100 books like The Golden Ghetto

By Jacques Downs,

Here are 100 books that The Golden Ghetto fans have personally recommended if you like The Golden Ghetto. 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 Sea of Poppies

Kendall A. Johnson Author Of The New Middle Kingdom: China and the Early American Romance of Free Trade

From my list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scholar of literature, literary history, and American Studies based at the University of Hong Kong where I landed thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship in 2008. Prior to this I was very happily in Philadelphia, researching authors and artists who alluded to lucrative trade in the Far East when rendering scenes of the Far West premised on the promotion or the protest of continental Manifest Destiny. Archival materials at the Library Company and Swarthmore College inspired me to visit the places about which I was writing. Travelling to places that feature in my scholarly projects keeps me busy studying languages and humbly amazed by the enduring cultural varieties of our shared humanity.

Kendall's book list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations

Kendall A. Johnson Why did Kendall love this book?

Sea of Poppies is the first of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy—an epic of global opium trade that features Zachary Reid, a mixed-race American whose story unfolds as it connects Baltimore to Bengal to Canton across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  

Filled with heartbreak and humor the trilogy invokes Herman Melville’s Moby Dick as Ghosh revives the primary sources of the Old China Trade and brings them into refreshing literary life. 

Ghosh’s novel complements another (very different) gem of historically based literary fiction featuring American involvement in opium smuggling and the ensuing First Opium War: Timothy Mo’s Insular Possession

By Amitav Ghosh,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Sea of Poppies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the heart of this epic saga, set just before the Opium Wars, is an old slaving-ship, The Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean, its crew a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts. In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a truly diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt Raja to a widowed villager, from an evangelical English opium trader to a mulatto American freedman. As their old family ties are washed away they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais or ship-brothers. An…


Book cover of Pacific Crossing: California Gold, Chinese Migration, and the Making of Hong Kong

Kendall A. Johnson Author Of The New Middle Kingdom: China and the Early American Romance of Free Trade

From my list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scholar of literature, literary history, and American Studies based at the University of Hong Kong where I landed thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship in 2008. Prior to this I was very happily in Philadelphia, researching authors and artists who alluded to lucrative trade in the Far East when rendering scenes of the Far West premised on the promotion or the protest of continental Manifest Destiny. Archival materials at the Library Company and Swarthmore College inspired me to visit the places about which I was writing. Travelling to places that feature in my scholarly projects keeps me busy studying languages and humbly amazed by the enduring cultural varieties of our shared humanity.

Kendall's book list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations

Kendall A. Johnson Why did Kendall love this book?

The Opium Wars never reduced Chinese people to pathetic victimization. 

Sinn spotlights the agency of brokerage and the circulatory migration of Chinese laborers and merchants, from different regions within China, as they underwent passage to-and-fro the Pacific Ocean with the United States. 

This is also the story of Hong Kong’s rise as an influential hub of exchange with merchants brokering flows of capital and economic power beyond state control. 

In tracing circuits of travel and brokerage, Sinn animates various cultural senses of being Chinese, Hong Kong, and American, embracing legacies of familial adaptability and endurance. 

She conveys the diversity within Chinese-American communities while framing the Chinese diaspora in transnationally nuanced senses of home and family that defy simple categorization based on the strict legality of citizenship.

By Elizabeth Sinn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During the nineteenth century tens of thousands of Chinese men and women crossed the Pacific to work, trade, and settle in California. Drawn initially by the gold rush, they took with them skills and goods and a view of the world which, though still Chinese, was transformed by their long journeys back and forth. They in turn transformed Hong Kong, their main point of embarkation, from a struggling infant colony into a prosperous international port and the cultural center of a far-ranging Chinese diaspora. Making use of extensive research in archives around the world, Pacific Crossing charts the rise of…


Book cover of Everything in Style: Harriett Low's Macau

Kendall A. Johnson Author Of The New Middle Kingdom: China and the Early American Romance of Free Trade

From my list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scholar of literature, literary history, and American Studies based at the University of Hong Kong where I landed thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship in 2008. Prior to this I was very happily in Philadelphia, researching authors and artists who alluded to lucrative trade in the Far East when rendering scenes of the Far West premised on the promotion or the protest of continental Manifest Destiny. Archival materials at the Library Company and Swarthmore College inspired me to visit the places about which I was writing. Travelling to places that feature in my scholarly projects keeps me busy studying languages and humbly amazed by the enduring cultural varieties of our shared humanity.

Kendall's book list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations

Kendall A. Johnson Why did Kendall love this book?

Lamas’s work offers a deep dive into the life of the young American woman Harriett Low who lived in Macau from 1829 to 1833. 

Harriett accompanied her aunt and her uncle, who supervised trade of Russell & Company up the Pearl River in Canton. Although the Qing-era regulations forbade foreign (Western) women from traveling beyond Macau, Harriett broke this law. 

In Macao, she wrote about her daily life, of falling in love, and having the British painter George Chinnery render her portrait. Most importantly for readers today, she wrote about her life (and reading) in diary letters that she sent to her sister back in the US. 

Lamas engaging account draws on Arthur W. Hummel and Nan P. Hodges’s masterful publication of Low’s diaries. As Lamas notes, Harriett’s life after her residence in Macao was underwhelming. However, the Low family fortune echoed across the century. 

Harriett’s nephew Seth Low served…

By Rosemarie Lamas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Macau in the 1820s and 1830s was the centre of life for foreigners trading with China through the only permitted gateway of Canton. To this European enclave on the China coast in 1829 came Harriett Low, a young American accompanying her aunt and uncle, a trader from Salem, Massachusetts. Throughout her five-year stay, she wrote a diary that both shows her lively personality and gives us a rich picture of life in Macau. Rosmarie Lamas focuses on that picture of Macau, embedding extracts from the diary into her text to create an interesting account of that place and its society.…


Book cover of Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love and International Intrigue in a Doomed World

Kendall A. Johnson Author Of The New Middle Kingdom: China and the Early American Romance of Free Trade

From my list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scholar of literature, literary history, and American Studies based at the University of Hong Kong where I landed thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship in 2008. Prior to this I was very happily in Philadelphia, researching authors and artists who alluded to lucrative trade in the Far East when rendering scenes of the Far West premised on the promotion or the protest of continental Manifest Destiny. Archival materials at the Library Company and Swarthmore College inspired me to visit the places about which I was writing. Travelling to places that feature in my scholarly projects keeps me busy studying languages and humbly amazed by the enduring cultural varieties of our shared humanity.

Kendall's book list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations

Kendall A. Johnson Why did Kendall love this book?

The cultural and financial legacy of the two Opium Wars and the general opium economy lingered well into the twentieth century, through the First and Second World Wars.

In the mid-1930s, the American journalist Emily Hahn lived in Shanghai where she opened an astonishing window on the immense change over a century, culminating in the downfall of the Qing Empire and the struggle of early national China to counter Japanese imperialism. 

As a prolific New Yorker journalist, novelist, and autobiographer Hahn renders accounts of cross-cultural intimacy and literary ambition that unfold against the expanding war zones of the Second World War. 

Grescoe’s compelling biography pulls the reader into a seductive circle of opium smoking and literary salon conversation, coordinated by the Shanghainese writer and publisher Zau Sinmay (Shao Sunmei; 邵洵美). 

Grecoe then charts the harrowing and melancholy demise of its members.

By Taras Grescoe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On the eve of WWII, the foreign controlled port of Shanghai was the rendezvous for the twentieth century's most outlandish adventurers, all under the watchful eye of the illustrious Sir Victor Sassoon. Emily Hahn was a legendary New Yorker writer who would cover China for nearly fifty years, playing an integral part in opening Asia up to the West. But at the height of the Depression, Emily "Mickey" Hahn, who had just arrived in Shanghai nursing a broken heart after a disappointing affair with an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter, was convinced she would never love again. When she enters Sassoon's glamorous…


Book cover of The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of Modern China

Bill Hayton Author Of The Invention of China

From my list on the emergence of modern China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent more than a decade exploring the historic roots of Asia’s modern political problems – and discovering the accidents and mistakes that got us where we are today. I spent 22 years with BBC News, including a year in Vietnam and another in Myanmar. I’ve written four books on East and Southeast Asia and I’m an Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at the London-based thinktank, Chatham House. I love breaking down old stereotypes and showing readers that the past is much more interesting than a series of clichés about ‘us’ and ‘them’. Perhaps through that, we can recognise that our future depends on collaboration and cooperation.

Bill's book list on the emergence of modern China

Bill Hayton Why did Bill love this book?

A brilliant account of the two Opium Wars showing how they have been remembered in particular ways in order to make modern political points. Lovell shows us how political operators on both sides used the question of the opium trade to further their own interests. It exposes the nasty business of imperialism but also takes down a lot of myths about the wars. The book allows us to see the conflicts both in terms of what happened at the time, and how views over those events changed over the following century and a half. She explores the international history of opium and how it became linked with racist representations of Chinese overseas and how this continues to affect relations between peoples and governments today.

By Julia Lovell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A gripping read as well as an important one.' Rana Mitter, Guardian

In October 1839, Britain entered the first Opium War with China. Its brutality notwithstanding, the conflict was also threaded with tragicomedy: with Victorian hypocrisy, bureaucratic fumblings, military missteps, political opportunism and collaboration. Yet over the past hundred and seventy years, this strange tale of misunderstanding, incompetence and compromise has become the founding episode of modern Chinese nationalism.

Starting from this first conflict, The Opium War explores how China's national myths mould its interactions with the outside world, how public memory is spun to serve the present, and how…


Book cover of China's Last Empire: The Great Qing

Henrietta Harrison Author Of The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire

From my list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of modern China in the department of Chinese at the University of Oxford. I started off working on the twentieth century but have been drawn back into the Qing dynasty. It’s such an interesting and important period and one that British students often don’t know much about! 

Henrietta's book list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian

Henrietta Harrison Why did Henrietta love this book?

I think this is the best up-to-date history of the Qing dynasty. I use it for teaching because it’s completely reliable, covers everything you might need to know, and lays it all out clearly.

It also has a really good balance between the history of major events like the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion and the social history and context. And I like the fact that it explains the big debates that scholars are having in clear and simple terms.

By William T. Rowe, Timothy Brook (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a brisk revisionist history, William Rowe challenges the standard narrative of Qing China as a decadent, inward-looking state that failed to keep pace with the modern West. The Great Qing was the second major Chinese empire ruled by foreigners. Three strong Manchu emperors worked diligently to secure an alliance with the conquered Ming gentry, though many of their social edicts - especially the requirement that ethnic Han men wear queues - were fiercely resisted. As advocates of a 'universal' empire, Qing rulers also achieved an enormous expansion of the Chinese realm over the course of three centuries, including the…


Book cover of The Talented Women of the Zhang Family

Henrietta Harrison Author Of The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire

From my list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of modern China in the department of Chinese at the University of Oxford. I started off working on the twentieth century but have been drawn back into the Qing dynasty. It’s such an interesting and important period and one that British students often don’t know much about! 

Henrietta's book list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian

Henrietta Harrison Why did Henrietta love this book?

I loved this book because the story of the Zhang family brings the history of the Qing dynasty alive as real women experienced it. Qing dynasty people can seem very different from us, and it’s often hard to get a sense of their characters, but Mann does this by taking us right into their homes and making this a story of the three women who were also writers, poets, and teachers.

We hear about their studies, their loves, and their families’ grief when they died, and just when we’ve really got to know them, we find that they were also living through and writing about some of the great events of the nineteenth century like the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion. It’s also beautifully researched by a great scholar.

By Susan Mann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The history of China in the nineteenth century usually features men as the dominant figures in a chronicle of warfare, rebellion, and dynastic decline. This book challenges that model and provides a different account of the era, history as seen through the eyes of women. Basing her remarkable study on the poetry and memoirs of three generations of literary women of the Zhang family - Tang Yaoqing, her eldest daughter, and her eldest granddaughter - Susan Mann illuminates a China that has been largely invisible. Drawing on a stunning array of primary materials - published poetry, gazetteer articles, memorabilia -…


Book cover of A Floating Life: The Adventures of Li Po: A Historical Novel

Yun Rou Author Of The Monk of Park Avenue: A Modern Daoist Odyssey

From my list on better understanding and appreciating China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born to privilege in Manhattan. A seeker from the get-go, I perpetually yearned to see below the surface of the pond and understand what lay beneath and how the world really works. Not connecting with Western philosophy, religion, or culture, I turned to the wisdom of the East at a young age. I stayed the course through decades of training in Chinese martial arts, eventually reached some understanding of them, and realized my spiritual ambitions when I was ordained a Daoist monk in China in an official government ceremony. I write about China then and now and teach meditation and tai chi around the world. 

Yun's book list on better understanding and appreciating China

Yun Rou Why did Yun love this book?

This novelized biography of a poet some consider China’s greatest pleases me over and over again. Rendering Li Po (sometimes Li Bai) as a libertine living on a barge, drinking too much and partaking with gusto in the pleasures of the flesh at the red-candle district near which he moors, really helps bring alive the great man’s life and work. There’s also a bit about his relationship with Du Fu, more of a straight arrow. Those two, along with Wang Wei really offer a picture of the Daoist life I so adore and the feeling of watching the world spin out of control in war but also the peace and solitude of a mountain retreat.

By Simon Elegant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The studious young son of a vintner takes down the life and exploits of Li Po, China's legendary poet, as the poet recalls his outlandish adventures


Book cover of Magic and Mystery in Tibet

David Thorpe Author Of Hybrids

From my list on books that changed my life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love books that boggle my mind. Take me away from mundane reality. That’s the kind of book I like to write.

David's book list on books that changed my life

David Thorpe Why did David love this book?

Looking around me as a young man I found a grey world that had been stripped of all its glory and fabulousness by the exploitation and utilitarianism of human beings. 

Alexandra David-Neel was an amazing explorer. She was the first European woman to meet the Dalai Lama and in 1924 became the first to enter the forbidden Tibetan capital, Lhasa. She had already spent a decade travelling through China, living in a cave on the Tibetan border, where she learned about Buddhism from hermits, mystics, and bandits. 

She describes in this book how these people learnt such seemingly impossible skills such as telepathy, defying gravity, running for days without food or drink or sleep, and surviving with hardly any clothes in the subzero Himalayan blizzards. 

This magical world vanished when the Chinese invaded in 1947. 

To think that this miraculous way of life existed in the same century as me…

By Madame Alexandra David-Neel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Magic and Mystery in Tibet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For centuries Tibet has been known as the last home of mystery, the hidden, sealed land, where ancient mysteries still survive that have perished in the rest of the Orient. Many men have written about Tibet and its secret lore, but few have actually penetrated it to learn its ancient wisdom. Among those few was Madame Alexandra David-Neel, a French orientalist. A practicing Buddhist, a profound historian of religion, and linguist, she actually lived in Tibet for more than 14 years. She had the great honor of being received by the Dalai Lama; she studied philosophical Buddhism and Tibetan Tantra…


Book cover of The Deer and The Cauldron: The First Book

Yun Rou Author Of The Monk of Park Avenue: A Modern Daoist Odyssey

From my list on better understanding and appreciating China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born to privilege in Manhattan. A seeker from the get-go, I perpetually yearned to see below the surface of the pond and understand what lay beneath and how the world really works. Not connecting with Western philosophy, religion, or culture, I turned to the wisdom of the East at a young age. I stayed the course through decades of training in Chinese martial arts, eventually reached some understanding of them, and realized my spiritual ambitions when I was ordained a Daoist monk in China in an official government ceremony. I write about China then and now and teach meditation and tai chi around the world. 

Yun's book list on better understanding and appreciating China

Yun Rou Why did Yun love this book?

There is an argument to be made that Jin Yong (aka Louis Cha) is modern China’s version of William Shakespeare. From Cha’s unimaginably rich and bottomless imagination come unforgettable stories and characters that have had a huge impact on not only contemporary China but the rest of the world. Writing in the category of wuxia (martial arts fiction) he sold 100 million copies of his books, making him China’s most famous author. Countless films and TV shows have been based on his stories, that typically portray the under classes struggling against overlords. One of my favorite memories of travels in China was sitting at the tea house inside Hong Kong’s Peninsula hotel and spending the day reading this book and munching on dim sum. If I’d stepped out and been hit by a bus, I would have died a happy monk.

By Louis Cha, John Minford (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the first of a three-volume picaresque historical romance by China's best-loved author. It tells the story of Trinket, an irreverent and comic anti-hero, and his adventures through China and Chinese history, spanning more than twenty years at the beginning of the Qing dynasty.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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