100 books like Shanghai Homes

By Jie Li,

Here are 100 books that Shanghai Homes fans have personally recommended if you like Shanghai Homes. 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 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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 Style: Art and Design Between the Wars

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

From my list on twentieth-century Shanghai.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

Lynn Pan, who was born in Shanghai before 1949 and then returned to live there early in the twenty-first century after spending time in many other parts of the world, is in many ways my single favorite Shanghainese writer. So, when I put together a list like this, the question is not whether a work by her will be on it, but rather which one of several excellent ones by her will make the cut. This volume is a beautifully produced one that complements Champions Day nicely, focusing on similar themes but coming at them via a focus on architecture and creativity. It is a book for those fascinated by Shanghai, for obvious reasons, but like a lot of books on the city’s past, it is also intriguing to read by those who have been fascinated by Hong Kong’s cultural and creative vibrancy and have been following the news about…

By Lynn Pan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the 1920s to the 1940s, no place was more modern than Shanghai: a veritable playground amid a sea of Asian and European influences; an urban population clamoring for all that was new and Western, but whose aesthetic sensibilities remained profoundly Chinese. In this rich social and cultural history of Shanghai’s art and culture, Lynn Pan guides the reader through the myriad world inhabited by commercial and underground artists and designers, performers, architects, decorators, patrons, as well as politicians, generals, and crime bosses. What emerges is a singular portrait of a city and its art—its life blood, in an era…


Book cover of Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution

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?

Decadent Old Shanghai was never going to survive a Communist takeover. It wasn’t easy to leave—in her family, my mother was told she was the lucky one, and so was the mother of author Helen Zia. An accomplished journalist, Zia masterfully captures what it was like for four young people—including her mother—to make the wrenching decision to leave their homes for places unknown, the chaos and distress of boarding that fabled “last boat” out of Shanghai, and what came after. The core of the story unfolds through the authentic accounts of the main characters Benny, Annuo, Bing, and Ho. Additionally, Zia uses detailed research and extensive interviews with hundreds of émigrés from all strata of Shanghai society, bringing to life this last of a generation to embark on a largely forgotten mass exodus.

By Helen Zia,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Last Boat Out of Shanghai as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The dramatic real life stories of four young people caught up in the mass exodus of Shanghai in the wake of China’s 1949 Communist revolution—a heartrending precursor to the struggles faced by emigrants today. 

“A true page-turner . . . [Helen] Zia has proven once again that history is something that happens to real people.”—New York Times bestselling author Lisa See

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR • FINALIST FOR THE PEN/JACQUELINE BOGRAD WELD AWARD FOR BIOGRAPHY

Shanghai has historically been China’s jewel, its richest, most modern and westernized city.…


Book cover of Years of Red Dust: Stories of Shanghai

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

From my list on twentieth-century Shanghai.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

There is a lot of wonderful fiction set in Shanghai, so I wanted to make sure to include one such work. Figuring out which wasn’t easy, as there are good short stories and novels by a range of important authors, from deceased writers like Mao Dun, Eileen Chang, and J.G. Ballard, whose partly autobiographical Empire of the Sun was based on his Shanghai childhood, to living ones like Wang Anyi. I chose this collection of vignettes by Qiu Xiaolong (who is best known for his Inspector Chen Shanghai-set police procedurals and grew up in Shanghai and now lives in the United States) because it pairs so well with Shanghai Homes. You can read it as a fictional cousin to Jie Li’s book, as this work by Qiu, in which his famous detective does not appear, is made up of tales set in a single alleyway neighborhood. Reading them together,…

By Qiu Xiaolong,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Published originally in the pages of Le Monde, this collection of linked short stories by Qiu Xiaolong has already been a major bestseller in France (Cite de la Poussiere Rouge) and Germany (Das Tor zur Roten Gasse), where it and the author was the subject of a major television documentary. The stories in Years of Red Dust trace the changes in modern China over fifty years―from the early days of the Communist revolution in 1949 to the modernization movement of the late nineties―all from the perspective of one small street in Shanghai, Red Dust Lane. From the early optimism at…


Book cover of Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories

Charlie Jane Anders Author Of Even Greater Mistakes

From my list on short stories that could change your life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which Time Magazine listed as one of the hundred best fantasy novels of all time. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night, Victories Greater than Death, and Never Say You Can't Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories. She organizes the long-running spoken word series Writers With Drinks, helps to organize tours of local bookstores, and also co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, Conjunctions, Wired Magazine, Slate, and the Boston Review.

Charlie's book list on short stories that could change your life

Charlie Jane Anders Why did Charlie love this book?

This story collection is mind-blowing in the best way. As its name suggests, a lot of the stories in this book deal with immigrants, including Chinese people who've immigrated to the United States, but also rural people who've migrated to cities. Chai's characters are struggling to balance traditional Confucian values with postmodern urban existence, and a lot of these stories feature tensions between different generations in a single-family. The best story is probably the award-winning "Fish Boy," in which a boy moves from the Chinese countryside to the big city and ends up working at a seafood restaurant whose offerings sound pretty unappetizing. Chai is brilliant at picking up on the subtle nuances of damaged families, and every one of these stories hits home.

By May-Lee Chai,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Useful Phrases for Immigrants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the title story of this timely and innovative collection, a young woman wearing a Prada coat attempts to redeem a coupon for plastic storage bins while her in-laws are at home watching the Chinese news and taking her private phone calls. It is the lively and wise juxtaposition of cultures, generations, and emotions that characterize May-lee Chai's amazing stories. Within them, readers will find a complex blend of cultures spanning China, the Chinese diaspora in America, and finally, the world at large.

With luminous prose and sharp-eyed observations, Chai reveals her characters' hopes and fears, and our own: a…


Book cover of Home Is Not Here

Brantly Womack Author Of China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry

From my list on China perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

Where you sit determines what you see. China is complex, and so it pays to move around and view it from as many perspectives as possible. My view of China is formed by visits to all of its 31 provinces and to most of its neighbors.  A professor of foreign affairs at the University of Virginia, I have taught and written about Chinese politics for the past forty years, and I have worked with Chinese universities and scholars. This list suggests some excellent books presenting different vantage points on China’s past and present.

Brantly's book list on China perspectives

Brantly Womack Why did Brantly love this book?

Home is Not Here is a touching autobiographical account of a past Chinese world completely different in time and place from that of Hessler’s explorations. In the first half of the twentieth century millions of Chinese left China and migrated to Southeast Asia, including Wang’s parents. Wang traces their struggles to maintain their Chinese identity as minorities in different cultures. In telling his family’s story he gives a vivid picture of the upheavals and tribulations of both China and Southeast Asia in a troubled era. Wang Gungwu is my favorite historian of China, and author of many books on the grand sweep of Chinese history, but here we see China’s and Asia’s most turbulent era from a personal perspective.

By Wang Gungwu,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Home Is Not Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Asia's most important public intellectuals, Wang Gungwu is best-known for his explorations of Chinese history in the long view, and for his writings on the Chinese overseas. Here the historian of grand themes turns to the intimate scale of a single life history: his own.

"As someone who has studied history for much of my life, I have found the past fascinating. But it has always been some grand and even intimidating universe that I wanted to unpick and explain to myself.... While we talk grandly of the importance of history, we can be insensitive to what people…


Book cover of The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World

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

From my list on China today.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

I’m not fond of the title, but I like this book because it exposes us readers to a little-known population: China’s poor migrant workers. During many visits over ten years, Bloomberg BusinessWeek Beijing correspondent Tiff Roberts befriended a rural family in impoverished Guizhou Province and their relatives who had found industrial jobs in modern Guangdong. His unusual access lets readers understand a key weakness of modern China: the discontent of those not able to prosper during these decades of modernization.

By Dexter Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The untold story of how restrictive policies are preventing China from becoming the world’s largest economy

Dexter Roberts lived in Beijing for two decades working as a reporter on economics, business and politics for Bloomberg Businessweek. In The Myth of Chinese Capitalism, Roberts explores the reality behind today’s financially-ascendant China and pulls the curtain back on how the Chinese manufacturing machine is actually powered.

He focuses on two places: the village of Binghuacun in the province of Guizhou, one of China’s poorest regions that sends the highest proportion of its youth away to become migrants; and Dongguan, China’s most infamous…


Book cover of Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang

Nick Holdstock Author Of China's Forgotten People: Xinjiang, Terror and the Chinese State

From my list on the concentration camps in Xinjiang.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was living in Xinjiang on 9/11 and got to witness the swiftness with which the state imposed strict regulations that harmed the Uyghur community. For me, this was an indelible lesson in the abuses of power and authority on people who just wanted to work, raise families, and enjoy their lives. Since then I’ve tried to raise awareness, first in my memoir, The Tree That Bleeds, then in my journalism. I hope my work helps people think about how to respond as both politically engaged citizens and consumers to one of the worst human rights violations of the 21st century.

Nick's book list on the concentration camps in Xinjiang

Nick Holdstock Why did Nick love this book?

Since 1949 the demographics of Xinjiang have been altered radically by waves of migration of Han Chinese, initially with the paramilitary bingtuan organisation, but in recent decades by economic migrants. Cliff’s book is an important reminder of how their presence functions in a neo-colonial fashion, and the influence that their needs and concerns have on official policy in the region – which to put it simplistically, is to keep them happy. Though he emphasises that Han in Xinjiang are far from a homogenous social group – something that often gets forgotten or obscured – the common viewpoints and concerns that emerge from his interviews are a sobering reminder of the difficulties in finding common ground between Han and Uyghur in the region.

By Tom Cliff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For decades, China's Xinjiang region has been the site of clashes between long-residing Uyghur and Han settlers. Up until now, much scholarly attention has been paid to state actions and the Uyghur's efforts to resist cultural and economic repression. This has left the other half of the puzzle-the motivations and ambitions of Han settlers themselves-sorely understudied.

With Oil and Water, anthropologist Tom Cliff offers the first ethnographic study of Han in Xinjiang, using in-depth vignettes, oral histories, and more than fifty original photographs to explore how and why they became the people they are now. By shifting focus to the…


Book cover of Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia, and the Cold War

Lorenz M. Lüthi Author Of Cold Wars: Asia, the Middle East, Europe

From my list on Cold War history published recently.

Why am I passionate about this?

During the later Cold War, I grew up in neutral and peaceful Switzerland. My German mother’s family lived apart in divided Germany. I knew as a child that I would become a historian because I wanted to find out what had happened to my mother’s home and why there was a Cold War in the first place. My father’s service as a Swiss Red Cross delegate in Korea after 1953 raised my interest in East Asia. After learning Russian and Chinese, I wrote my first book on The Sino-Soviet Split. When I was finishing the book, I resolved to reinvent myself as a global historian, which is why I wrote my second book as a reinterpretation of the global Cold War as a series of parallel regional Cold Wars in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Lorenz's book list on Cold War history published recently

Lorenz M. Lüthi Why did Lorenz love this book?

Migration in the Time of Revolution pushes the international history of the 20th century into a new and exciting direction. Using the Chinese diaspora in Indonesia as a lens, Taomo Zhou elevates citizens to agents in international relations. On the basis of Chinese archival research and oral history, she explores how Indonesians of Chinese descent lastingly influenced the diplomatic relations between their home country and divided China during the Cold War.

By Taomo Zhou,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Migration in the Time of Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Migration in the Time of Revolution examines how two of the world's most populous countries interacted between 1945 and 1967, when the concept of citizenship was contested, political loyalty was in question, identity was fluid, and the boundaries of political mobilization were blurred. Taomo Zhou asks probing questions of this important period in the histories of the People's Republic of China and Indonesia. What was it like to be a youth in search of an ancestral homeland that one had never set foot in, or an economic refugee whose expertise in private business became undesirable in one's new home in…


Book cover of Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate & Circumstance

Alison R. Marshall Author Of The Way of the Bachelor: Early Chinese Settlement in Manitoba

From my list on to reimagine Chinatown.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by Chinese culture. My great uncle owned an import-export shop in 1920s Montreal and many of the things in his shop decorated my family home. An aunt who worked in Toronto’s Chinatown took me to see a Chinese opera performance and this began my journey to understand Chinese thought and culture first with an MA in Chinese poetry and then with a Ph.D. in East Asian Studies. After I learned that Sun Yatsen had visited Manitoba, where I had moved for work, my attention turned to Chinese nationalism. More than 15 years later, my research and work on KMT culture continues.

Alison's book list on to reimagine Chinatown

Alison R. Marshall Why did Alison love this book?

Denise Chong explores a similar period of Chinese Canadian history in Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate & Circumstance. Similar to my own book, Lives of the Family looks beyond Vancouver and British Columbia Chinatowns to tell the story of Chinese Canadian migrants, whose lives straddled continents, who ran successful businesses, and were involved with the KMT. 

By Denise Chong,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

International bestselling author of The Concubine's Children, Denise Chong returns to the subject of her most beloved book, the lives and times of Canada's early Chinese families.
     In 2011, Denise Chong set out to collect the history of the earliest Chinese settlers in and around Ottawa, who made their homes far from any major Chinatown. Many would open cafes, establishments that once dotted the landscape across the country and were a monument to small-town Canada. This generation of Chinese immigrants lived at the intersection of the Exclusion Act in Canada, which divided families between here and China, and 2 momentous…


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