100 books like Shanghai Style

By Lynn Pan,

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

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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 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 Shanghai Homes: Palimpsests of Private Life

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?

At this point in a list, it isn’t bad to note connections between works, so I’ll begin with those. This is the only book other than Champions Day that is by an academic, but Li, like Carter, is one who knows how to write for general audiences in a compelling and accessible way. Hers is another book, like Zia’s, that is partly an effort to reconstruct the history of the author’s own family, as key figures in this author’s reconstruction of the changing (and enduring) rhythms of life in a Shanghai neighborhood in the 1950s and beyond are relatives she interviewed. There is also a tie to Lynn Pan’s work, in the sense that Li has moved between different parts of the world in her life. All this said, Shanghai Homes is a unique work that reminds me of the best ethnographically minded studies of connections between people and patterns…

By Jie Li,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the dazzling global metropolis of Shanghai, what has it meant to call this city home? In this account-part microhistory, part memoir-Jie Li salvages intimate recollections by successive generations of inhabitants of two vibrant, culturally mixed Shanghai alleyways from the Republican, Maoist, and post-Mao eras. Exploring three dimensions of private life-territories, artifacts, and gossip-Li re-creates the sounds, smells, look, and feel of home over a tumultuous century. First built by British and Japanese companies in 1915 and 1927, the two homes at the center of this narrative were located in an industrial part of the former "International Settlement." Before their…


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 A Life in Chinese Art Essays in Honour of Michael Sullivan

Sylvia Vetta Author Of Brushstrokes in Time

From my list on the heart and soul of China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied modern Chinese history so, when Qu Leilei told me the story of the Stars Art Movement, I couldn’t understand why I hadn't heard their courageous story. I spent three years interviewing Qu Leilei, researching and visiting China with him before writing the Stars story as a historical novel. I am a freelance writer, author, and speaker.

Sylvia's book list on the heart and soul of China

Sylvia Vetta Why did Sylvia love this book?

Michael Sullivan was a leading expert on twentieth-century Chinese art and he and his partner Choan donated his world-class collection to the Ashmolean - the world’s first public museum. The cover portrait is by Qu Leilei. This tribute book includes ten essays by friends, colleagues, art experts, and artists including Qu Leilei and Weimin He. Linking visual arts, calligraphy, and poetry is very Chinese. Strangely, Michael Sullivan’s first visit to China was in 1939 driving an ambulance for the Red Cross.

By Shelagh Vainker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Life in Chinese Art Essays in Honour of Michael Sullivan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

. paperback copy, bright clean copy no markings, Professional booksellers since 1981


Book cover of Britain's Chinese Eye: Literature, Empire, and Aesthetics in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Erika Rappaport Author Of A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World

From my list on understanding tea and other Chinese things.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Los Angeles, the mecca of global consumer culture. I became a historian to escape from what I saw as this shallow, surface culture but through my work, I have returned to the mall. My work uses history to show how consumer desires are not natural. Instead, I ask why people consume particular things in particular places, and I show how they attribute meaning to the things they buy. I am not a specialist on China but while researching and writing on tea's global political economy and consumer culture I became fascinated by how China contributed to the making of global tastes, desires, and material culture. These books illuminate the history and cultural life of tea, opium, porcelain, and other things within and beyond China.

Erika's book list on understanding tea and other Chinese things

Erika Rappaport Why did Erika love this book?

Much of the Western world but especially eighteenth and nineteenth-century Britain obsessively purchased, collected, displayed, and thought about Chinese things. A brilliant literary critic, Elizabeth Chang traces this obsession through a wide variety of British texts from Sir William Chambers, Dissertation on Oriental Gardening (1772) to Isabella Bird's, Chinese Pictures (1904). Chang takes us on an intimate journey into a pleasurable yet imperialistic and often racist material culture that still shapes the way the West looks at and consumes Chinese products.

By Elizabeth Hope Chang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book traces the intimate connections between Britain and China throughout the nineteenth century and argues for China's central impact on the British visual imagination. Chang brings together an unusual group of primary sources to investigate how nineteenth-century Britons looked at and represented Chinese people, places, and things, and how, in the process, ethnographic, geographic, and aesthetic representations of China shaped British writers' and artists' vision of their own lives and experiences. For many Britons, China was much more than a geographical location; it was also a way of seeing and being seen that could be either embraced as creative…


Book cover of The Arts of China

Yang Ye Author Of Vignettes from the Late Ming: A Hsiao-p'in Anthology

From my list on understanding China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Riverside. I was brought up in the family of a Chinese poetry scholar. Arriving in the States for my graduate studies at Harvard in 1982, I have engaged myself in academia here ever since. Acutely aware of, and deeply fascinated by, the cultural similarities and differences of China and the West, I have continued my learning experience, in my thirty years of college teaching, often from direct exchanges with my students. The books on my list of recommendations include both required texts chosen for my courses, and those I want to share with what Virginia Woolf called the Common Reader.

Yang's book list on understanding China

Yang Ye Why did Yang love this book?

From a leading Western scholar on the topic, it is a comprehensive, well-researched, and highly readable account of Chinese fine arts from the Neolithic to the contemporary. It serves the need of college courses on Asian or Chinese art history as well as the interest of a common reader who wants to explore or better appreciate the aesthetics of Chinese art relics, including bronze, pottery, sculpture, etc., as well as the honorable splendor of calligraphy and painting.

By Michael Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Internationally renowned and a crucial classroom text, The Arts of China has been revised and expanded by the late Michael Sullivan, with Shelagh Vainker. This new, sixth, edition has an emphasis on Chinese art history, not as an assemblage of related topics, but as a continuous story. With updated attributions and dating throughout and a revised bibliography, it reflects the latest archaeological discoveries, as well as giving increased attention to modern and contemporary art and to calligraphy throughout China's history, with additional discussions of work by women artists. Visual enhancements include all new maps, and approximately one hundred new color…


Book cover of Inscribed Landscapes: Travel Writing from Imperial China

Yang Ye Author Of Vignettes from the Late Ming: A Hsiao-p'in Anthology

From my list on understanding China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Riverside. I was brought up in the family of a Chinese poetry scholar. Arriving in the States for my graduate studies at Harvard in 1982, I have engaged myself in academia here ever since. Acutely aware of, and deeply fascinated by, the cultural similarities and differences of China and the West, I have continued my learning experience, in my thirty years of college teaching, often from direct exchanges with my students. The books on my list of recommendations include both required texts chosen for my courses, and those I want to share with what Virginia Woolf called the Common Reader.

Yang's book list on understanding China

Yang Ye Why did Yang love this book?

This is a singular anthology of pre-modern Chinese travel writing from the first century A.D. to the 19th century, copiously illustrated with paintings, portraits, maps, and drawings. It offers a unique resource for Western travelers to China and for students of Chinese art, culture, history, and literature.

By Richard E. Strassberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alongside the scores of travel books about China written by foreign visitors, Chinese travelers' impressions of their own country rarely appear in translation. This anthology is the only comprehensive collection in English of Chinese travel writing from the first century A.D. through the nineteenth. Early examples of the genre describe sites important for their geography, history, and role in cultural mythology, but by the T'ang dynasty in the mid-eighth century certain historiographical and poetic discourses converged to form the 'travel account' (yu-chi) and later the 'travel diary' (jih-chi) as vehicles of personal expression and autobiography. These first-person narratives provide rich…


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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…


Book cover of Love in a Fallen City

Janet Beard Author Of The Atomic City Girls

From my list on women’s experiences of World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, I was aware that the city had historical significance but also that it wasn’t particularly famous, at least to people from outside the region. I’ve always been drawn to these sorts of overlooked stories from history, which are, not coincidentally, often women’s stories. Women made up the majority of workers in Oak Ridge during World War II, and for decades afterward, their stories were generally viewed as less important than male-dominated narratives of the war. But I’ve always believed that women’s stories are no less interesting than men’s. These books look at history’s worst conflict from unique perspectives that foreground the female experience. 

Janet's book list on women’s experiences of World War II

Janet Beard Why did Janet love this book?

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. 

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!

Interested in China, art, and design?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about China, art, and design.

China Explore 591 books about China
Art Explore 869 books about art
Design Explore 50 books about design