100 books like The Last Embassy

By Tonio Andrade,

Here are 100 books that The Last Embassy fans have personally recommended if you like The Last Embassy. 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 The Genius of China: 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery, and Invention

Bret Hinsch Author Of The Rise of Tea Culture in China: The Invention of the Individual

From my list on Chinese history that will surprise you.

Who am I?

I’ve dedicated my life to the study of Chinese history. I received a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard and have spent my career teaching Chinese history at universities in Taiwan. I am the author of eleven books and many academic articles and book reviews about Chinese history. As an American who has spent decades lecturing about Chinese history in Mandarin to Taiwanese students, I have an uncommon perspective on the subject.  

Bret's book list on Chinese history that will surprise you

Bret Hinsch Why did Bret love this book?

This book is full of “wow” moments. The author describes the history of numerous inventions to show the ingenuity of Chinese civilization. Some of these inventions are well known, like paper and the compass. But most of them come as a surprise. Until about two hundred years ago, China was far ahead of the rest of the world in most types of technology. In some respects, such as agricultural tools and steel smelting, China was two thousand years ahead of Europe. When you read this book, you will realize that for most of history, Europe was like a marginal third-world society and China was the center of things.  

By Robert Temple,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Revised, full-color illustrated edition of the multi-award-winning, international bestseller that charts the unparalleled and astounding achievement of ancient China

• Brings to life one hundred Chinese “firsts” in the fields of agriculture, astronomy, engineering, mathematics, medicine, music, technology, and warfare

• Based on the definitive work of the world’s most famous Sinologist, Joseph Needham (1900-1995), author of Science and Civilisation in China

• Organized by field, invention, and discovery for ease of reference

Undisputed masters of invention and discovery for 3,000 years, the ancient Chinese were the first to discover the solar wind and the circulation of the blood and…


Book cover of Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K'ang-Hsi

Bret Hinsch Author Of The Rise of Tea Culture in China: The Invention of the Individual

From my list on Chinese history that will surprise you.

Who am I?

I’ve dedicated my life to the study of Chinese history. I received a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard and have spent my career teaching Chinese history at universities in Taiwan. I am the author of eleven books and many academic articles and book reviews about Chinese history. As an American who has spent decades lecturing about Chinese history in Mandarin to Taiwanese students, I have an uncommon perspective on the subject.  

Bret's book list on Chinese history that will surprise you

Bret Hinsch Why did Bret love this book?

The eighteenth-century Kangxi Emperor was one of the most successful rulers in Chinese history, and he had a fascinating life. But Jonathan Spence was not content to write a standard academic biography. Instead, he writes from a first-person perspective. The reader does not look at Kangxi’s life from the outside but sees the world from the emperor’s point of view. Spence was a talented stylist, so the book is not only a profound study of Chinese history but also an innovative piece of literature. 

By Jonathan D. Spence,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A remarkable re-creation of the life of K'ang-hsi, emperor of the Manchu dynasty from 1661-1772, assembled from documents that survived his reign. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.


Book cover of Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962

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

From my list on understanding China’s great famine.

Who am I?

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?

Few Western intellectuals are aware of the scale of the atrocities during China’s Great Famine. If they had been and had written more on the famine, there could have been a greater impact on popular consciousness.

Yet, Dikötter cared to painstakingly search through local archives, and with his fine book, depicted the well-hidden human miseries to a much broader global audience. This is another book by a person who is foreign to China that greatly inspired me to look into improving China’s food security.

In this prize-winning book, Dikötter confirms that the famine was the worst man-made human catastrophe, not a natural calamity. Book prize judges regarded it as stunningly original and hugely important.

By Frank Dikötter,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Mao's Great Famine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking history of China's Great Famine: winner of the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize 2011 'A gripping and masterful portrait of the brutal court of Mao, based on new research but also written with great narrative verve' Simon Sebag Montefiore 'Harrowing and brilliant' Ben Macintyre 'A critical contribution to Chinese history' Wall Street Journal Between 1958 and 1962, 45 million Chinese people were worked, starved or beaten to death. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up with and overtake the West in less than fifteen years. It led to…


Book cover of Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan

Bret Hinsch Author Of The Rise of Tea Culture in China: The Invention of the Individual

From my list on Chinese history that will surprise you.

Who am I?

I’ve dedicated my life to the study of Chinese history. I received a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard and have spent my career teaching Chinese history at universities in Taiwan. I am the author of eleven books and many academic articles and book reviews about Chinese history. As an American who has spent decades lecturing about Chinese history in Mandarin to Taiwanese students, I have an uncommon perspective on the subject.  

Bret's book list on Chinese history that will surprise you

Bret Hinsch Why did Bret love this book?

Even though this is a work of anthropology, it also provides unique insights into rural history. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Margery Wolf did fieldwork in a poor village in rural Taiwan. At that time, modernization was just beginning to affect the countryside, so most aspects of village life were still traditional. Although Taiwanese society differed from the mainland in certain ways, in most aspects of life there carried on the traditions of Chinese village life. This book looks at rural society from a female perspective. Due to poverty, both women and men had few options. They did whatever it took to survive. Many of the people the author interviewed seem very discontent with their lives, but they usually had no other choice.

By Margery Wolf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Studies of Chinese society commonly emphasizze men's roles and functions, a not unreasonable approach to a society with patrilineal kinship structure. But this emphasis has left many important gaps in our knowledge of Chinese life.

This study seeks to fill some of these gaps by examining the ways rural Taiwanese women manipulate men and each other in the pursuit of their personal goals. The source of a woman's power, her home in a social structure dominated by men, is what the author calls the uterine family, a de facto social unity consisting of a mother and her children.

The first…


Book cover of How China Sees the World: Han-Centrism and the Balance of Power in International Politics

Grayson Slover Author Of Middle Country: An American Student Visits China's Uyghur Prison-State

From my list on the Uyghur Genocide.

Who am I?

I traveled to Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the summer of 2019, where I saw for myself many of the tools of surveillance and control that the Chinese Communist Party has used to turn the region into an open-air prison. Since returning to the United States, I have tried to draw attention to the Uyghur genocide through my published articles and through my book, Middle Country, where I tell the story of the Uyghur genocide by weaving facts, history, and analysis into a narrative account of the week I spent in Xinjiang. I hope that my book can make this profoundly complex and multifaceted issue more accessible to the average person.

Grayson's book list on the Uyghur Genocide

Grayson Slover Why did Grayson love this book?

This book is a concise examination of the pervasive ethnocentrism in contemporary Chinese society - which the authors refer to as “Han-Centrism.” Although it mentions Xinjiang and the Uyghurs specifically only a handful of times, one cannot hope to understand what is happening there today without also understanding the influence of Han-Centrism.

By John M. Friend, Bradley A. Thayer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How China Sees the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Han-centrism, a virulent form of Chinese nationalism, asserts that the Han Chinese are superior to other peoples and have a legitimate right to advance Chinese interests at the expense of other countries. Han nationalists have called for policies that will allow China to reclaim the prosperity stolen by foreign powers during the "Century of Humiliation." The growth of Chinese capabilities and Han-centrism suggests that the United States, its allies, and other countries in Asia will face an increasingly assertive China - and also one that thinks it possesses a right to dominate international politics.

John M. Friend and Bradley A.…


Book cover of China's Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy

Pádraig Carmody Author Of Africa's Shadow Rise: China and the Mirage of African Economic Development

From my list on China’s global and African strategies.

Who am I?

I became interested in China-Africa relations fifteen years ago when I realised that the rise of the former was going to have major and long-lasting effects on the politics and economics of the continent. In a sense, the rising role of China in Africa foretold its rise to global power and influence. Since then I have been fascinated by the ways in which China has restructured, or been involved in the restructuring, of African economies and politics and the ways in which that country’s global strategies and roles have continued to evolve and their impacts. I have written several books on the impacts of emerging powers in Africa.

Pádraig's book list on China’s global and African strategies

Pádraig Carmody Why did Pádraig love this book?

Many analysts have noted a more aggressive or assertive international posture by China in recent years, sometimes termed “Wolf Warrior Diplomacy” after a Chinese action movie from 2017 where a Chinese former special forces soldier defeats an American adversary. This book explains the origins and evolution of China’s diplomatic corp and how it has always been run on military lines, including having a twinning arrangement for diplomats where they are required to report on their partner if they become “ideologically impure.” Martin explains the reasons for China’s more assertive foreign policy in recent years, including through the weaponisation of trade and tourism and in one case the beating up of Taiwanese diplomats. 

By Peter Martin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The untold story of China's rise as a global superpower, chronicled through the diplomatic shock troops that connect Beijing to the world.

China's Civilian Army charts China's transformation from an isolated and impoverished communist state to a global superpower from the perspective of those on the front line: China's diplomats. They give a rare perspective on the greatest geopolitical drama of the last half century.

In the early days of the People's Republic, diplomats were highly-disciplined, committed communists who feared revealing any weakness to the threatening capitalist world. Remarkably, the model that revolutionary leader Zhou Enlai established continues to this…


Book cover of White Sun War: The Campaign for Taiwan

FX Holden Author Of Aggressor

From my list on war stories you probably haven’t read yet.

Who am I?

I’m a former journalist and intelligence officer turned writer, so I seek out authenticity in my reading, especially when it comes to war stories. I look for fiction from people who have been there or know how to listen to those who have, and be their voice. When I write, I always put together a team of veterans and specialists in their fields to challenge my work and make sure I get it right, too!

FX's book list on war stories you probably haven’t read yet

FX Holden Why did FX love this book?

Great narration is essential to any audiobook, and Joshua Saxon, who reads this over-the-top techno-thriller, nails it!

I don’t like waiting for the future to arrive; I want to read about it now, and this story from the pen of a real-life warrior put me right there, just five years into the future.

By Mick Ryan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After decades of poising on the brink, the United States and China finally go to war when China invades the island of Taiwan. Deploying their most futuristic technologies in this grand strategic competition of the 21st century, the stakes could not be higher. Not only the future of the Taiwanese people but the fate of the world lies in the balance. In an era when humans no longer just use machines, but partner with them in all aspects of military operations, this fictional account views this future war through the eyes of the American, Chinese, and Taiwanese caught up in…


Book cover of Great State: China and the World

Bill Hayton Author Of The Invention of China

From my list on the emergence of modern China.

Who am I?

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 great place to start to understand the long history of connections between East Asia and the rest of the world. Thirteen chapters take the reader from the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century up to the end of the Second World War. Each follows a particular person and their encounters with peoples of Inner and Central Asia, Europe, and Africa. They show how many things that historians have assumed to be ‘Chinese’ were borrowed from foreigners. Even the idea of the Great State, the framework through which later Chinese emperors used to describe their realm was taken from the Mongols. They also allow us to remember the ‘messiness’ of history with pioneers and villains on all sides.

By Timothy Brook,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The world-renowned scholar and author of Vermeer’s Hat does for China what Mary Beard did for Rome in SPQR: Timothy Brook analyzes the last eight centuries of China’s relationship with the world in this magnificent history that brings together accounts from civil servants, horse traders, spiritual leaders, explorers, pirates, emperors, migrant workers, invaders, visionaries, and traitors—creating a multifaceted portrait of this highly misunderstood nation.

China is one of the oldest states in the world. It achieved its approximate current borders with the Ascendancy of the Yuan dynasty in the thirteenth century, and despite the passing of one Imperial dynasty to…


Book cover of Chip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology

Darren McKee Author Of Uncontrollable: The Threat of Artificial Superintelligence and the Race to Save the World

From my list on understanding how AI will shape our lives.

Who am I?

I'm an author, advisor, speaker, podcaster, and citizen concerned about humanity’s relationship with advanced artificial intelligence. After following developments in AI for many years, I noticed a disconnect between the rapid rate of progress in AI and the public’s understanding of what was happening. The AI issue affects everyone, so I want everyone to be empowered to learn more about how AI will have a large impact on their lives. As a senior policy advisor and a member of the Board of Advisors for Canada's leading safety and governance network, books such as these help me stay informed about the latest developments in advanced artificial intelligence. I hope my recommendations will help you to critically consider how humans should co-exist with this revolutionary technology.

Darren's book list on understanding how AI will shape our lives

Darren McKee Why did Darren love this book?

Whoever controls the computer chips controls the world?

Not quite, but computer chips are a critical ingredient in making the powerful AI systems that dominate the headlines, and there is a high-stakes global competition for the fastest and newest chips.

These chips are so difficult to design and make, yet so important, that the U.S. is overtly restricting China’s access through export controls, and China is not yet able to build its own.

Miller provides an excellent overview of the history and development of computer chips. The book provides detailed information about the key players and different countries involved, as well as the strengths and limitations, all the while remaining accessible. 

By Chris Miller,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Chip War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

***Winner of the Financial Times Business Book of the Year award***

'Pulse quickening. A nonfiction thriller - equal parts The China Syndrome and Mission Impossible' New York Times

An epic account of the decades-long battle to control the world's most critical resource-microchip technology

Power in the modern world - military, economic, geopolitical - is built on a foundation of computer chips. America has maintained its lead as a superpower because it has dominated advances in computer chips and all the technology that chips have enabled. (Virtually everything runs on chips: cars, phones, the stock market, even the electric grid.) Now…


Book cover of Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping the World

George Magnus Author Of Red Flags: Why XI's China Is in Jeopardy

From my list on on understanding modern China.

Who am I?

I used to be Chief Economist at the UK bank SG Warburg and then at UBS, starting out in 1987 and finally cutting the cord in 2016 as Senior Economic Advisor. I visited China twice or three times a year from about 1994 and then the pandemic intervened. After the financial crisis, I decided that China would be the world’s next big thing. So I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what’s going on there and for the last few years, I've been an associate at the China Centre at Oxford University and SOAS in London. Red Flags was a book I simply had to write. Maybe there’ll be another. We shall see.

George's book list on on understanding modern China

George Magnus Why did George love this book?

While it’s important to get a grip on what’s going on inside China, it\s also essential to appreciate how China presents itself and tries to influence the world and a second but rather different book that does this is this one. But instead of looking at China from an international relations point of view, these authors look at how the Communist Party uses agencies and institutions to not only influence politicians, think tanks, universities, and businesses in other countries - which is by no means unique - but also to interfere, which is more exceptional. 

This book makes a number of claims, and while some may be more soundly based than others, readers should look at the themes in the round and will learn a lot of what they might not have suspected r read about before.

By Clive Hamilton, Mareike Ohlberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Heavily sourced, crisply written and deeply alarming.' The Times

'This is a remarkable book with a chilling message.' Guardian

The Chinese Communist Party is determined to reshape the world in its image.

Its decades-long infiltration of the West threatens democracy, human rights, privacy, security and free speech. Throughout North America and Europe, political and business elites, Wall Street, Hollywood, think tanks, universities and the Chinese diaspora are being manipulated with money, pressure and privilege. Hidden Hand reveals the myriad ways the CCP is fulfilling its dream of undermining liberal values and controlling the world.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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