100 books like The Telling

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Here are 100 books that The Telling fans have personally recommended if you like The Telling. 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 Ministry for the Future

Michael J. Albert Author Of Navigating the Polycrisis: Mapping the Futures of Capitalism and the Earth

From my list on books that help us make sense of the future.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a lecturer in Global Environmental Politics at the University of Edinburgh. My work is driven by the conviction that we need more thorough and realistic maps of possible futures in an increasingly turbulent and uncertain world. Ever since learning about the intersections between climate, energy, and economic crises, I have been fascinated by the question of how our future will unfold and how we might create more just and liveable futures from the wreckage of the present world. And I have been driven to bring down artificial disciplinary divides in order to integrate knowledge across the sciences and humanities in ways that can illuminate the possible pathways ahead. 

Michael's book list on books that help us make sense of the future

Michael J. Albert Why did Michael love this book?

For those looking for a more hopeful account of how climate activism and progressive policy can co-create a more just and sustainable future beyond capitalism, look no further than this book. It is rightfully celebrated as an essential utopian novel of our time.

Most utopian visionaries merely describe the future they want without describing how we might actually get there. In contrast, Robinson shows us how we might cross what he calls the “Great Trench” that separates the current world from the hoped-for future.

This is not a starry-eyed utopian book: it clearly recognizes the intense political struggles, the worsening climate shocks, the suffering, the setbacks, and the violence that would inevitably accompany any transformation of capitalism.

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked The Ministry for the Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“The best science-fiction nonfiction novel I’ve ever read.” —Jonathan Lethem
 
"If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future." —Ezra Klein (Vox)

The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us. Chosen by Barack Obama as one of his favorite…


Book cover of News from Nowhere

Jan Marsh Author Of The Collected Letters of Jane Morris

From my list on William Morris and his family.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a lifelong admiration for William Morris’s eloquent writings on political optimism. And how these fit with the personal life of his wife Janey and daughter May. This began with my biography of the two women, published by the feminist Pandora Press and continuing through to editing Jane Morris’s Collected Letters. Admiration is also critical engagement rather than simple fandom. We need to think, act, and endeavor to promote how we might live better lives in the world. I love the task of relating individual lives in the context of their time. Biography involves historical imagination to fill the gaps in recorded information and conceive how those in the past thought, felt and behaved.   

Jan's book list on William Morris and his family

Jan Marsh Why did Jan love this book?

This is William Morris’s utopian fantasy imaging an egalitarian, ecological, and pacific future for Britain is a perennial political favourite. It challenges each generation to think ‘how we might live’ without capitalist conflict. This book tackles revolutionary change, human nature, work, gender, manufacturing, architecture, economics, ecology, and the uses of imagination in critical analysis. All topics demonstrate the ongoing importance of William Morris’s vision and provoke responses.

By William Morris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

News from Nowhere(1890) is the best-known prose work of William Morris and the only significant English utopia to be written since Thomas More's. The novel describes the encounter between a visitor from the nineteenth century, William Guest, and a decentralized and humane socialist future. Set over a century after a revolutionary upheaval in 1952, these "Chapters from a Utopian Romance" recount his journey across London and up the Thames to Kelmscott Manor, Morris's own country house in Oxfordshire. Drawing on the work of John Ruskin and Karl Marx, Morris's book is not only an evocative statement of his egalitarian convictions…


Book cover of Island

Dan Savery Raz Author Of The Qwerty Man

From my list on dystopian books that could actually happen.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer and drawn to books that look through a window into the "other world." These novels, often dubbed dystopian, are reflections or exaggerations of our own world, and this always appealed to me. Like the question, "What if?”. The premise of “What if we lived in a world where you had to pay for words?” inspired my first novel, The Qwerty Man. Although I love fiction, I’m more of a nonfiction reader these days and interested in Buddhism (as an education, not religion), geography, and history. I’ve also written travel guidebooks for Lonely Planet and a children’s travel poetry book called Rhyme Travels.

Dan's book list on dystopian books that could actually happen

Dan Savery Raz Why did Dan love this book?

I admit that Huxley’s final novel is a rather difficult one to read. It’s long, it goes on too long in some places, it’s kind of fiction and philosophy together, and it includes a book within a book. However, The Island is a work of genius.

There’s the utopian island of Pala (not dystopian), and all through the book, there’s the threat of the invading Rendang kingdom. It includes some Buddhist ideas with the birds on the island that say karuna (meaning compassion) and "attention" to remind islanders of the now, yet ultimately, in the end, the island is invaded, and the utopia becomes exposed as a fake.

By Aldous Huxley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For over a hundred years the Pacific island of Pala has been the scene of a unique experiment in civilisation. Its inhabitants live in a society where western science has been brought together with Eastern philosophy to create a paradise on earth. When cynical journalist, Will Farnaby, arrives to research potential oil reserves on Pala, he quickly falls in love with the way of life on the island. Soon the need to complete his mission becomes an intolerable burden and he must make a difficult choice.

In counterpoint to Brave New World and Ape and Essence, in Island Huxley gives…


Book cover of Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements

Jude Berman Author Of The Die

From my list on metaphysical and visionary stories with a call for social justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I realized years ago that the universe isn’t merely a concrete reality, I turned to metaphysical/visionary books to understand my experience. There weren’t that many books, but the ones I found became dear friends. Now, after decades as a freelance editor, I am writing fiction in this genre because I believe stories can be as powerful as expository writing for awakening consciousness. However, I’ve noticed many metaphysical writers discourage the engagement and commitment needed to make this world a better place. For this reason, I seek to gather—and contribute to—writing that is visionary and also advocates for democracy and social justice.

Jude's book list on metaphysical and visionary stories with a call for social justice

Jude Berman Why did Jude love this book?

Although this collection of short stories can be generally categorized as speculative fiction—and most are more specifically science fiction—there is nevertheless a strong visionary element in many of them. As I would expect when reading any book that has many authors, I relate to some stories more than others.

I particularly loved how they collectively built on the amazing legacy of Octavia Butler and did so by explicitly uniting around the social justice theme.

By Adrienne Maree Brown (editor), Walidah Imarisha (editor),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Octavia's Brood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Whenever we envision a world without war, prisons, or capitalism, we are producing speculative fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have brought 20 of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. These visionary tales span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to inject a healthy dose of imagination and innovation into our political practice and to try on new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around…


Book cover of Behind the Wall: A Journey Through China

Charlie Walker Author Of Through Sand & Snow: a man, a bicycle, and a 43,000-mile journey to adulthood via the ends of the Earth

From my list on solo adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started solo travelling as soon as I left school, and since then I’ve spent many years doing so. I came of age while cycling, kayaking, hiking and skiing across distant lands. The bittersweetness of being alone on the road has become a source of constant fascination for me. The on-again-off-again loneliness creates a state of mind where you’re that much more willing to throw yourself in at the deep end, to meet strangers, and to look, listen and learn. At its very best, solo travel writing seamlessly encompasses two journeys: the physical journey in a foreign land, and the psychological journey within the author.

Charlie's book list on solo adventure

Charlie Walker Why did Charlie love this book?

I must have read dozens of books on China but Colin Thubron’s elegiac account comfortably takes the crown. Behind the Wall captures a unique moment in China’s history when foreigners were first allowed to travel around the country but the nation was yet to be influenced by the outside world. Having learnt to speak Mandarin in advance of travelling, the author probes deep into the rural areas and distant desert outposts of a closed communist empire still recovering from the ravages of the Cultural Revolution.

By Colin Thubron,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A powerful unforgettable journey through China with one of our greatest travel writers.

'An achievement of great and lasting brilliance' Patrick Leigh Fermor

Having learned Mandarin, and travelling alone by foot, bicycle and train, Colin Thubron set off on a 10,000 mile journey from Beijing to the borders of Burma. He travelled through the wind-swept wastes of the Gobi desert and finished at the far end of the Great Wall.

What Thubron reveals is an astonishing diversity, a land whose still unmeasured resources strain to meet an awesome demand, and an ancient people still reeling from the devastation of the…


Book cover of Red Azalea

Tom Carter Author Of China: Portrait of a People

From my list on naughty Chinese girls.

Why am I passionate about this?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for what would become a two-year backpacking sojourn across all 33 Chinese provinces, the first foreigner on record to do so. It was during this journey that I discovered the following five female writers, whose catty, carnal memoirs accompanied me like jealous mistresses vying for attention.

Tom's book list on naughty Chinese girls

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

The godmother – the empress dowager, if you will – of all naughty Chinese authoresses is the inimitable Anchee Min. Her debut memoir, Red Azalea, was published half-a-decade before Shanghai Baby, and takes place half-a-century prior, at the outset of the Cultural Revolution. The first half of her story is set in a countryside labor camp, where teenaged Min and another young woman carry out a secret affair, with regrettable consequences. The second half of Min’s memoir finds her returning to her native Shanghai, now as the star of a movie production about Madam Mao, while carrying out yet another forbidden relationship, with one of Mao’s advisers. Min published seven subsequent books, all to critical acclaim, but Red Azalea is her at her most fearless.

By Anchee Min,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The erotic autobiography of Anchee Min, who grew up during China's Cultural Revolution. Written with the dialogue and characterizations of a novel, the story traces her life and relationships through the political and cultural upheavals of the era.


Book cover of To Live

Fan Wu Author Of Beautiful as Yesterday

From my list on China’s cultural revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born and raised in China, I grew up on a remote state-run farm where my parents, as condemned intellectuals during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, lived for 20 years. It wasn't until mid-80s they were allowed to return. I have heard many stories and read many books about this tumultuous period in China. I didn’t know much about my parents’ personal experiences until I was in my 30s. Today’s China is very different but I believe that history extends its roots deep into the present. As a writer, what interests me the most is the impact of history on individuals and society. My latest book is a historical wartime novel set in China and Europe.

Fan's book list on China’s cultural revolution

Fan Wu Why did Fan love this book?

I first read the book when I was at college in China, and over the years, I’ve read it several times. In China, Yu Hua is one of the few leading writers known as both a literary master and a popular writer with huge commercial success. His charm is well demonstrated in To Live, which has become a classic in modern Chinese literature. It’s a story of a common Chinese man named Fugui living through one after another social and political changes. The story is dramatic, sad, humorous, and sarcastic at times yet never sentimental and judgmental, and it draws you in with a simple but compelling question: after you lose everything dear to you, can you still go on to live? 

By Yu Hua, Michael Berry (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Originally banned in China but later named one of that nation’s most influential books, a searing novel that portrays one man’s transformation from the spoiled son of a landlord to a kindhearted peasant. 

“A work of astounding emotional power.” —Dai Sijie, author of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

From the author of Brothers and China in Ten Words: this celebrated contemporary classic of Chinese literature was also adapted for film by Zhang Yimou. After squandering his family’s fortune in gambling dens and brothels, the young, deeply penitent Fugui settles down to do the honest work of a farmer. Forced…


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 Mao's Last Revolution

Andrew G. Walder Author Of China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed

From my list on China from Mao through Tiananmen.

Why am I passionate about this?

I took my first course about Chinese politics in 1973, when the country was still in the tumultuous last years of the Mao era. In a teaching career that began in 1982, I have spent long periods of research and teaching in China and Hong Kong. China’s shifting course has been a constant source of fascination, encouragement, and at times dismay. It is hard to imagine that the impoverished and unstable country of the 1970s would rise to become such a major economic power, one that despite its impressive expansion still faces intractable barriers to its future advancement.

Andrew's book list on China from Mao through Tiananmen

Andrew G. Walder Why did Andrew love this book?

This instant classic was the first to draw deeply on a wide range of previously inaccessible sources about the Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976. Highly readable and authoritative, it provides extensive insight into Mao’s actions and those of his subordinates and victims and documents the destructive impact of these conflicts all across China from the initial salvos at Peking University in May 1966 to the immediate aftermath of Mao’s death, which led to the arrest of Mao’s most ardent radical followers, the “Gang of Four”.

By Michael Schoenhals, Roderick Macfarquhar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Cultural Revolution was a watershed event in the history of the People's Republic of China, the defining decade of half a century of communist rule. Before 1966, China was a typical communist state, with a command economy and a powerful party able to keep the population under control. But during the Cultural Revolution, in a move unprecedented in any communist country, Mao unleashed the Red Guards against the party. Tens of thousands of officials were humiliated, tortured, and even killed. Order had to be restored by the military, whose methods were often equally brutal.

In a masterly book, Roderick…


Book cover of Bronze and Sunflower

Justine Laismith Author Of Secrets of the Great Fire Tree

From my list on to see the hidden side of Chinese culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being half-Chinese and half-Peranakan, I grew up in a mixed cultural environment but went to secondary school with a strong Chinese culture. I became aware of my inferior knowledge, not just of the language, but also Chinese culture and history. Hence I immersed myself in the Chinese environment. But there is so much in this long and illustrious history of one of the oldest civilisations that my initial motive to learn was soon replaced by a genuine interest. Now I am always on the lookout for anything related to China, its history, and the Chinese culture.

Justine's book list on to see the hidden side of Chinese culture

Justine Laismith Why did Justine love this book?

I always like reading anything about day-to-day living in China. In this book, I loved the descriptions of what life is like in rural China, eg making their own reed shoes and building their own roofs. On the surface, this book is about the idyllic life in the countryside. However, it is set during the cultural revolution but so subtly described in the back-drop that it is perfect for the target audience. We often read about the people banished to the countryside, and this book tells me what happens to them when they arrive.

I also enjoyed it as it is a translated text, so there is a sense that this is authentic.

By Cao Wenxuan, Meilo So (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Bronze and Sunflower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

A classic, heartwarming tale set to the backdrop of the Chinese cultural revolution, with the timeless feels of Eva Ibbotson's Journey to the River Sea.

A beautifully written, timeless tale by bestselling Chinese author Cao Wenxuan, winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award. When Sunflower, a young city girl, moves to the countryside, she grows to love the reed marsh lands - the endlessly flowing river, the friendly buffalo with their strong backs and shiny round heads, the sky that stretches on and on in its vastness. However, the days are long, and the little girl is lonely. Then she…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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