100 books like The World of Suzie Wong

By Richard Mason,

Here are 100 books that The World of Suzie Wong fans have personally recommended if you like The World of Suzie Wong. 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 Tale of Kieu: Truyen Kieu

Patrick Holland Author Of The Darkest Little Room

From my list on prostitution and prostitutes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Prostitution is a thing one has to go looking for to get even a glimpse of in Australia. Since I first travelled, I realised how aberrant this is, and I became fascinated with the implications of making what for many of us is sacred into something transactional. Prostitution, certainly in Asia, where its relationship with ‘normal’ society is more complex than in the West, and where great economic disparity can mean it is a thing that may be both enslaving and freeing, is a fascinating subject for fiction, and one my work has often taken up.

Patrick's book list on prostitution and prostitutes

Patrick Holland Why did Patrick love this book?

The Tale of Kieu is an early 19th Century epic poem and the cornerstone of Vietnamese literature. Adapted from a 17th Century Chinese novel, it is the story of a beautiful, well-to-do young woman forced into prostitution to save her family from destitution in a time of great government corruption and civil unrest. The poem is so revered in Vietnam that there is a popular branch of fortune-telling that uses it for predictions, and Kieu’s sacrifice is seen as mirroring the sacrifices Vietnamese have made in times of war and hardship, even across the centuries before the poem was written. The poem is bejewelled with beautiful lines, and presents a unique depiction of a woman who retains her dignity despite the many who try to rob her of it.

By Nguyen Du,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Tale of Kieu is an epic poem in Vietnamese written by Nguyen Du (1766-1820), and is widely regarded as the most significant work of Vietnamese literature. In 3,254 verses, written in luc bat (6/8) meter, the poem recounts the life, trials and tribulations of Thuy Kieu, a beautiful and talented young woman, who had to sacrifice herself to save her family. To save her father and younger brother from prison, she sold herself into marriage with a middle-aged man, not knowing that he is a pimp, and was forced into prostitution.


Book cover of Boule de Suif: Maupassant

Patrick Holland Author Of The Darkest Little Room

From my list on prostitution and prostitutes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Prostitution is a thing one has to go looking for to get even a glimpse of in Australia. Since I first travelled, I realised how aberrant this is, and I became fascinated with the implications of making what for many of us is sacred into something transactional. Prostitution, certainly in Asia, where its relationship with ‘normal’ society is more complex than in the West, and where great economic disparity can mean it is a thing that may be both enslaving and freeing, is a fascinating subject for fiction, and one my work has often taken up.

Patrick's book list on prostitution and prostitutes

Patrick Holland Why did Patrick love this book?

Maupassant’s story takes its name from the chubby prostitute at its centre, nicknamed ‘Bowl of Fat’. At the time of Prussian occupation of France, a group of petty bourgeoisie, upper bourgeoisie, noble and religious people encourage her to offer herself to a Prussian officer in return for the freedom to travel through an occupied town to Le Havre. Through this short novel, Maupassant reveals the hypocrisy and moral poverty of those who sit in the layers of society above such outcasts as ‘Boule de suif’ and, by contrast, both the moral solidity and even innocence of the ‘fallen woman’ herself.

By Guy de Maupassant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Boule de Suif as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Henry-René-Albert-Guy de Maupassant est un écrivain et journaliste littéraire français né le 5 août 1850 au château de Miromesnil à Tourville-sur-Arques (Seine-Inférieure) et mort le 6 juillet 1893 à Paris.Lié à Gustave Flaubert et à Émile Zola, Maupassant a marqué la littérature française par ses six romans, dont Une vie en 1883, Bel-Ami en 1885, Pierre et Jean en 1887-1888, et surtout par ses nouvelles (parfois intitulées contes) comme Boule de suif en 1880, les Contes de la bécasse (1883) ou Le Horla (1887). Ces œuvres retiennent l’attention par leur force réaliste, la présence importante du fantastique et par le…


Book cover of House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories

Olivia Gatwood Author Of Life of the Party: Poems

From my list on poets who want to write fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing poetry for most of my life and only recently began a real crash course in fiction with my first novel. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but not for the reasons I thought. In poetry, you learn to locate meaning, but you don’t learn narrative structure. Who knew being an existential genius was easier than finishing a sentence? Once I started studying literature that I felt embodied both, I was able to visualize how my poetic voice wasn’t just applicable, but useful, in the world of fiction.

Olivia's book list on poets who want to write fiction

Olivia Gatwood Why did Olivia love this book?

Novellas are a perfect place to start for poets who are interested in writing longer, more narrative work. They’re slim, lyrical, and less daunting. I read this novella in college & haven’t stopped thinking about it since. It takes place in what I can only refer to as a “Sleeping Brothel” where elderly men pay to sleep beside young women. The story is haunting, but it doesn’t take cheap horror shots. Instead, it delves into the complexity of loneliness, the shared vulnerability of sleep, and the human need for comfort.

By Yasunari Kawabata,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three surreal, erotically charged stories from Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata.
 
In the three long tales in this collection, Yasunari Kawabata examines the boundaries between fantasy and reality in the minds of three lonely men. Piercing examinations of sexuality and human psychology—and works of remarkable subtlety and beauty—these stories showcase one of the twentieth century’s great writers—in any language—at his very best.


Book cover of On the City Wall

Patrick Holland Author Of The Darkest Little Room

From my list on prostitution and prostitutes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Prostitution is a thing one has to go looking for to get even a glimpse of in Australia. Since I first travelled, I realised how aberrant this is, and I became fascinated with the implications of making what for many of us is sacred into something transactional. Prostitution, certainly in Asia, where its relationship with ‘normal’ society is more complex than in the West, and where great economic disparity can mean it is a thing that may be both enslaving and freeing, is a fascinating subject for fiction, and one my work has often taken up.

Patrick's book list on prostitution and prostitutes

Patrick Holland Why did Patrick love this book?

I’m cheating a little here, as technically Kipling’s On the City Wall is a long story rather than a book itself, though I notice it’s recently been published as a standalone, and can be found in both Kipling’s Collected Stories and the original collection it appeared in, Soldiers Three. The story concerns a beautiful Punjabi courtesan called Lalun who welcomes ‘guests’ from all strata of society to her house on the ancient city wall of Lahore. Unlike the commonly depicted ‘fallen woman’, Lalun is a woman of significant wealth, great influence, and, especially, power over men. The story is full of wonderful comic ironies, lavish descriptions of a historical city, and the relationship at the heart of it, between Lalun and a fawning British official, is an enthralling study of matters romantic, spiritual and political.

By Rudyard Kipling,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On the City Wall is a short story by Rudyard Kipling. Joseph Rudyard Kipling (30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936 was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He wrote tales and poems of British soldiers in India and stories for children. He was born in Bombay, in the Bombay Presidency of British India, and was taken by his family to England when he was five years old. Kipling's works of fiction include The Jungle Book (a collection of stories which includes "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"), the Just So Stories (1902), Kim (1901), and many short stories, including "The Man Who Would…


Book cover of The Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai

Tom Carter Author Of Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China

From my list on Chinese prostitution and vice.

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. Since then, I have published three books about China; my anthology Unsavory Elements was intended as a well-meaning tribute to the expatriate experience, however my own essay – a bawdy account of a visit to a rural brothel – was understandably demonized. The following five books expand on that illicit theme.

Tom's book list on Chinese prostitution and vice

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

Starting out as a serial in an 1890s Shanghainese magazine, yet remaining unpublished until 2005 following the discovery of its English translation among the belongings of the late Eileen Chang, The Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai is an unparalleled historical classic set in the pleasure quarters of the Qing Dynasty. Unlike the hyper-erotic writings of Li Yu and Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng, the author, Bangqing Han, opted for a tempered realism unique for its period. Clocking in at 600 pages, and densely layered with multiple character arcs that are a bit difficult to keep track of, Sing-Song Girls may require more than one reading.

By Bangqing Han,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Desire, virtue, courtesans (also known as sing-song girls), and the denizens of Shanghai's pleasure quarters are just some of the elements that constitute Han Bangqing's extraordinary novel of late imperial China. Han's richly textured, panoramic view of late-nineteenth-century Shanghai follows a range of characters from beautiful sing-song girls to lower-class prostitutes and from men in positions of social authority to criminals and ambitious young men recently arrived from the country. Considered one of the greatest works of Chinese fiction, The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai is now available for the first time in English. Neither sentimental nor sensationalistic in its portrayal…


Book cover of Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Postsocialist China

Tom Carter Author Of Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China

From my list on Chinese prostitution and vice.

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. Since then, I have published three books about China; my anthology Unsavory Elements was intended as a well-meaning tribute to the expatriate experience, however my own essay – a bawdy account of a visit to a rural brothel – was understandably demonized. The following five books expand on that illicit theme.

Tom's book list on Chinese prostitution and vice

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

Whilst studying in the U.S. in the early-2000s, Tiantian Zheng decided to return to her home city of Dalian, in northeast China, to embed herself for over two years with sex workers at local karaoke parlors. There, she witnessed, and at times personally endured, all manner of customer abuse, police crackdowns, government corruption, and catty relationships between hostesses, while somehow managing to keep copious secret notes for her ethnographic fieldwork (which eventually became Red Lights). It is an eye-opening but purely academic text, not a mass-market page-turner, which will primarily be of interest only to those of us researching socioeconomic conditions in China.

By Tiantian Zheng,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In China today, sex work cannot be untangled from the phenomenon of rural-urban migration, the entertainment industry, and state power. In Red Lights, Tiantian Zheng highlights the urban karaoke bar as the locus at which these three factors intersect and provides a rich account of the lives of karaoke hostesses-a career whose name disguises the sex work and minimizes the surprising influence these women often have as power brokers.

Zheng embarked on two years of intensely embedded ethnographic fieldwork in her birthplace, Dalian, a large northeastern Chinese seaport of over six million people. During this time, Zheng lived and worked…


Book cover of Northern Girls: Life Goes On

Margaret Hillenbrand Author Of On the Edge: Feeling Precarious in China

From my list on the cultural lives of China’s migrant workers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of Chinese studies, and I’m especially interested in what the close study of culture can reveal about aspects of contemporary Chinese life that are usually dominated by the perspectives of historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists. I’m fascinated not so much by how cultural practices reflect social change but by how they sometimes make it happen, particularly in societies where overt political action is blocked. As my book picks show, I’m intrigued by the inventiveness and drive of people who create culture, often new forms of culture, under conditions of oppression, exploitation, and duress.

Margaret's book list on the cultural lives of China’s migrant workers

Margaret Hillenbrand Why did Margaret love this book?

I really enjoyed this bracing and saucy novel as a cheery counterpoint to the many much bleaker artistic works about migrant life. It charts the life and times of the young women who journeyed to the economic heartlands of South China in search of work during the 1990s and early 2000s.

The protagonist is Xiaohong, a young woman so mesmerizingly voluptuous that everyone in the novel, from its narrator down to the most incidental character, is hopelessly distracted by her bosom. At times, I did find this metaphor for personal capital in a precarious era a bit overblown.

But as Xiaohong moves from job to job – hair salon, toy factory, hotel, hospital – I realized that the fixation with her body is a way of marking both her vulnerability and her resilience as a woman on the move, if not necessarily on the up, in a society that has…

By Sheng Keyi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Qian Xiaohong is born in a sleepy Hunan village, where the new China rush toward development is a distant rumor. A buxom, naïve 16-year-old, she joins the mass migration to the boomtown of Shenzhen where she navigates dangerous encounters with ruthless bosses, jealous wives, sympathetic hookers and corrupt policemen. Moving through a grinding succession of dead end jobs, Xiaohong finds solace in her close ties with her fellow "northern girls," who quickly learn to rely on each other for humor and the enjoyment of life's simple pleasures. This coming-of-age novel explores the inner lives of a generation of young, rural…


Book cover of Whispers and Moans: Interviews with the Men and Women of Hong Kong's Sex Industry

Tom Carter Author Of Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China

From my list on Chinese prostitution and vice.

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. Since then, I have published three books about China; my anthology Unsavory Elements was intended as a well-meaning tribute to the expatriate experience, however my own essay – a bawdy account of a visit to a rural brothel – was understandably demonized. The following five books expand on that illicit theme.

Tom's book list on Chinese prostitution and vice

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

The definitive sociological examination of prostitution in contemporary Hong Kong, Yeeshan Yang spent one year – out of plain curiosity – alongside the city’s sex workers, listening to their stories of how they arrived there, how they spend their days/nights, and what becomes of them when they leave the trade. These humanizing case studies provide separate yet occasionally intersecting profiles of female streetwalkers and club hostesses, as well as male prossies and pimps, and their sometimes sad, sometimes funny, tales of the world’s oldest profession in the Orient. Whispers and Moans was also adapted (by Yang) into a 2007 film by the famed Cat-III Hong Kong director Herman Yau.

By Yeeshan Yang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With glitzy nightclubs, saunas, karaoke lounges and brothels, Hong Kong's sex business is booming. But how do local prostitutes compete with an endless supply of girls from China? To find out, Yang spent a year with the city's hookers. The result is an eye-opening book which shows the human side of sex for sale - easy money, financial ruin and hopeless relationships - and first-hand insights into the huge but hidden sex industry.


Book cover of Noble House

Stephen Allten Brown Author Of Stealing Picasso

From my list on taking you to unexpected places.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved history and art. Combining the two makes perfect sense and provides the inspiration to keep writing. I can spend hours in a museum, just soaking up the magic in Impressionist paintings. I never get tired of researching the artists or their paintings, and I relish the unexpected discoveries. 

Stephen's book list on taking you to unexpected places

Stephen Allten Brown Why did Stephen love this book?

Incredible character development, fascinating history, and a story that takes place in one week, yet has enough action and details to fill several years. [This book is what inspired me to incorporate dates and/or times/locations in my chapter headings.] The story is set in Hong Kong in the early 1960s and the author’s understanding of the culture clash between the British who think they are in control and the Chinese who are using them, while making plans for their inevitable exit.

By James Clavell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Taking place over the course of an eventful week in 1963 Hong Kong, James Clavell’s Noble House is a masterfully woven novel of true suspense.

Ian Dunross, the current tai-pan of the illustrious yet financially troubled Struan empire, is racing to undo the damage his predecessor left behind and to once again stand on stable ground. And he’ll do whatever it takes—including striking a hard-fought deal with an American millionaire. But his rival, Quillan Gornt, has other plans. Suddenly caught in a dubious plot involving Soviet spies, Hong Kong’s criminal underground, and the hostile takeover of his company, Dunross holds…


Book cover of The Master of Rain

Joe Kilgore Author Of Misfortune’s Wake

From my list on expat adventures.

Why am I passionate about this?

In a previous career, I traveled extensively to many parts of the world. I always found new cultures, old traditions, strange languages, and exotic environments fascinating. Perhaps even more fascinating, were the expats I found who had traded in their home country for an existence far from where they were born and different from how they were reared. In many instances, I’ve attempted to incorporate—in Heinlein’s words—this stranger in a strange land motif in my work. It always seems to heighten my interest. I hope the reader’s as well. 

Joe's book list on expat adventures

Joe Kilgore Why did Joe love this book?

The setting is Shanghai, China in 1926. A mysterious city full of expatriates. One of the most beautiful is Natasha Medvedev, a former aristocrat in Russia who fled the revolution and now finds herself in the circle of a notorious drug lord. Her neighbor is murdered and suddenly she’s dealing with expats in the local police force like Caprisi, a tough Chicago cop, and a young Englishman named Fields who will fall in love with her, putting both in peril. This is a mystery, a love story, and perhaps most of all, a fresco of words illuminating a place and time that will be forever engraved in the reader’s memory.

By Tom Bradby,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shanghai, 1926: a sultry city lousy with opium, warlords, and corruption at the highest levels. Into this steamy morass walks Richard Field, an idealistic Brit haunted by his past and recently appointed to the international police. He’s not there long before called to the flat of a Russian prostitute, former daughter of privilege found sadistically murdered, handcuffed to her bed. When he discovers among her possessions a cryptic shipping log, he senses that this murder is more than a random crime of perverse passion. What unfolds is a searing story that propels Field into a confrontation with the city’s most…


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Interested in China, prostitutes, and painters?

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