100 books like The Man Who Loved China

By Simon Winchester,

Here are 100 books that The Man Who Loved China fans have personally recommended if you like The Man Who Loved China. 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 Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

Ann O’Loughlin Author Of Escape to the Irish Village

From my list on strong women and female friendship.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am fascinated by the extraordinary things ordinary people do, particularly women. Women show such strength; they juggle so many things every day, and they can draw on huge reserves of power in a crisis. Time and time again, I see how when women pull together, they can conquer anything. A woman on her own can do many things, but when we band together, nothing can stop us. So often, others concentrate on the negative aspects of a group of women together, but I have seen the power of female friendship and how we can reach the stars when we hold each other up. 

Ann's book list on strong women and female friendship

Ann O’Loughlin Why did Ann love this book?

This book was published after the demonstration at Tiananmen Square, Beijing which ended in bloodshed. With this book, I felt finally somebody was giving an honest account of life in China in the 20th Century and  under the Chinese Communist Party.

But this is no regular history book; it is Jung Chang’s personal account following the lives of three generations of women in her own family: Jung Chang herself, her mother, and her grandmother. They endured so much, but I was struck by how united and loving they remained. They managed in the face of adversity to keep their humanity, inner strength, and incredible courage.

I felt empowered by these women, from the grandmother who had endured the torture of having her feet bound as a young girl to the author who showed admirable courage to tell us exactly what China was like right up and through the dark years…

By Jung Chang,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Wild Swans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few books have had such an impact as Wild Swans: a popular bestseller which has sold more than 13 million copies and a critically acclaimed history of China; a tragic tale of nightmarish cruelty and an uplifting story of bravery and survival.

Through the story of three generations of women in her own family - the grandmother given to the warlord as a concubine, the Communist mother and the daughter herself - Jung Chang reveals the epic history of China's twentieth century.

Breathtaking in its scope, unforgettable in its descriptions, this is a masterpiece which is extraordinary in every way.

Book cover of Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China

Deborah Shlian Author Of Rabbit in the Moon

From my list on China's myths, religions, politics, and culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I chose the dramatic backdrop of the Tiananmen massacre because after my first trip to China in the 1980’s I became a host family for mainland students studying at UCLA where I was Medical Director of Student Health. During those weeks in 1989 many students communicated with friends and family back in China using our fax machine. From their perspective, the conflict was a generational struggle between the very old leaders, many of whom marched with Mao and who were desperate to hang onto power (and therefore for my plot would want to get their hands on an elixir to double their lifespan), and the younger generation anxious for reforms.

Deborah's book list on China's myths, religions, politics, and culture

Deborah Shlian Why did Deborah love this book?

This is the second book by Peter Hessler that I have read (River Town was the first). Having visited China several times since the 1980s, when the country was first open to visitors from the West to my more recent trips, I have seen so much change. What I like about this book is how Hessler, a reporter who has lived and taught English in China, tries to describe and explain these changes.

By Peter Hessler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Peter Hessler's previous book River Town was a prize-winning, poignant and deeply compelling portrait of China. Now, in Oracle Bones, Hessler returns to the country, excavating its long history and immersing himself in the lives of young Chinese as they migrate from the traditional Chinese countryside to the booming ever-changing cities and try to cope with their society's modern transformation.

Book cover of Life and Death in Shanghai

Noel Anenberg Author Of The Karma Kaper

From my list on majestic stories that lift our spirits.

Why am I passionate about this?

I enjoyed writing The Karma Kaper. Just as there's tragedy and comedy in every aspect of our lives there's humor in crime. It's fun bringing that humor to my audience. I also believe in justice for all. Sadly, as American courts are currently more concerned with criminals' rights than victims' rights there are no guarantees victims will receive the justice they deserve. No one can predict if a jury of 12 will find a defendant who has committed a crime guilty. Then, there's the highest court of appeal - fiction! Between the covers of a novel, a crafty writer can ensure just verdicts and devise macabre punishments for the bad guys! It doesn't get any better! 

Noel's book list on majestic stories that lift our spirits

Noel Anenberg Why did Noel love this book?

In elegant prose, Nien Cheng, a Shell Oil Company in 1966, recounts her life in Shanghai in 1966, when Chairman Mao launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Mao’s Red Guards ransacked Cheng and her husband’s bourgeois home and then delivered her to No. 1 Detention House in Shanghai where she was held in solitary confinement of 7 years until her rehabilitation and release after several struggle trials.

Her work is prescient as the United States in under attack by a radical woke ideology. Many Americans have been cancelled or have been made to attend struggle sessions.  

Nein Chen is a heroic woman, a brilliant writer, and an example of how one courageous woman can stand up to a totalitarian regime. 

By Cheng Nien,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Life and Death in Shanghai as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A first-hand account of China's cultural revolution.

Nien Cheng, an anglophile and fluent English-speaker who worked for Shell in Shanghai under Mao, was put under house arrest by Red Guards in 1966 and subsequently jailed. All attempts to make her confess to the charges of being a British spy failed; all efforts to indoctrinate her were met by a steadfast and fearless refusal to accept the terms offered by her interrogators. When she was released from prison she was told that her daughter had committed suicide. In fact Meiping had been beaten to death by Maoist revolutionaries.

Book cover of Waiting

Jack B. Rochester Author Of Wild Blue Yonder

From my list on coming of age novels that tell fascinating stories anyone can relate to.

Why am I passionate about this?

A youthful summer with my grandparents transformed me into a voracious reader, but I don’t recall what turned me into becoming a lifelong writer and editor. My first two teenaged short stories concerned a rock and a stoplight. My writing got better, and I’ve never stopped reading. As a grad student teaching literature, I longed to see my name on a book cover. Today, it’s on 20 books. My career was in publishing; I wrote and edited nonfiction for decades until 2007, when I turned to writing novels. My most recent is a collection of my early poetry. I also enjoy helping writers become published on The Fictional Café.

Jack's book list on coming of age novels that tell fascinating stories anyone can relate to

Jack B. Rochester Why did Jack love this book?

Emotion, in particular love, knows no bounds of race, culture, past, or future. I think love reaches uncommon heights in times of stress, which accounts for falling in love with abandon–like in wartime. Or when culture curbs or forbids love’s expression.

So here in this book, Lin Kong, a doctor, feels constrained during the Chinese Cultural Revolution–perhaps seeing through its façade of freedom, particularly in his own marriage. And upon that conundrum rests the plot: Lin’s waiting 18 years (by law) for divorce so he can be with the woman he desires. But the longer he waits, the more he desires her; then, once the waiting is over, desire leaves him.

Perhaps it is better for Lin to live in never-ending desire? Was his grass greener on the other side? 

By Ha Jin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For more than seventeen years, Lin Kong, a devoted and ambitious doctor, has been in love with an educated, clever, modern woman, Manna Wu. But back in his traditional home village lives the humble, loyal wife his family chose for him years ago. Every summer, he returns to ask her for a divorce and every summer his compliant wife agrees but then backs out. This time, after eighteen years' waiting, Lin promises it will be different.

Book cover of For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire, and the Secret Formula for the World's Favourite Drink

Annie Murray Author Of Letter from a Tea Garden

From my list on India under the Raj that are not about princesses.

Why am I passionate about this?

Abi Oliver is a pen name as my real name is Annie Murray—I write under both names. My first book, A New Map of Love, set in the 1960s, featured an older woman who had been born in India. She developed into such a character—a bit of an old trout to be truthful—that I wanted to tell her story. It also tapped into my family’s many connections with India and the fact that I have travelled a lot there. I finally got to travel, with my oldest daughter, and stay in one of the tea gardens in Assam—a wonderful experience.

Annie's book list on India under the Raj that are not about princesses

Annie Murray Why did Annie love this book?

I am a total tea-head, so any book about the history of how we all came to be addicts is a good start. This one is particularly gripping and reads like an adventure novel. Robert Fortune, a Scottish botanist, and industrial spy, was employed by the East India Company in 1848 to be smuggled into China and steal their tea-growing secrets. The book never flags, full of information about the opium wars, the Chelsea Physic garden and how the tea, later found to grow naturally in India, was made into a consumer product garnering enormous profits. As I grew up with a family member who disappeared to work in Assam tea gardens just before I was born, I have always been fascinated by this way of life.

By Sarah Rose,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For All the Tea in China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Robert Fortune was a Scottish gardener, botanist, plant hunter - and industrial spy. In 1848, the East India Company engaged him to make a clandestine trip into the interior of China - territory forbidden to foreigners - to steal the closely guarded secrets of tea.

For centuries, China had been the world's sole tea manufacturer. Britain purchased this fuel for its Empire by trading opium to the Chinese - a poisonous relationship Britain fought two destructive wars to sustain. The East India Company had profited lavishly as the middleman, but now it was sinking, having lost its monopoly to trade…

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

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

From my list on understanding tea and other Chinese things.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

Erika Rappaport Why did Erika love this book?

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

By Elizabeth Hope Chang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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

Book cover of The Small Woman

Jamie Janosz Author Of When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused to Give Up

From my list on gutsy, godly women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up attending a little Baptist church where we would host traveling missionaries. I remember one young woman in particular, Jane Vandenberg, who would open her bag to show us mementos from her life in Africa. As I listened to her stories, I admired how brave she was. I wanted to be like that! I served for 16 years as an English professor at Moody Bible Institute where I would share well-written and inspirational books with my students. And, as a Christian woman and mom, I think we need more role models for ourselves and for our daughters. Sharing the powerful biographies of Christian women is one way to make that happen!

Jamie's book list on gutsy, godly women

Jamie Janosz Why did Jamie love this book?

As a young girl, I loved missionary stories about women like Gladys Aylward who left their comfortable homes and traveled to remote countries to tell people about Jesus.

In 1930, Gladys traveled across Siberia by train to a remote town in northwest China. There, as an independent missionary, she shared God’s love and stood up against time-honored traditions that were harming young girls. This book is full of adventure, and doesn’t shrink from stomach-wrenching details.

I’ll never forget the vivid descriptions of foot-binding, and how Gladys fearlessly confronted and corrected this painful procedure, no doubt impacting lives forever.

By Alan Burgess,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rejected by mission agencies, Englishwoman earns the money to send herself to China. There she opens an inn for mule drivers, serves as "foot inspector," and advises the local Mandarin. But when the Japanese invade, she discovers her true destiny---leading 100 orphans across the mountains to safety.

Book cover of Mr. Smith Goes to China: Three Scots in the Making of Britain's Global Empire

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?

This is a jewel of a book. It takes a strange coincidence and weaves it into a wonderful tale of world history. It explores the lives of three Scotsmen, all called George Smith but not related, who traded in Asia during the eighteenth century, a crucial time for the development of the East India Company and ties between East and West. It really opens a window into the lives of these pioneers and brings this neglected history alive. In particular, it complicates the usual story of the East India Company by showing how it was a force for stability in trade with China and it was the ‘free traders’ taking inspiration from people like the economist Adam Smith back in London, who upset the relations and created the conditions for the nineteenth-century Opium War.

By Jessica Hanser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An illuminating account of global commerce in the eighteenth-century Indian Ocean world as seen through the lives of three Scottish traders

This book delves into the lives of three Scottish private traders-George Smith of Bombay, George Smith of Canton, and George Smith of Madras-and uses them as lenses through which to explore the inner workings of Britain's imperial expansion and global network of trade, revealing how an unstable credit system and a financial crisis ultimately led to greater British intervention in India and China.

Book cover of Babel

S.G. Slade Author Of Touch of a Witch

From my list on spellbinding novels with threads of magic woven in their core.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a British writer with a passion for the stories of history, both real and imagined. I have always been fascinated by tales and relics of the past, old ruins, ancient buildings, mythology, and the uncanny power of the natural world. All these things connect us to the ghosts of the past. So, I write historical fantasy novels based in the England I explored growing up, but brushed with the shadow of the supernatural, magic, witchcraft, and seductive illusion. I also write straight historical fiction under the name Samantha Grosser.

S.G.'s book list on spellbinding novels with threads of magic woven in their core

S.G. Slade Why did S.G. love this book?

I devoured this book from beginning to end, and the rest of my life was no more than an irritating distraction until I could return to it again. It really does have everything I have ever wanted in a novel. It’s profound, thought-provoking, addictive, moving, heartbreaking, political, and a damn good story. 

It explores so many themes that are dear to my heart: the power of language for good and for evil, the exploitation of colonialism and empire, dark academia, politics, and the joys and heartbreak of friendship, all wrapped in an utterly compelling world of magical realism.

Honestly, I’m slightly obsessed with how good it is, and I’m heartbroken I can’t ever read it for the first time again.

By R. F. Kuang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'One for Philip Pullman fans'

'An ingenious fantasy about empire'

'Fans of THE SECRET HISTORY, this one is an automatic buy'

'Ambitious, sweeping and epic'

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

Oxford, 1836.

The city of dreaming spires.

It is the centre of all knowledge and progress in the world.

And at its centre is Babel, the Royal Institute of Translation. The tower from which all the power of the Empire flows.

Orphaned in Canton and brought to England by…

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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