100 books like The Troubled Empire

By Timothy Brook,

Here are 100 books that The Troubled Empire fans have personally recommended if you like The Troubled Empire. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Golden Days

Laurie Dennis Author Of The Lacquered Talisman

From my list on entering the world of imperial China.

Who am I?

My background is in journalism, and I have traveled widely in China, including visits to Fengyang, Anhui Province, and other sites important to the Ming founding, though I currently reside in Wisconsin. The Lacquered Talisman is the first in a planned series on the Ming founding, one of the most thrilling and dramatic dynastic transitions in China’s long history. I became addicted long ago to this 14th-century tale, in part because it is such a key moment in Chinese history and yet is so unknown in the English-speaking world. Since I write historical fiction, I have curated a list of both history and fiction about imperial China for you to enjoy.

Laurie's book list on entering the world of imperial China

Laurie Dennis Why did Laurie love this book?

This is the best translation into English of the first 26 chapters of the most influential classic of Chinese literature. (It also has the English name Dream of Red Mansions.) Generations have swooned over the 18th century love triangle that is at the heart of this epic tale of the Jia family in decline. If you can’t get enough of this elaborate novel of manners, you can listen to the podcast currently chewing on it, Rereading the Stone. I consider this opening volume to be a useful introduction to family life in traditional China (though its lens is focused on high society), including the importance of dreams, rituals, family relationships, gossip, and poetry.

By Cao Xueqin, David Hawkes (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Story of the Stone (c.1760) is one of the greatest novels of Chinese literature. The first part of the story, The Golden Days, begins the tale of Bao-yu, a gentle young boy who prefers girls to Confucian studies, and his two cousins: Bao-chai, his parents' choice of a wife for him, and the ethereal beauty Dai-yu. Through the changing fortunes of the Jia family, this rich, magical work sets worldly events - love affairs, sibling rivalries, political intrigues, even murder - within the context of the Buddhist understanding that earthly existence is an illusion and karma determines the shape…


Book cover of A Hero Born

Laurie Dennis Author Of The Lacquered Talisman

From my list on entering the world of imperial China.

Who am I?

My background is in journalism, and I have traveled widely in China, including visits to Fengyang, Anhui Province, and other sites important to the Ming founding, though I currently reside in Wisconsin. The Lacquered Talisman is the first in a planned series on the Ming founding, one of the most thrilling and dramatic dynastic transitions in China’s long history. I became addicted long ago to this 14th-century tale, in part because it is such a key moment in Chinese history and yet is so unknown in the English-speaking world. Since I write historical fiction, I have curated a list of both history and fiction about imperial China for you to enjoy.

Laurie's book list on entering the world of imperial China

Laurie Dennis Why did Laurie love this book?

Jin Yong’s characters move in the gritty village lanes or wander China’s remote mountains, seeking vengeance, escaping persecution, forming alliances. The launch of a martial arts series, A Hero Born was first serialized in a Hong Kong newspaper in the 1950s and is about a young hero who ends up in the Mongol camp of the future Genghis Khan. It’s a thrilling read and proved an immediate sensation, spawning movies, video games, comic books, etc.  Holmgren’s new translation offers a window into the gallant world of martial men and women who will fight to the death to defend their honor. It also gives a Chinese perspective on the rise of the Mongols.

By Jin Yong, Anna Holmwood (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE CHINESE "LORD OF THE RINGS" - NOW IN ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME.

THE SERIES EVERY CHINESE READER HAS BEEN ENJOYING FOR DECADES - 300 MILLION COPIES SOLD.
.
ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE'S 100 BEST FANTASY NOVELS OF ALL TIME.

"Jin Yong's work, in the Chinese-speaking world, has a cultural currency roughly equal to that of "Harry Potter" and "Star Wars" combined" Nick Frisch, New Yorker

"Like every fairy tale you're ever loved, imbued with jokes and epic grandeur. Prepare to be swept along." Jamie Buxton, Daily Mail

China: 1200 A.D.

The Song Empire has been invaded by its…


Book cover of A Tale of Two Melons: Emperor and Subject in Ming China

Laurie Dennis Author Of The Lacquered Talisman

From my list on entering the world of imperial China.

Who am I?

My background is in journalism, and I have traveled widely in China, including visits to Fengyang, Anhui Province, and other sites important to the Ming founding, though I currently reside in Wisconsin. The Lacquered Talisman is the first in a planned series on the Ming founding, one of the most thrilling and dramatic dynastic transitions in China’s long history. I became addicted long ago to this 14th-century tale, in part because it is such a key moment in Chinese history and yet is so unknown in the English-speaking world. Since I write historical fiction, I have curated a list of both history and fiction about imperial China for you to enjoy.

Laurie's book list on entering the world of imperial China

Laurie Dennis Why did Laurie love this book?

On July 28, 1372, a group of high officials presented the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty with two melons on a lacquer tray. The melons grew from the same stalk – an anomaly that was judged a lucky omen. Schneewind uses this seemingly minor matter to study the daily workings of court life and the complex relationships between rulers and subjects. I had the great luck to travel with the author to Nanjing, the first Ming capital, and visit some of the locales she analyzed for this book, including the tomb complex where the founder and his empress are buried.  Schneewind’s short and readable study of two melons offers a sense of the high stakes and grand scale of imperial life, and I admire how she was able to connect so much to such a small gift of ripe fruit.

By Sarah Schneewind,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A commoner's presentation to the emperor of a lucky omen from his garden, the repercussions for his family, and several retellings of the incident provide the background for an engaging introduction to Ming society, culture, and politics, including discussions of the founding of the Ming dynasty; the character of the first emperor; the role of omens in court politics; how the central and local governments were structured, including the civil service examination system; the power of local elite families; the roles of women; filial piety; and the concept of ling or efficacy in Chinese religion.


Book cover of The First Emperor: Selections from the Historical Records (Oxford World's Classics)

Laurie Dennis Author Of The Lacquered Talisman

From my list on entering the world of imperial China.

Who am I?

My background is in journalism, and I have traveled widely in China, including visits to Fengyang, Anhui Province, and other sites important to the Ming founding, though I currently reside in Wisconsin. The Lacquered Talisman is the first in a planned series on the Ming founding, one of the most thrilling and dramatic dynastic transitions in China’s long history. I became addicted long ago to this 14th-century tale, in part because it is such a key moment in Chinese history and yet is so unknown in the English-speaking world. Since I write historical fiction, I have curated a list of both history and fiction about imperial China for you to enjoy.

Laurie's book list on entering the world of imperial China

Laurie Dennis Why did Laurie love this book?

I am recommending this collection of eight essays from the immense Historical Records primarily for Chapter 7, “The Story of the Rebel Xiang Yu.” This is a rebel who didn’t win – Xiang Yu was defeated by the man who went on to found the Han Dynasty in 202 BCE, which makes this perhaps China’s most famous tale of personal failure. The Grand Historian Sima Qian veered from his format to write this biography because he had so much to say about Xiang Yu. As I work on my own novels about the founding of the Ming, I keep Xiang Yu in mind as a reminder of how generals can achieve glorious victories and then lose everything over a few casual mistakes, and of how storytellers decide how a hero gets remembered.

By Sima Qian, Raymond Dawson (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The following year Qin unified all under Heaven and the title of August Emperor was immediately adopted.'

The short-lived Qin dynasty unified China in 221 BC and created an imperial legacy that lasted until 1911. The extraordinary story of the First Emperor, founder of the dynasty, is told in the Historical Records of Sima Qian, the Grand Historiographer and the most famous Chinese historian. He describes the Emperor's birth and the assassination attempt on his life, as well as the political and often brutal events that led to the founding of the dynasty and its aftermath. Sima Qian
recounts the…


Book cover of The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up

Yang Huang Author Of Living Treasures

From my list on China’s one-child policy and Tiananmen Square protests.

Who am I?

I grew up in China during the years of the one-child policy. In 1989 I joined millions of people in the pro-democracy protests. Our hope and joy were crushed by the Tiananmen Square Massacre. A year later, I left China and came to the States. I wanted to write a story about the students’ fight but create a more meaningful arc. It took me twenty years of soul searching to find my story. At the heart of my novel Living Treasures is a metaphor for the Tiananmen Square Massacre. My heroine continues the fight by doing grassroots work and helping rural women, who are victimized by the one-child policy.

Yang's book list on China’s one-child policy and Tiananmen Square protests

Yang Huang Why did Yang love this book?

The 27 interviews in The Corpse Walker are selected from the 60 interviews in Liao Yiwu’s book, originally titled Interviews with People from the Bottom Rung of Society in Chinese. Liao gives voices to social outcasts: a human trafficker, corpse walkers, a leper, a peasant emperor, an abbot, a mortician, a Tiananmen father, artists and shamans, crooks, even cannibals. Ironically, every one of them speaks more honestly than Chinese official media, which causes the book to be banned in mainland China. These are the stories of unsung heroes and epic tragedies, but to me, most importantly, the work that people performed, the families they raised, many lost to famines, political purges, and massacres, and the persecutors they forgave, the conscience they wrestled with, their past, present, and future—these are the remarkable stories of ordinary Chinese people from 1949 to present in their raw, unvarnished form.

By Liao Yiwu,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Corpse Walker introduces us to regular men and women at the bottom of Chinese society, most of whom have been battered by life but have managed to retain their dignity: a professional mourner, a human trafficker, a public toilet manager, a leper, a grave robber, and a Falung Gong practitioner, among others. By asking challenging questions with respect and empathy, Liao Yiwu managed to get his subjects to talk openly and sometimes hilariously about their lives, desires, and vulnerabilities, creating a book that is an instance par excellence of what was once upon a time called “The New Journalism.”…


Book cover of The World Turned Upside Down: America, China, and the Struggle for Global Leadership

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?

This is a fascinating book by a long-time Washington insider on the reasons for, and strategy behind, China’s rise. He details the crucial geopolitics behind America and China’s changing positionality. He argues that China’s rise was facilitated by common animosity towards the Soviet Union and fundamental misunderstandings by the American policy elite of the Chinese system. It is packed full of interesting insight and details, including that the Chinese Communist Party does not legally exist, so can never be held to account. 

By Clyde Prestowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World Turned Upside Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An authority on Asia and globalization identifies the challenges China's growing power poses and how it must be confronted

"Timely and thought-provoking. . . . An unsparing analysis of how Washington's elite fell into the grip of their China delusion."-James Kynge, Financial Times

"Prestowitz doesn't just point out problems; he offers a detailed, 25-page 'Plan for America.' An excellent comprehensive study from an expert on the subject."-Kirkus, Starred Review

When China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, most experts expected the WTO rules and procedures to liberalize China and make it "a responsible stakeholder in the liberal world order."…


Book cover of By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World

Scott B. Macdonald Author Of The New Cold War, China, and the Caribbean: Economic Statecraft, China and Strategic Realignments

From my list on beach reads in an international relations hurricane.

Who am I?

My expertise in Caribbean and Chinese affairs derives from having an interest in the two regions since college, which was then pursued through a MA in Asian Studies from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Connecticut. On the employment front, I worked for 3 regional banks (as an international economist), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Credit Suisse, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, KWR International, and Aladdin Capital Management (as head of Credit and Economics Research) and Mitsubishi Corporation. Since I left Mitsubishi I returned to my two favorite interests, Asia and the Caribbean. 

Scott's book list on beach reads in an international relations hurricane

Scott B. Macdonald Why did Scott love this book?

China experts Economy and Levi wrote one of the more far-seeing books on the internationalization of China’s development and its use of economic statecraft to secure access to strategic resources, ranging from oil and gas to agricultural goods and minerals (like copper, nickel, and cobalt). Although the book was published in 2014, it has held up well, especially in that China’s quest for energy, minerals, land, and water, pursued through a mix of investment, political and military means is fundamentally changing the world. At the same time, China’s resource hunt is also changing the Asian giant, forcing it to adopt to changing global power dynamics.  

By Elizabeth C. Economy, Michael Levi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked By All Means Necessary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the past thirty years, China has transformed from an impoverished country where peasants comprised the largest portion of the populace to an economic power with an expanding middle class and more megacities than anywhere else on earth. This remarkable transformation has required, and will continue to demand, massive quantities of resources. Like every other major power in modern history, China is looking outward to find them.

In By All Means Necessary, Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael Levi explore the unrivaled expansion of the Chinese economy and the global effects of its meteoric growth. China is now engaged in a…


Book cover of The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy

Yasuhiro Makimura Author Of Yokohama and the Silk Trade: How Eastern Japan Became the Primary Economic Region of Japan, 1843-1893

From my list on cities, their trades, and world trade.

Who am I?

One of the oldest questions is: why are some countries rich and some countries poor? Adam Smith famously answered that it was the division of labor (specialization) and trade in his book The Wealth of Nations. The more you study trade, however, the more complicated the answer becomes. I have been grappling with this question since the 1990s, as a student, and I still do not have a simple answer like Adam Smith. However, I think I have come up with a framework to understand how the economic history of the world developed and I have been teaching that global history in college as a professor since the 2010s.

Yasuhiro's book list on cities, their trades, and world trade

Yasuhiro Makimura Why did Yasuhiro love this book?

Taking us away from cities, this book will set your eyes on how these cities and their trades fit within a global framework. Kenneth Pomeranz argues that the key was the Americas which allowed Europe to engage in further specialization, and the fortunate location of coal in Britain, the country that started the industrial revolution. This industrial revolution was the key difference that led to the dominance of the West in global affairs.

By Kenneth Pomeranz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Great Divergence brings new insight to one of the classic questions of history: Why did sustained industrial growth begin in Northwest Europe, despite surprising similarities between advanced areas of Europe and East Asia? As Ken Pomeranz shows, as recently as 1750, parallels between these two parts of the world were very high in life expectancy, consumption, product and factor markets, and the strategies of households. Perhaps most surprisingly, Pomeranz demonstrates that the Chinese and Japanese cores were no worse off ecologically than Western Europe. Core areas throughout the eighteenth-century Old World faced comparable local shortages of land-intensive products, shortages…


Book cover of China Made: Consumer Culture and the Creation of the Nation

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

From my list on understanding tea and other Chinese things.

Who am I?

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?

Gerth's sweeping research, eye for detail, and beautiful prose help us understand how the rejection of foreign commodities was critical to the creation of Chinese nationalism and state-building in the early twentieth century. Rather than reject consumer culture per se, the Government and businesses pushed the Chinese to consume only "Chinese" goods. This nationalistic consumer culture was built though with the same tools we find in the West--advertising, exhibitions, and fashion. Chinese consumer culture can be seen then as both global and local.

By Karl Gerth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Chinese people should consume Chinese products!" This slogan was the catchphrase of a movement in early twentieth-century China that sought to link consumption and nationalism by instilling a concept of China as a modern "nation" with its own "national products." From fashions in clothing to food additives, from museums to department stores, from product fairs to advertising, this movement influenced all aspects of China's burgeoning consumer culture. Anti-imperialist boycotts, commemorations of national humiliations, exhibitions of Chinese products, the vilification of treasonous consumers, and the promotion of Chinese captains of industry helped enforce nationalistic consumption and spread the message-patriotic Chinese bought…


Book cover of The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power

Warren I. Cohen Author Of East Asia at the Center: Four Thousand Years of Engagement with the World

From my list on understanding the coming war with China.

Who am I?

I’ve spent all of my adult life writing about American foreign policy, especially Chinese-American relations.  My America’s Response to China, the standard text on the subject, has gone through 6 editions. I served as a line officer in the Pacific Fleet, lived in Taipei and Beijing. I also served as chairman of the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation and have been a consultant on Chinese affairs to various government organizations. And I cook the best mapo toufu outside of Sichuan. (where I negotiated the Michigan-Sichuan sister-state relationship in 1982). It was probably my love of Chinese food that accounts for most of the above.

Warren's book list on understanding the coming war with China

Warren I. Cohen Why did Warren love this book?

Tom was a deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the administration of George W. Bush. After many years at Princeton, he now heads the East Asian Institute at Columbia.

I selected him to be the chief editor of the Nancy Bernkopf Tucker and Warren I. Cohen Books on American-East Asian Relations series published by Columbia University Press. He’s written a scholarly and exceptionally thought and balanced book, highly critical of the Obama administration’s public diplomacy, especially the rolling out of the “pivot”. 

By Thomas J. Christensen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Many see China's rise as a threat to US leadership in Asia and beyond. Thomas J. Christensen argues instead that the real challenge lies in dissuading China from regional aggression while eliciting its global cooperation. Drawing on decades of scholarship and experience as a senior diplomat, Christensen offers a deep perspective on China's military and economic capacity. Assessing China's political outlook and strategic goals, Christensen shows how nationalism and the threat of domestic instability influence the party's decisions about regional and global affairs. Articulating a balanced strategic approach along with perceptive historical analysis, Christensen describes how we might shape China's…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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