100 books like Telling the Truth

By Yang Songlin, Baohui Xie (translator),

Here are 100 books that Telling the Truth fans have personally recommended if you like Telling the Truth. 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 Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic

Mobo C.F. Gao Author Of Constructing China: Clashing Views of the People's Republic

From my list on understanding modern China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I currently teach Chinese studies at the Department of Asian Studies of the University of Adelaide. My publications include several books, and over a hundred book chapters/articles. My book Mandarin Chinese: An Introduction is a standard reference for learners of modern Chinese in English-speaking countries. Two of my books Gao Village: A Portrait of Modern Life in Rural China and Gao Village Revisited: Life of the Rural People in Contemporary China are case studies of Gao Village where I came from. Other books include the Battle of China's Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution and Remembering Socialist China 1949 – 1976 which are reassessments of the Mao era and the Cultural Revolution. 

Mobo's book list on understanding modern China

Mobo C.F. Gao Why did Mobo love this book?

Generally speaking, there is a tendency both in China and the West to view the rise of China as the result of post-Mao reform. Mao is either perceived as a monster at worst or hopeless in economies at best. Deng Xiaoping takes the largest credit for China’s spectacular economic takeoff. Meisner is one of the first who presents a balanced view of China’s contemporary development, presenting convincing evidence to show that China’s industrialization and modernization started in the era of Mao.

By Maurice Meisner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When MAO'S CHINA first appeared in 1977, it was hailed as the single most useful general volume on recent Chinese history, covering every important question of the time with clarity and amazing insight. Now, Meisner brings the third edition of his definitive work, with new information provided throughout the classic study. Including a whole new section in Part Six, 'Deng Xiaoping and the Origins of Chinese Capitalism: 1976-1998', Meisner assesses the country's uneasy relationship with democracy, socialism and capitalism. Retaining the elegance, lucidity and comprehensiveness he is known for, Meisner moves far beyond his previous work to paint a never-before-seen…


Book cover of Red China's Green Revolution: Technological Innovation, Institutional Change, and Economic Development Under the Commune

Mobo C.F. Gao Author Of Constructing China: Clashing Views of the People's Republic

From my list on understanding modern China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I currently teach Chinese studies at the Department of Asian Studies of the University of Adelaide. My publications include several books, and over a hundred book chapters/articles. My book Mandarin Chinese: An Introduction is a standard reference for learners of modern Chinese in English-speaking countries. Two of my books Gao Village: A Portrait of Modern Life in Rural China and Gao Village Revisited: Life of the Rural People in Contemporary China are case studies of Gao Village where I came from. Other books include the Battle of China's Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution and Remembering Socialist China 1949 – 1976 which are reassessments of the Mao era and the Cultural Revolution. 

Mobo's book list on understanding modern China

Mobo C.F. Gao Why did Mobo love this book?

This book, like Mao and After, credits the era of Mao with far more achievements than they are given by the political and intellectual elite in post-Mao China. This book particularly focuses on the collective system or what was called the Commune and exploits the technical innovation and economic developments under the Commune. This is in total contrast to the accepted wisdom that there was economic stagnation in the era of Mao

By Joshua Eisenman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

China's dismantling of the Mao-era rural commune system and return to individual household farming under Deng Xiaoping has been seen as a successful turn away from a misguided social experiment and a rejection of the disastrous policies that produced widespread famine. In this revisionist study, Joshua Eisenman marshals previously inaccessible data to overturn this narrative, showing that the commune modernized agriculture, increased productivity, and spurred an agricultural green revolution that laid the foundation for China's future rapid growth.

Red China's Green Revolution tells the story of the commune's origins, evolution, and downfall, demonstrating its role in China's economic ascendance. After…


Book cover of Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts from Mao to Xi

Mobo C.F. Gao Author Of Constructing China: Clashing Views of the People's Republic

From my list on understanding modern China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I currently teach Chinese studies at the Department of Asian Studies of the University of Adelaide. My publications include several books, and over a hundred book chapters/articles. My book Mandarin Chinese: An Introduction is a standard reference for learners of modern Chinese in English-speaking countries. Two of my books Gao Village: A Portrait of Modern Life in Rural China and Gao Village Revisited: Life of the Rural People in Contemporary China are case studies of Gao Village where I came from. Other books include the Battle of China's Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution and Remembering Socialist China 1949 – 1976 which are reassessments of the Mao era and the Cultural Revolution. 

Mobo's book list on understanding modern China

Mobo C.F. Gao Why did Mobo love this book?

The fact that the edited book collects more than 50 world’s renowned scholars in the field is itself unique and worth reading. The other feature of the collection is that each scholar focuses on one topic, or one theme, such as class struggle, global Maoism, or poetry. In other words, each and any reader can find his or her topic of interest. “The masterful ensemble of essays challenges us to learn from China’s socialist past – its visions, accomplishment, and mistakes – as we contemplate our possible futures” as commented by one reviewer

By Christian Sorace (editor), Ivan Franceschini (editor), Nicholas Loubere (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Afterlives of Chinese Communism comprises essays from over fifty world-renowned scholars in the China field, from various disciplines and continents. It provides an indispensable guide for understanding how the Mao era continues to shape Chinese politics today. Each chapter discusses a concept or practice from the Mao period, what it attempted to do, and what has become of it since. The authors respond to the legacy of Maoism from numerous perspectives to consider what lessons Chinese communism can offer today, and whether there is a future for the egalitarian politics that it once promised. Co-published by ANU Press: https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/afterlives-chinese-communism


Book cover of Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962

Zhang-Yue Zhou Author Of Achieving Food Security in China: The Challenges Ahead

From my list on understanding China’s great famine.

Why am I passionate about this?

My desire for food-related studies originates from my personal experience of starvation. Born in 1957 in rural China, I soon stepped into China’s Great Famine (1958-1962). During this famine, over 30 million people died of hunger, mostly peasants, including my grandpa (my mother’s father). As a growing child, I was hungry and today I still remember how my family struggled to feed us. After becoming a student at an agricultural university, I had the opportunity to think and started to ponder over food-related issues. After graduation, I became an academic and have since focused my energy on studies concerning food, chiefly, China’s food supply and food security. 

Zhang-Yue's book list on understanding China’s great famine

Zhang-Yue Zhou Why did Zhang-Yue love this book?

I treat Yang’s book as a bible for understanding China’s Great Famine (1958-1962). This famine remains little known to many people, including China’s younger generations. The Communist regime censors writings about this famine and controls the access to famine-related data and information.

As a senior journalist, Yang had privileged access to archives. He spent about twenty years piecing together the famine. His account of the famine is comprehensive with detail. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand China’s Great Famine. It greatly helped my studies in improving China’s food security and in avoiding future famines.

By Yang Jisheng, Guo Jian (translator), Stacy Mosher (translator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tombstone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Yang Jisheng's Tombstone is the book that broke the silence on of one of history's most terrible crimes

More people died in Mao's Great Famine than in the entire First World War, yet this story has remained largely untold, until now. Still banned in China, Tombstone draws on the author's privileged access to official and unofficial sources to uncover the full human cost of the tragedy, and create an unprecedented work of historical reckoning.

'A book of great importance' Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans

'The first proper history of China's great famine ... So thorough is his documentation that…


Book cover of The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution

Laura Hostetler Author Of Qing Colonial Enterprise: Ethnography and Cartography in Early Modern China

From my list on geo-politics and rise of the nation state in China.

Why am I passionate about this?

As Professor of History and Global Asian Studies and Director of the Engaged Humanities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I'm interested in intersections at the margins between cultural systems. I first became drawn to Chinese history after visiting the country in 1982 and returned to teach English there before undertaking graduate studies. My work on eighteenth-century China focuses on ethnography and cartography as tools of empire building during its period of growth and expansion. My current project, Bridging Worlds: Reflections on a Journey, chronicles a quest for personal integration when obtaining an education has too often become predicated on the ability to cut oneself off from aspects of one’s own inner knowing and lived experience.

Laura's book list on geo-politics and rise of the nation state in China

Laura Hostetler Why did Laura love this book?

Recreating the experience of a variety of Chinese literary figures whose lives collectively spanned most of the 20th century, Jonathan Spence helps his reader to understand how and why individuals from across the political spectrum were drawn to the goal of recreating a strong and unified China, and were willing to sacrifice themselves—and fight against each other—in its pursuit. A cultural rather than a political history, we nonetheless begin to understand the power that politics has to shape lives and constrain the possibilities open to individuals, especially during times of significant upheaval. 

By Jonathan D. Spence,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A milestone in Western studies of China." (John K. Fairbank)

In this masterful, highly original approach to modern Chinese history, Jonathan D. Spence shows us the Chinese revolution through the eyes of its most articulate participants-the writers, historians, philosophers, and insurrectionists who shaped and were shaped by the turbulent events of the twentieth century. By skillfully combining literary materials with more conventional sources of political and social history, Spence provides an unparalleled look at China and her people and offers valuable insight into the continuing conflict between the implacable power of the state and the strivings of China's artists, writers,…


Book cover of The Dynamics of Chinese Politics

Christine Loh Author Of No Third Person: Rewriting the Hong Kong Story

From my list on the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am East-and-West. Born in British Hong Kong, studied in England, and worked for a US multinational in Beijing, I had a range of experiences that traversed Chinese and western cultures. Sucked into politics in Hong Kong prior to and post-1997, I had a ringside seat to colonial Hong Kong becoming a part of China. I too went from being a British citizen to a Chinese national. Along the way, I got interested in the environment and was appointed a minister in Hong Kong in 2012. I have always read a lot about the world and how things work or don’t work. I hope you like what I have enjoyed!

Christine's book list on the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong

Christine Loh Why did Christine love this book?

Lucian Pye’s parents were American missionaries in China, and the author was born in northwest China. He was a sought-after China expert in his lifetime. He had a deep understanding of China and its politics, which meant he understood the CCP, and the book includes references to Hong Kong in the days when Hong Kong was a British colony but something was rumbling.

By Lucian Pye,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Pye, Lucian W.


Book cover of A History of Hong Kong

Stephen Vines Author Of Defying the Dragon: Hong Kong and the World's Largest Dictatorship

From my list on Hong Kong and China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to Hong Kong as a journalist in 1987, expecting to stay a few years and then move on to the next story. But the former British colony quickly got its teeth into me, not least because I was there during the tumultuous years of transition to Chinese rule. I am always in the market to understand more about this wonderful place, which I left reluctantly in 2021 in fear that the fast-bellowing crackdown on freedom of speech was coming my way. Departure has, if anything, given me a greater appetite for reading more about Hong Kong and China. I hope these books will explain why this is so.

Stephen's book list on Hong Kong and China

Stephen Vines Why did Stephen love this book?

This is arguably the best history of Hong Kong I have read. It is strongest in covering the colonial period, and I constantly find myself going back to it for reference.

The author carefully charts how a colony that the British never wanted in the first place evolved into a great financial and commercial center and played a pivotal role in the development of China as a whole.

By Frank Welsh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1842 a "barren island" was reluctantly ceded by China to an unenthusiastic Britain. "Hong Kong", grumbled Palmerston, "will never be a mart of trade". But from the outset the new colony prospered, its early growth owing much to the energy and resourcefulness of opium traders, who soon diversified in more respectable directions. In 1859 the Kowloon Peninsula was sold to Britain, and in 1898 a further area of the mainland, the "New Territories", was leased to Britain for 99 years - the arrangement from which the present difficulties spring. Despite its extraordinary economic success, which has made it one…


Book cover of Accidental State: Chiang Kai-Shek, the United States, and the Making of Taiwan

John Grant Ross Author Of Formosan Odyssey: Taiwan, Past and Present

From my list on Taiwan’s history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Kiwi who has spent most of the past three decades in Asia. My books include Formosan Odyssey, You Don't Know China, and Taiwan in 100 Books. I live in a small town in southern Taiwan with my Taiwanese wife. When not writing, reading, or lusting over maps, I can be found on the abandoned family farm slashing jungle undergrowth (and having a sly drink).

John's book list on Taiwan’s history

John Grant Ross Why did John love this book?

How did Taiwan become the country it is today, how did it become the Republic of China? Hsiao-ting Lin, a leading Taiwanese historian and an archivist at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, convincingly argues that the Nationalist state in Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek came about in large part from happenstance. The book draws on both English- and Chinese-language archival materials, including newly released official files and personal papers to explain what happened to Taiwan in the crucial years following World War II; it also examines what didn’t happen but might have, such as the island being placed under temporary American trusteeship. Accidental State is unbiased and nuanced history, and packed with fun but intelligent counterfactual nuggets.

By Hsiao-ting Lin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The existence of two Chinese states-one controlling mainland China, the other controlling the island of Taiwan-is often understood as a seemingly inevitable outcome of the Chinese civil war. Defeated by Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to Taiwan to establish a rival state, thereby creating the "Two Chinas" dilemma that vexes international diplomacy to this day. Accidental State challenges this conventional narrative to offer a new perspective on the founding of modern Taiwan.

Hsiao-ting Lin marshals extensive research in recently declassified archives to show that the creation of a Taiwanese state in the early 1950s owed more to serendipity than…


Book cover of The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State

Warren I. Cohen Author Of East Asia at the Center: Four Thousand Years of Engagement with the World

From my list on understanding the coming war with China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent all of my adult life writing about American foreign policy, especially Chinese-American relations.  My America’s Response to China, the standard text on the subject, has gone through 6 editions. I served as a line officer in the Pacific Fleet, lived in Taipei and Beijing. I also served as chairman of the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation and have been a consultant on Chinese affairs to various government organizations. And I cook the best mapo toufu outside of Sichuan. (where I negotiated the Michigan-Sichuan sister-state relationship in 1982). It was probably my love of Chinese food that accounts for most of the above.

Warren's book list on understanding the coming war with China

Warren I. Cohen Why did Warren love this book?

I’ve known Liz since she was a graduate student and have been delighted to see her rise to become one of the leading authorities on the inside workings of the Chinese state. 

After years as the Council on Foreign Relations’ China expert, she left for the Hoover Institute for a quieter atmosphere for her research and writing, but she was drafted to serve as China adviser to Gina Raimondo, Biden’s secretary of commerce. There’s no better book on Xi’s China today.

By Elizabeth C. Economy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Third Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Third Revolution, eminent China scholar Elizabeth C. Economy provides an incisive look at the transformative changes underway in China today. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has unleashed a powerful set of political and economic reforms: the centralization of power under Xi, himself, the expansion of the Communist Party's role in Chinese political, social, and economic life, and the construction of a virtual wall of regulations to control more closely the
exchange of ideas and capital between China and the outside world. Beyond its borders, Beijing has recast itself as a great power, seeking to reclaim its past glory and…


Book cover of Making Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Steve Tsang Author Of A Modern History of Hong Kong: 1841-1997

From my list on Hong Kong’s history and politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in colonial Hong Kong, and my teenage rebellion was anti-colonialism. So I went on a journey to rediscover ‘mother China’ by reading and visiting the Mainland. What I saw and learned first-hand contradicted what I had read of China, primarily Communist Party propaganda. The realization that colonial Hong Kong treated its people so much better than in socialist China made me think, and started my interest in researching the history of Hong Kong. A Modern History of Hong Kong: 1841-1997 is the result, and based on years of research into the evolution of Hong Kong’s people, its British colonial rulers, as well as China’s policies towards Hong Kong.

Steve's book list on Hong Kong’s history and politics

Steve Tsang Why did Steve love this book?

Before Hong Kong people embraced the Sino-British agreement to cede Hong Kong’s sovereignty from Britain to China, China promised the people of Hong Kong they would enjoy a high degree of autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework so that their way of life and its socio-economic and political system would remain unchanged for 50 years, This ended in 2020, before the halfway point of the promised 50 years, when China imposed a National Security Law on Hong Kong that criminalized actions or speeches that people in Hong Kong were free to pursue hitherto. Davis provides a meticulous account of how China reneged its promises and rolled back human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong.

By Michael C. Davis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How can one of the world’s most free-wheeling cities transition from a vibrant global center of culture and finance into a subject of authoritarian control? As Beijing's anxious interference has grown, the “one country, two systems” model China promised Hong Kong has slowly drained away in the years since the 1997 handover. As “one country” seemed set to gobble up “two systems," the people of Hong Kong riveted the world’s attention in 2019 by defiantly demanding the autonomy, rule of law and basic freedoms they were promised. In 2020, the new National Security Law imposed by Beijing aimed to snuff…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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