100 books like The Chinese in America

By Iris Chang,

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

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Book cover of Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad

Michael A. DeMarco Author Of Wuxia America: The Timely Emergence of a Chinese American Hero

From my list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills.

Why am I passionate about this?

Life is pretty dull without passion. Since early childhood I was attracted to Chinese philosophy, then to all the cultural aspects that reflect it. At the same time, I felt the blood in my veins drawing me to ancestral roots. Learning about other cultures helps us learn about our own. I’ve been driven by sympathy for the immigrant experience, the suffering, and sacrifices made for a better, peaceful life. What prepared me to write Wuxia America includes my academic studies, living and working in Asia, and involvement in martial arts. My inspiration for writing stems from a wish to encourage ways to improve human relations.

Michael's book list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills

Michael A. DeMarco Why did Michael love this book?

The Chinese American presence in the USA started with the gold rush and the building of the transcontinental railroad.

It was a blessing to find Chang’s non-fiction work because he utilized a tremendous about of research to accurately cover the book’s topic. I’m also grateful that his writing style is not dull.

Building a railroad trestle through the High Sierra mountains in winter implies work conditions that affect laborers as well as investors. Chang strings the human sentiments throughout the history of those who participated in noble fashion, Chinese and non-Chinese alike.

In portraying the Chinese experience, Chang’s book as underscores how vital the transcontinental railroad was to the development of America. 

By Gordon H. Chang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Gripping . . . Chang has accomplished the seemingly impossible . . . He has written a remarkably rich, human, and compelling story of the railroad Chinese.” — Peter Cozzens, Wall Street Journal

WINNER OF THE ASIAN/PACIFIC AMERICAN AWARD FOR LITERATURE 
WINNER OF THE CHINESE AMERICAN LIBRARIANS ASSOCIATION BEST BOOK AWARD

A groundbreaking, breathtaking history of the Chinese workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad, helping to forge modern America only to disappear into the shadows of history until now

From across the sea, they came by the thousands, escaping war and poverty in southern China to seek their fortunes in…


Book cover of Manchu

Michael A. DeMarco Author Of Wuxia America: The Timely Emergence of a Chinese American Hero

From my list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills.

Why am I passionate about this?

Life is pretty dull without passion. Since early childhood I was attracted to Chinese philosophy, then to all the cultural aspects that reflect it. At the same time, I felt the blood in my veins drawing me to ancestral roots. Learning about other cultures helps us learn about our own. I’ve been driven by sympathy for the immigrant experience, the suffering, and sacrifices made for a better, peaceful life. What prepared me to write Wuxia America includes my academic studies, living and working in Asia, and involvement in martial arts. My inspiration for writing stems from a wish to encourage ways to improve human relations.

Michael's book list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills

Michael A. DeMarco Why did Michael love this book?

I loved Elegant’s book because he included a highly detailed account of the period, an account only possible by a top China scholar.

Manchu is a fictional work set within a vivid history of 17th-century China when the Manchus from northeast Asia battled native Han Chinese causing the fall of the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644). The great conflict is brought to life in a personal way, including the interactions of heroic characters, Eastern and Western. The result highlights varied perceptions of politics, warfare, and social relations. 

I appreciate Elegant’s blend of academic precision and detail with creative storytelling to make history so interesting. He encases facts in an emotional plot. Elegant is a master wordsmith who stimulates thought, valuable for understanding the Manchu period as well as individual introspection. 

By Robert S Elegant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A young, exiled British mercenary plays out his fortunes against a rich, exotic tapestry of love and warfare as China's last glorious Ming dynasty falls to the northern Manchu hordes


Book cover of Between Salt Water and Holy Water: A History of Southern Italy

Michael A. DeMarco Author Of Wuxia America: The Timely Emergence of a Chinese American Hero

From my list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills.

Why am I passionate about this?

Life is pretty dull without passion. Since early childhood I was attracted to Chinese philosophy, then to all the cultural aspects that reflect it. At the same time, I felt the blood in my veins drawing me to ancestral roots. Learning about other cultures helps us learn about our own. I’ve been driven by sympathy for the immigrant experience, the suffering, and sacrifices made for a better, peaceful life. What prepared me to write Wuxia America includes my academic studies, living and working in Asia, and involvement in martial arts. My inspiration for writing stems from a wish to encourage ways to improve human relations.

Michael's book list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills

Michael A. DeMarco Why did Michael love this book?

My grandparents were from southern Italy. Over the years, I had always wanted to learn about the area, its history, and culture. Even in the Italian language, there is a lack of any quality publications dealing with the south.

Finally, a book was published in 2005 filling this gap—Astarita’s book is praiseworthy for its in-depth coverage of south Italy. Rather than scavenging together hundreds of books and articles for information, there came this main reference work.

Written by Astarita, a professor at Georgetown University, it is a scholarly work. It doesn’t read like a novel, but the thoroughness brings out the character of the people and their contributions to Italian and world culture. I praise the author for bringing this important topic out of obscurity to world attention.

By Tommaso Astarita,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The history of southern Italy is entirely distinct from that of northern Italy, yet it has never been given its own due. In this authoritative and wholly engrossing history, distinguished scholar Tommaso Astarita "does a masterful job of correcting this error" (Mark Knoblauch, Booklist). From the Normans and Angevins, through Spanish and Bourbon rule, to the unification of Italy in 1860, Astarita rescues Sicily and the worlds south of Rome from the dustier folds of history and restores them to sparkling life. We are introduced to the colorful religious observances, the vibrant historical figures, the diverse population, the ancient ruins,…


Book cover of History of the Kingdom of Naples

Michael A. DeMarco Author Of Wuxia America: The Timely Emergence of a Chinese American Hero

From my list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills.

Why am I passionate about this?

Life is pretty dull without passion. Since early childhood I was attracted to Chinese philosophy, then to all the cultural aspects that reflect it. At the same time, I felt the blood in my veins drawing me to ancestral roots. Learning about other cultures helps us learn about our own. I’ve been driven by sympathy for the immigrant experience, the suffering, and sacrifices made for a better, peaceful life. What prepared me to write Wuxia America includes my academic studies, living and working in Asia, and involvement in martial arts. My inspiration for writing stems from a wish to encourage ways to improve human relations.

Michael's book list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills

Michael A. DeMarco Why did Michael love this book?

Benedetto Croce was an Italian historian, politician, and, above all, a philosopher.

I read his book on the History of the Kingdom of Naples to better understand south Italy. It is evident that he made great effort to gather his references and his presentation is well-organized and very scholarly. What made the book a pleasure to read, and brought great admiration for Croce, is how he writes history with a human focus.

While other historians often write by covering the grand elements such as battles, social changes and economic development, Croce looks at all these aspects as products of human character and their ethical and moral principles. Reading this book was an important turning point for me, especially as a writer.

In the end, writers are influencers of culture and in large part responsible for cultivating human character. 

By Benedetto Croce,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

RED CLOTHBOUND HARDCOVER- PUBLISHED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS-1970-THIS TRANSLATION BASED ON THE 6TH EDITION-1965-WRITTEN BY BENEDETTO CROCE


Book cover of Thank You, Mr. Nixon: Stories

May-lee Chai Author Of Tomorrow in Shanghai: Stories

From my list on Asian American short story collections.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was growing up, I longed to see myself and my family represented in ways that were not demeaning. Hollywood movies showed Asian women as passive victims or hypersexualized “dragon ladies.” Depictions of Asian men were even fewer—they were mostly the enemy soldiers in the background of movies about the American war in Vietnam. I became a writer to try to correct these grossly flattened stereotypes. I am now the author of 11 books, and recipient of an American Book Award, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Asian Pacific American Award for Literature, a Kiriyama Prize Notable Book, and Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman.

May-lee's book list on Asian American short story collections

May-lee Chai Why did May-lee love this book?

The stories in Thank You, Mr. Nixon combine history and family, characters reflecting on the ravages of time and how their lives have been buffeted by world events outside their control. There’s even a ghost of a Chinese girl writing from the afterlife to President Nixon in Hell. She thanks him for his historic decision to establish diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China, a decision that changed her family’s life forever. The story is profound, moving, and very funny all at once. Jen is a master of the short story form, and this collection is superb.

By Gish Jen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thank You, Mr. Nixon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The acclaimed, award-winning author of The Resisters takes measure of the fifty years since the opening of China and its unexpected effects on the lives of ordinary people. It is a unique book that only Jen could write—a story collection accruing the power of a novel as it proceeds—a work that Cynthia Ozick has called “an art beyond art. It is life itself.”

Beginning with a cheery letter penned by a Chinese girl in heaven to “poor Mr. Nixon” in hell, Gish Jen embarks on a fictional journey through U.S.-China relations, capturing the excitement of a world on the brink…


Book cover of From Canton Restaurant to Panda Express: A History of Chinese Food in the United States

Jonathan Clements Author Of The Emperor's Feast: A History of China in Twelve Meals

From my list on Chinese food.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jonathan Clements is a historian specialising in East Asia, and the author of A Brief History of China, The Art of War: A New Translation, and Confucius: A Biography. Several of his books have been translated and published in Chinese. He has presented three seasons of Route Awakening (National Geographic), an award-winning TV series about icons of Chinese culture. From 2013-2019, he was a visiting professor at Xi’an Jiaotong University, China.

Jonathan's book list on Chinese food

Jonathan Clements Why did Jonathan love this book?

It was hard finding just one book out of the many that have been written about Chinese food’s fortune’s abroad, but Liu ably chronicles a love-affair that is as old as the United States themselves, which begins with would-be rebels throwing chests of Fujian tea into Boston harbor. Liu points to the long history of Chinese in America, and the impact they have had as laborers, miners and cooks, particularly for low-income groups who welcomed the rarity of the warm hash dishes that came to be known as chop suey. This is a book that allows the reader the chance to appreciate the degree to which “Chinese” food in America is in a world, and a class, all of its own.

By Haiming Liu,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From Canton Restaurant to Panda Express as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Canton Restaurant to Panda Express takes readers on a compelling journey from the California Gold Rush to the present, letting readers witness both the profusion of Chinese restaurants across the United States and the evolution of many distinct American-Chinese iconic dishes from chop suey to General Tso's chicken. Along the way, historian Haiming Liu explains how the immigrants adapted their traditional food to suit local palates, and gives readers a taste of Chinese cuisine embedded in the bittersweet story of Chinese Americans.

Treating food as a social history, Liu explores why Chinese food changed and how it has influenced…


Book cover of Front Desk

Lisa Lewis Tyre Author Of Hope in the Holler

From my list on to help kids build empathy for those in need.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of two middle grade books, and I love writing about kids who may not have much materially but abound in heart and courage. I grew up in a small southern town and my childhood was just like that—low on income but full of love, hope, and friendship. I want kids to know that despite their circumstances there is hope for a better life. Like Wavie’s mom tells her in my book, Hope In The Holler, “You’ve got as much right to a good life as anybody. So go find it!”

Lisa's book list on to help kids build empathy for those in need

Lisa Lewis Tyre Why did Lisa love this book?

This is a fantastic book about the hardships many immigrants face, from being taken advantage of by their employers, to language barriers, and of course, racism. What I loved about this book is its portrayal of community. Growing up poor, I know that it’s often those with nothing who give the most. Kids will cheer for Mia as she works the front desk, helps those around her, and stands up to injustice.

By Kelly Yang,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Front Desk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Four starred reviews and over ten best-of-year lists!* "Many readers will recognize themselves or their neighbors in these pages." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Winner of the Asian / Pacific American Award for Children's Literature!* "Many readers will recognize themselves or their neighbors in these pages." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred reviewMia Tang has a lot of secrets.Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean…


Book cover of Empire of Glass

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?

The experience of being a teenage exchange student living with a Beijing family whose mother is dying of cancer and whose father makes an aborted sexual pass on her marked Solimine deeply enough to inspire this novel. The author wisely shifts the focus away from herself and adopts the role of frame narrator as she reconstructs the family’s history and events leading up to her arrival, where she inserts herself into the story. The narrative unfolds in flashbacks, impressionistic vignettes, and haunting poetic imagery to capture fleeting moments which build in intensity. It’s the kind of novel readers may not find easygoing on first acquaintance – the cracked-glass cover design nicely conveys the initial impression – but promises to improve on rereading.

By Kaitlin Solimine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Short-listed for the Center for Fiction's 2017 First Novel Prize, Empire of Glass is a grand, experimental epic chronicling the seismic changes in China over the last half century.
In the mid-1990s, an American teenager, named Lao K in Chinese, stands on Coal Hill, a park in Beijing, a loop of rope in her hand. Will she assist her Chinese homestay mother, Li-Ming, who is dying of cancer, in ending her life, or will she choose another path? Twenty years later, Lao K receives a book written by Li-Ming called "Empire of Glass," a narrative that chronicles the lives of…


Book cover of The Kitchen God's Wife

Rebecca Mascull Author Of The Wild Air

From my list on how people get swept up in the winds of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author of historical fiction and many of my books have included war. I find I just cannot stay away from it as a subject. Obviously any war is full of natural drama which makes for wonderful narratives, but it’s more than that; it’s something to do with how war tests people to their limits, a veritable crucible. I’m fascinated by the way loyalties are split and how conflict is never simple. To paraphrase my character Helena from The Seamstress of Warsaw, war is peopled by a few heroes, a few bastards, and everyone else in the middle just trying to get through it in one piece…

Rebecca's book list on how people get swept up in the winds of war

Rebecca Mascull Why did Rebecca love this book?

An absolute tour de force from the author of The Joy Luck Club. This novel is not as famous, but it’s actually my favourite Tan book. It has that epic sweep across history that I adore, whereby the movement of history catches people in its wake and hurls them hither and thither, uncaring of the consequences of its wreckage. The novel follows the experiences of a Chinese woman before and after Japan’s invasion of China in the 1930s and 40s and on to her move to America after the war. Reading this novel was truly immersive and fueled my interest in writing about war and showing how my own characters are caught up in its inexorable flow. A brutal and beautiful novel. 

By Amy Tan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Kitchen God's Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A stunning reissue of the international bestseller, from the much-loved author of The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter's Daughter.

Pearl Louie Brandt has a terrible secret which she tries desperately to keep from her mother, Winne Louie. And Winnie has long kept her own secrets - about her past and the confusing circumstances of Pearl's birth. Fate intervenes in the form of Helen Kwong, Winnie's so-called sister-in-law, who believes she is dying and must unburden herself of all falsehoods before she flies off to heaven. But, unfortunately, the truth comes in many guises, depending on who is telling the…


Book cover of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Linda Åkeson McGurk Author Of There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom's Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge)

From my list on parenting secrets from other cultures.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Swedish American journalist, blogger, and author whose writings about Scandinavian parenting culture have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and online publications across the world, including Time.com, Parents.com, and Green Child Magazine. I’m particularly interested in the role of nature in childhood and believe the best memories are created outside, while jumping in puddles, digging in dirt, catching bugs and climbing trees. In 2013, I started the blog Rain or Shine Mamma to inspire other parents and caregivers to get outside with their children every day, regardless of the weather. I’m currently working on my second book, about the Nordic outdoor tradition friluftsliv, which will be published by Tarcher Perigee in 2022.

Linda's book list on parenting secrets from other cultures

Linda Åkeson McGurk Why did Linda love this book?

Chua set off an international firestorm with her memoir, a frank account of the trials and tribulations of raising her two daughters the Chinese way in the U.S. Her strict, achievement-oriented parenting tactics often run counter to mainstream Western ideals about raising children and have drawn harsh criticism from many readers. Whether you agree with her methods or not, it’s impossible not to be touched by Chua’s book. 

By Amy Chua,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A SUNDAY TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER: the most talked-about book of the year 'Blissfully funny' India Knight, Sunday Times 'Entertaining, bracingly honest and, yes, thought-provoking' New York Times 'A treat from first to last: ruefully funny, endlessly self-deprecating, riven with ironies .. I relished this memoir' I Updated with a new postscript by Amy Chua and a letter from her eldest daughter, Sophia Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. It was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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