100 books like Phantom Shanghai

By Greg Girard,

Here are 100 books that Phantom Shanghai fans have personally recommended if you like Phantom Shanghai. 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 Nadav Kander: Yangtze, The Long River

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

From my list on colour photography books on China.

Who am I?

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?

The Yangtze River is only how outsiders know it: to Chinese it is simply ‘Changjiang’ or ‘Long River’. Flowing through the heart of the country from the Tibetan Plateau to Shanghai it is central to the lives and imagination of countless generations of Chinese. Kander, better known for his advertising and commercial work, brings a sedate and contemplative approach to this huge subject. The silt-laden river and the smoggy air around it present a challenge to any photographer as shapes and shadows melt into the yellow and grey. Here they provide a palette of otherworldly views, anchored by careful placement of the human elements we can identify with.

By Jean Paul Tchang, Nadav Kander (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Yangtze river flows 4,100 miles across China, traveling from its furthest westerly point in the Qinghai province to Shanghai in the east. The river is embedded in the consciousness of the Chinese, and plays a significant role in both the spiritual and physical life of the people. Using the river as a metaphor for constant change, Nadav Kander (born 1961) has photographed the landscape and people along its banks from mouth to source. "After several trips to different parts of the river, it became clear that what I was responding to and how I felt whilst being in China…


Book cover of Bruno Barbey: China 1973 - 2013: From Mao to Modernity

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

From my list on colour photography books on China.

Who am I?

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?

One of the storied Magnum agency’s less known yet supremely talented photographers, Barbey was a virtuoso of colour before many publications were geared up to print it. The Frenchman who died in 2019 had a long history of visiting China and his body of work is not as well known as that of Cartier-Bresson or Riboud but that may change as modern printing technology finally does justice to it. This book is probably the best available in English but a huge tome both larger and better produced has come out in China to a great reception.

By Jonathan Fenby,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Magnum photographer Bruno Barbey first discovered China when he accompanied President Pompidou of France on an official visit there in 1973. It was a country in transition, although still under the influence of the Cultural Revolution. Most of the population still wore Mao suits and walls were covered in colourful slogans. Some years later, Barbey returned and saw the effects of Deng Xiaoping's invitation to the people to 'Get Rich'. Nanjing, Suzhou, Macao, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai ... Barbey returned to China many times and noted on each visit, with his photos as evidence, the profound changes that were transforming…


Book cover of China

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

From my list on colour photography books on China.

Who am I?

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?

Tapping into the long tradition of panoramic landscapes in Chinese art Kubota produced a mammoth tome of exquisite wide vistas. Back in the 1980s, these large-format images were a revelation to me and many around the world who had not experienced the spectacular scenery of China. Printed and produced to a very high standard this book came out to a rapturous reception in his native Japan and around the world at a time before mass tourism and industrialisation would change much of the country. The unspoilt views of snowscapes in the Northeast to the karst hills of Guilin’s Li River opened a window to the beauty of this vast country that had been off-limits to the rest of the world for more than half a century.

By Hiroji Kubota,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A renowned photographer's unprecedented journey to all twenty-two provinces is recorded in this collection of 185 full-color images of the land, the people, and the spirit of China, portraying the country on the eve of a great change


Book cover of China

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

From my list on colour photography books on China.

Who am I?

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?

Another master of the grand view, the Canadian artist brought his view cameras and production team to definitively capture the vastness of China’s growing industrial might. The studies of production lines and factory life offer a glimpse into the 21st century’s workshop of the world. The technical and stylistic perfection Burtnysky deploys match the scale of his subjects whilst never losing the human element in the scenes. We are all richer from the experience of understanding the context of where so much of what we use on a daily basis comes from.

By Edward Burtynsky, Ted Fishman, Mark Kingwell , Marc Mayer

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Edward Burtynsky's imagery explores the intricate link between industry and nature, combining the raw elements of mining, quarrying, shipping, oil production and recycling into eloquent, highly expressive visions that find beauty and humanity in the most unlikely places. These images are metaphors for the dilemma of our modern existence: we are drawn by desire--the desire to live well and in comfort--yet we all know that the world is suffering to meet those demands. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into uneasy contradiction and feeds…


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.

Who am I?

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 Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom Author Of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink

From my list on twentieth-century Shanghai.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by history since I spent a year in Britain as a ten-year-old. I became hooked on novels set in ancient Greece and Rome and found it incredibly exotic to walk through old buildings and imagine the lives of the people who had walked through those same doors. In college, I began studying history in earnest and grew intrigued by China, especially Chinese cities during periods of upheaval and transformation. My first passion was Shanghai history, and I spent time there in the mid-1980s before the soaring Pudong skyscrapers that are now among its most iconic structures were built. I have since shifted my attention to Hong Kong, a city I had enjoyed visiting for decades but had not written about until after I completed my last book on Shanghai. My fascination with cities that are in China but enmeshed in global processes and are sites of protest has been a constant.

Jeffrey's book list on twentieth-century Shanghai

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom Why did Jeffrey love this book?

Shanghai, which was once called the “Hollywood of Asia,” has always been a cinematic city par excellence, so a good way to describe the charms of this book is via movie terms. In one sense, it zooms in tightly on a specific day in the history of the city and what was happening in a single setting. It mixes close-ups of a horse race and some people who came to watch it, though, with wide-angle shots and flashbacks. The author, a skilled historian with deep knowledge of Chinese history and a stylish writer, moves effortlessly between Shanghai in the early 1940s as the Japanese military’s World War II era grip on the city and much of China was tightening and earlier points in its past. He also moves fluidly between the racecourse—a potent symbol, as during the height of the British imperial period, Britons would often build these to mark…

By James Carter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

12 November 1941: war and revolution are in the air. At the Shanghai Race Club, the elite prepare their best horses and most nimble jockeys for the annual Champions Day races. Across the city and amid tight security, others celebrated the birth of Sun Yat-Sen in a new centre which challenged European imperialism. Thousands more Shanghai residents attended the funeral of China's wealthiest woman. But the biggest crowd gathered at the track; no one knew it, but Champions Day heralded the end of European Shanghai. Through this snapshot of the day's events, the rich and complex history that led to…


Book cover of Shanghai Baby

Tom Carter Author Of China: Portrait of a People

From my list on naughty Chinese girls.

Who am I?

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 A Last Look: Western Architecture in Old Shanghai

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

From my list on China’s greatest city Shanghai.

Who am I?

“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?

Hard to imagine now, but when Tess Johnston arrived in Shanghai as an American diplomat in 1981, no one was researching or writing much about Old Shanghai. Fascinated by the city’s old Western buildings, she collaborated with Shanghainese photographer Deke Erh to piece together the stories behind the once-grand architecture. Photographed in the 1980s and ’90s, A Last Look provides a provocative visual history of Old Shanghai, accompanied by succinct text penned in Johnston’s personable style. This oeuvre is not only an appealing entrée into a lost era but has become a precious remembrance, as many of its subject buildings and neighborhoods have since been demolished. Although the book is out of print, it’s worth ordering a used copy.

By Tess Johnston,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Johnston, Tess


Book cover of A Village with My Name: A Family History of China's Opening to the World

Dori Jones Yang Author Of When the Red Gates Opened: A Memoir of China's Reawakening

From my list on China today.

Who am I?

A Seattle-based author, I have written eight books, including When the Red Gates Opened: A Memoir of China’s Reawakening, about the eight years I spent as Business Week’s reporter covering China, 1982-1990. In it, I give readers an inside look at China’s transformation from Maoism to modernity. A fluent speaker of Mandarin, I have traveled widely in China for over forty years and befriended Chinese people at many levels of society, leading me to a strong belief in the importance of direct cross-cultural communication and deepened mutual understanding.

Dori's book list on China today

Dori Jones Yang Why did Dori love this book?

Also formerly a public radio reporter based in Shanghai, Scott Tong takes us inside his own extended family, scattered across China. Personal stories of the relatives he found reveal not just their troubled histories but also the unvarnished stories of their varying ability to adapt to the opportunities of a modernizing China.

By Scott Tong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Village with My Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When journalist Scott Tong moved to Shanghai, his assignment was to start the first full-time China bureau for "Marketplace," the daily business and economics program on public radio stations across the United States. But for Tong the move became much more--it offered the opportunity to reconnect with members of his extended family who had remained in China after his parents fled the communists six decades prior. By uncovering the stories of his family's history, Tong discovered a new way to understand the defining moments of modern China and its long, interrupted quest to go global.

A Village with My Name…


Book cover of Miss Jill: A Novel

Isham Cook Author Of The Mustachioed Woman of Shanghai

From my list on written by foreigners in China.

Who am I?

Having lived in China for almost three decades, I am naturally interested in the expat writing scene. I am a voracious reader of fiction and nonfiction on China, past and present. One constant in this country is change, and that requires keeping up with the latest publications by writers who have lived here and know it well. As an author of three novels, one short story collection, and three essay collections on China myself, I believe I have something of my own to contribute of documentary value, although I tend to hew to gritty, offbeat themes to capture a contemporary China unknown to the West.

Isham's book list on written by foreigners in China

Isham Cook Why did Isham love this book?

Emily Hahn, prolific author and New Yorker correspondent whose sojourns in Shanghai (1935-39), Chungking (1939-40), and Hong Kong (1941-43) coincided with the Japanese invasions of these cities, fictionalizes the life of Canadian Lorraine Murray, turned high-class prostitute in Shanghai after living as a foreign geisha in Japan. Hahn was fascinated by sex workers and hung out with them (Hahn and Murray were roommates), but the novel later morphs into the autobiographical as the beautiful Hahn ingratiates herself with Japanese military officials until she’s forced into a Hong Kong internment camp for several years. Hahn is more reporter than novelist, but her flair for detail and eyewitness authenticity brings Shanghai to life in a way the historical novelist cannot. Especially hilarious is Jill’s hotel scene with the British john who thought he was getting a freebie.

By Emily Hahn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A novel about an enterprising Shanghai streetwalker from the “American literary treasure” and author of the memoir China to Me (The New Yorker).

 
Meet Miss Jill, a young woman pursuing the oldest profession in prewar Shanghai. Fifteen, blonde, and full of personality, Jill begins her career as a Japanese banker’s mistress. Soon after, she becomes a European prostitute in the house of Annette, and believes that any day now she’ll be married to a nobleman. But none of her adventures prepare Miss Jill for the war and her subsequent internment.
 
An early feminist and an American journalist who traveled to…


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