10 books like Phantom Shanghai

By Greg Girard,

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

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Nadav Kander

By Jean Paul Tchang, Nadav Kander (photographer),

Book cover of Nadav Kander: Yangtze, The Long River

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.

Nadav Kander

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…


Bruno Barbey

By Jonathan Fenby,

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

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.

Bruno Barbey

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…


China

By Hiroji Kubota,

Book cover of China

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.

China

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


China

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

Book cover of China

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.

China

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…


The Great Walk of China

By Graham Earnshaw,

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

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.

The Great Walk of China

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.


Night in Shanghai

By Nicole Mones,

Book cover of Night in Shanghai

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.

Night in 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…


A Village with My Name

By Scott Tong,

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

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. Published in March 2019.

A Village with My Name

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…


Champions Day

By James Carter,

Book cover of Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai

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…

Champions Day

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…


A Last Look

By Tess Johnston,

Book cover of A Last Look: Western Architecture in Old Shanghai

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.

A Last Look

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


Love in a Fallen City

By Eileen Chang, Karen S. Kingsbury (translator),

Book cover of Love in a Fallen City

Though these collected stories were popular in Chang’s native China when first published in the 1940s, decades passed before they were translated into English. The title story brings war-torn Hong Kong to life, but even against the most dramatic political backdrop, Chang’s focus is firmly on women and relationships. Though the time and place may seem remote, readers will find universal emotions in these carefully constructed tales. 

Love in a Fallen City

By Eileen Chang, Karen S. Kingsbury (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Love in a Fallen City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Masterful short works about passion, family, and human relationships by one of the greatest writers of 20th century China. 

A New York Review Books Original

 

“[A] giant of modern Chinese literature” –The New York Times

 

"With language as sharp as a knife edge, Eileen Chang cut open a huge divide in Chinese culture, between the classical patriarchy and our troubled modernity. She was one of the very few able truly to connect that divide, just as her heroines often disappeared inside it. She is the fallen angel of Chinese literature, and now, with these excellent new translations, English readers can…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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