10 books like River Town

By Peter Hessler,

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

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West with the Night

By Beryl Markham,

Book cover of West with the Night: A Memoir

Beryl Markham was a bush pilot in Africa during the early years of aviation. She is a marvelous writer and an adventurous soul. Ernest Hemingway wrote of her: “Did you read Beryl Markham’s book? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could put pen to paper except to write in her flyer’s log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I am completely ashamed of myself as a writer.... She can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers.”

Hemingway is right. This is the best written travel book I’ve read. I grew up in what is now called South Sudan, not far from Kenya where Markham grew up. Her writing brings back the land and people, the weather and hardships, the beauty of that land and its lonely skies.

West with the Night

By Beryl Markham,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked West with the Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WEST WITH THE NIGHT appeared on 13 bestseller lists on first publication in 1942. It tells the spellbinding story of Beryl Markham -- aviator, racehorse trainer, fascinating beauty -and her life in the Kenya of the 1920s and 30s.

Markham was taken to Kenya at the age of four. As an adult she was befriended by Denys Finch-Hatton, the big-game hunter of OUT OF AFRICA fame, who took her flying in his airplane. Thrilled by the experience, Markham went on to become the first woman in Kenya to receive a commercial pilot's license.

In 1936 she determined to fly solo…


On the Plain of Snakes

By Paul Theroux,

Book cover of On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey

Another deeply insightful book from Paul Theroux, On the Plain of Snakes explores the cultural richness and sometimes dangerous aspects of Mexico. With a forward style and charisma, he comes face to face with narcos, police, corruption, migrants, and the sometimes frightening indigenous culture. His writings are not just all darkness and gloom. He goes to great lengths to describe the importance of family in a country with virtually no social network. He talks with the educated, the poverty-stricken, and even meets the leader of the Zapatistas.  After reading On the Plain of Snakes' you will develop a new appreciation for our Mexican neighbors, particularly concerning migration and the border control issues that have dominated the US for too many years. This is a long arduous trip which Theroux makes thoroughly enjoyable. 

On the Plain of Snakes

By Paul Theroux,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Plain of Snakes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE EDWARD STANFORD AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO TRAVEL WRITING 2020

The master of contemporary travel writing, Paul Theroux, immerses himself in the beautiful and troubled heart of modern Mexico

Nogales is a border town caught between Mexico and the United States of America. A forty-foot steel fence runs through its centre, separating the prosperous US side from the impoverished Mexican side. It is a fascinating site of tension, now more than ever, as the town fills with hopeful border crossers and the deportees who have been caught and brought back. And it is here that Paul Theroux…


In the Kingdom of Ice

By Hampton Sides,

Book cover of In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

This is another history that drew me in with a tightly focused story — an 1879 expedition to reach the North Pole — then overwhelmed me with a slowly dawning realization: The expedition was sheer insanity based on assumptions that are whacky beyond belief but were state-of-the-art thinking less than a century and a half ago. George Washington De Long and his crew aboard the Jeanette left San Francisco expecting to spend a single winter trapped in the polar ice before popping into a temperate Arctic Sea and steaming their way straight to the apex of Planet Earth. Instead, the crew endured more than two years of almost unimaginable hardship. That any of them survived to tell the tale testifies to the indomitability of the human spirit.

In the Kingdom of Ice

By Hampton Sides,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In the Kingdom of Ice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The age of exploration was drawing to a close, yet the mystery of the North Pole remained. Contemporaries described the pole as the 'unattainable object of our dreams', and the urge to fill in this last great blank space on the map grew irresistible.In 1879 the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds and amid a frenzy of publicity. The ship and its crew, captained by the heroic George De Long, were destined for the uncharted waters of the Arctic.

But it wasn't long before the Jeannette was trapped in crushing pack ice. Amid the rush of…


The Road

By Jack London,

Book cover of The Road

Jack London lived and died before Kerouac was born, so it’s more accurate to say that On the Road channels the spirit of London’s book, published some 50 years before Kerouac’s masterpiece. The Road is a compelling memoir about tramping across the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. London anticipates Kerouac’s bohemian spirit as he rides the rails with vagabonds, hoboes, and tramps (as London explains, there’s a difference among them). To my mind, The Road is an underappreciated American classic, poetically evoking that quintessential American characteristic, restlessness—the deep-seated desire to “follow the breeze.” Fifty years later, Kerouac stuck out his thumb and followed in London’s footsteps.

The Road

By Jack London,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"I went on 'The Road' because I couldn't keep away from it; because I hadn't the price of the railroad fare in my jeans; because I was so made that I couldn't work all my life on 'one same shift'; because — well, just because it was easier to than not to."
Jack London's "road" is the railroad, and these reminiscences paint a vivid portrait of life in the United States during the major economic depression of the 1890s. His compelling adventures include a month-long detention in a state penitentiary for vagrancy, as well as his travels with Kelly's Army,…


Factory Girls

By Leslie T. Chang,

Book cover of Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

A portrait of some of the millions of workers who toil in factories in southern China, most of whom are young women. They leave behind their families and work long hours for little money in boring, repetitive assembly line jobs, making mobile phones, toys, purses and other items for the rest of the world. The realities and challenges for the young women behind the goods we buy daily make this a compelling read.

Factory Girls

By Leslie T. Chang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An eye-opening and previously untold story, Factory Girls is the first look into the everyday lives of the migrant factory population in China.

China has 130 million migrant workers—the largest migration in human history. In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women, whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta.

As she tracks their lives, Chang paints a…


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…


Dear Exile

By Hilary Liftin, Kate Montgomery,

Book cover of Dear Exile: The True Story Of Two Friends Separated (For A Year) By An Ocean

This story is told in a series of letters exchanged between two former college roommates, one who marries and joins the Peace Corps in Kenya with her husband, the other striking out on her own in New York City. Each writer has a magic in her writing style that is all her own, which would make either of their tales a standalone success, but the “secret sauce” of this book lies in the juxtaposition of their two very different lives. Each writer’s tales of triumph and woe—lifestyles that could not be more polar opposite—play off one another in the most hilarious and tender way. With acerbic wit and disarming candor, this offbeat correspondence is bound to delight even the most jaded Sex-in-the-City-ish Manhattanite’s heart.

Dear Exile

By Hilary Liftin, Kate Montgomery,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A funny and moving story told through the letters of two women nurturing a friendship as they are separated by distance, experience, and time.

Close friends and former college roommates, Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery promised to write when Kate's Peace Corps assignment took her to Africa.  Over the course of a single year, they exchanged an offbeat and moving series of letters from rural Kenya to New York City and back again.

Kate, an idealistic teacher, meets unexpected realities ranging from poisonous snakes and vengeful cows to more serious hazards: a lack of money for education; a student body…


Monique and the Mango Rains

By Kris Holloway,

Book cover of Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali

This is the best Peace Corps Volunteer memoir I’ve read. It’s unusual in that it’s focused on the story of Monique Dembele, a traditional birth attendant in a small village in Mali, rather than on the PCV, Kris Holloway. We get to know Monique through Kris’s eyes—and Kris so obviously loves her friend and delights in the rural Malian community where she’s stationed. The cultural exchange and friendship that Kris experienced and describes are what Peace Corps is supposed to be about. This was a satisfying matchup of two young women from radically different worlds who saw beyond their differences into their common humanity. Holloway is a gifted writer, providing a chance to look into the world of rural West African women in the late 1980s. Mali slipped into ongoing civil unrest in the years after Kris left; it's heart wrenching to realize what that meant to the very communities…

Monique and the Mango Rains

By Kris Holloway,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Monique and the Mango Rains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Monique Dembele saves lives and dispenses hope in a place where childbirth is a life-and-death matter. Her unquenchable passion to improve the lot of the women and children in her West African village is matched by her buoyant humour in the face of unhappy marriage and backbreaking work. This is the deeply compelling story of the rare friendship between a young development volunteer and this midwife who defies tradition and becomes - too early in her own life - a legend.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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