai as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1936, classical pianist Thomas Greene is recruited to Shanghai to lead a jazz orchestra of fellow African-American expats. From being flat broke in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with servants of his own, he becomes the toast of a city obsessed with music, money, pleasure and power, even as it ignores the rising winds of war.
Song Yuhua is refined and educated, and has been bonded since age eighteen to Shanghai's most powerful crime boss in payment for her father's gambling debts. Outwardly submissive, she burns with rage and risks her life spying on her master for…


Book cover of Shanghai Baby

Tom Carter Author Of China: Portrait of a People

From my list on naughty Chinese girls.

Why am I passionate about this?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for what would become a two-year backpacking sojourn across all 33 Chinese provinces, the first foreigner on record to do so. It was during this journey that I discovered the following five female writers, whose catty, carnal memoirs accompanied me like jealous mistresses vying for attention.

Tom's book list on naughty Chinese girls

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

Like her or not, the reigning queen of the naughty girl subgenre of Chinese literature decidedly is Wei Hui, whose debut, Shanghai Baby, was a cultural phenomenon that resulted in public book burnings, an international media frenzy, dozens of imitators, and one so-bad-it’s-good movie adaptation starring Bai Ling. Not that Wei Hui is a particularly well-regarded writer – Shanghai Baby is basically a knockoff of shallow Western-style chick-lit, about a designer-brand-obsessed young woman who has an affair with a married foreigner – but in 1999 it was groundbreaking for kicking the publishing doors down for the post-1970s generation of Chinese writers.

By Wei Hui,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Publicly burned in China for its sensual nature and irreverent style, this novel is the semi-autobiographical story of Coco, a cafe waitress, who is full of enthusiasm and impatience for life. She meets a young man, Tian Tian, for whom she feels tenderness and love, but he is reclusive, impotent and an increasing user of drugs. Despite parental objections, Coco moves in with him, leaves her job and throws herself into writing.

Shortly afterwards she meets Mark, a married Westerner. The two are uncontrollably attracted and begin a highly charged, physical affair. Torn between her two lovers, and tormented by…


Book cover of And The City Swallowed Them

Tom Carter Author Of An American Bum in China: Featuring the bumblingly brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans

From my list on expats in China.

Why am I passionate about this?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for what would become a two-year backpacking sojourn across all 33 Chinese provinces, the first foreigner on record to do so. Since then, I have published three books about China, with two specifically focusing on the expatriate experience. This quirky yet timeless subgenre is my guilty pleasure; the following are but five of five hundred I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on expats in China

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

There are several true-crime books about foreigners who have been killed whilst residing in China, notably Paul French’s Midnight in Peking (which should be read together with its dismissive detractor, A Death in Peking by Graeme Sheppard). Despite its brevity (only 60 pages), Mara Hvistendahl’s And The City Swallowed Them holds its own in the true-crime genre as a well-researched work of investigative journalism covering the stabbing of a Western female model working in Shanghai in 2008. Hvistendahl’s shocking expose focuses in equal parts on the seedier aspects of modern expat life, China’s marginalized peasant working class, and the country’s opaque justice system.

By Mara Hvistendahl,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At age 22, Diana O’Brien left a small island community on Canada’s Pacific Coast and moved to China to work as a model. Twelve days later, she was stabbed in a Shanghai stairwell. The actions of both police investigators and O'Brien's Chinese modeling agent soon aroused suspicion as her family sought answers from China's opaque legal system. Ultimately, their quest would put them face to face with her accused killer.

At once a page-turning murder mystery and a work of deep investigation, And The City Swallowed Them is a true crime nonfiction story based on dozens of interviews with investigators,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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