10 books like Useful Phrases for Immigrants

By May-Lee Chai,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Useful Phrases for Immigrants. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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A House Is a Body

By Shruti Swamy,

Book cover of A House Is a Body: Stories

Charlie Jane Anders Author Of Even Greater Mistakes

From the list on short stories that could change your life.

Who am I?

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which Time Magazine listed as one of the hundred best fantasy novels of all time. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night, Victories Greater than Death, and Never Say You Can't Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories. She organizes the long-running spoken word series Writers With Drinks, helps to organize tours of local bookstores, and also co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, Conjunctions, Wired Magazine, Slate, and the Boston Review.

Charlie's book list on short stories that could change your life

Discover why each book is one of Charlie's favorite books.

Why did Charlie love this book?

A really great short story collection can sweep you off your feet and take you to a lot of different places, in a way that novels can't quite manage. And Swamy's debut collection is haunting in the best possible way. These dreamlike stories feature characters who are lost and dislocated, carried along by other people's desires, and the best of them have something to say about art as well as relationships. In one story, an artist who is descending into alcoholism gets into a relationship with the god Krishna, and in another, a "laughter artist" has perfected her laughter to the point where all laughter seems artificial. Swamy conveys the feeling of being lost but seen, in a really beautiful, arresting way.

By Shruti Swamy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A House Is a Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In "A Simple Composition," a husband's professional crisis leads to his wife's discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy. And in the title story, an exhausted mother watches, hypnotised by fear, as a California wildfire approaches her home. Immersive and assured, provocative and probing, these are stories written with the edge and precision of a knife blade. Set in the United States and India, they reveal small but intense moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.


Get in Trouble

By Kelly Link,

Book cover of Get in Trouble: Stories

S.G. Browne Author Of Lost Creatures: Stories

From the list on genre-bending literary short story collections.

Who am I?

I’ve always enjoyed short story collections. Starting with Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, I became a fan of the short form. And as a burgeoning writer, writing short stories was the best way for me to learn the craft of storytelling. While I started out writing supernatural horror, I gradually found myself combining horror, fantasy, and science fiction with dark comedy and social satire, creating a blend of genres. Several of the short story collections I recommend here were instrumental in my evolution as a short story writer and inspired a number of the stories in my latest collection, Lost Creatures.

S.G.'s book list on genre-bending literary short story collections

Discover why each book is one of S.G.'s favorite books.

Why did S.G. love this book?

I love reading novels and stories that make me wish I’d written them, and this collection by Kelly Link made me wish that time and time again. This book also introduced me to the concept of fabulism, a form of magical realism where elements of the fantastic occur in everyday settings, which is something I find compelling both as a reader and as a writer. Link combines humor, fantasy, magical realism, and more than a touch of horror to create a collection of stories that is unique, weird, and wonderful. 

By Kelly Link,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fantastic, fantastical and utterly incomparable, Kelly Link's new collection explores everything from the essence of ghosts to the nature of love. And hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the pyramids . . .

With each story she weaves, Link takes readers deep into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed universe. Strange, dark and wry, Get in Trouble reveals Kelly Link at the height of her creative powers and stretches the boundaries of what fiction can do.


Homesick

By Nino Cipri,

Book cover of Homesick: Stories

Charlie Jane Anders Author Of Even Greater Mistakes

From the list on short stories that could change your life.

Who am I?

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which Time Magazine listed as one of the hundred best fantasy novels of all time. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night, Victories Greater than Death, and Never Say You Can't Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories. She organizes the long-running spoken word series Writers With Drinks, helps to organize tours of local bookstores, and also co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, Conjunctions, Wired Magazine, Slate, and the Boston Review.

Charlie's book list on short stories that could change your life

Discover why each book is one of Charlie's favorite books.

Why did Charlie love this book?

This book of speculative short fiction includes some of the best queer representation I've seen in ages. "A Silly Love Story" includes a gender-fluid character named Merion, and "Before We Disperse Like Star Stuff" includes a trans grad student named Min. Cipri manages to combine the surreal and illogical with a pervasive sense of warmth and humanity, which is a nearly impossible feat, and they make it look easy. Each story will leave you wondering what happens next, but the characters will also live on in your imagination long after you've turned the page.

By Nino Cipri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shirley Jackson Award finalist

World Fantasy Award finalist

Dark, irreverent, and truly innovative, the speculative stories in Homesick meditate on the theme of home and our estrangement from it, and what happens when the familiar suddenly shifts into the uncanny. In stories that foreground queer relationships and transgender or nonbinary characters, Cipri delivers the origin story for a superhero team comprised of murdered girls; a housecleaner discovering an impossible ocean in her least-favorite clients' house; a man haunted by keys that appear suddenly in his throat; and a team of scientists and activists discovering the remains of a long-extinct species…


Never Have I Ever

By Isabel Yap,

Book cover of Never Have I Ever: Stories

Charlie Jane Anders Author Of Even Greater Mistakes

From the list on short stories that could change your life.

Who am I?

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which Time Magazine listed as one of the hundred best fantasy novels of all time. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night, Victories Greater than Death, and Never Say You Can't Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories. She organizes the long-running spoken word series Writers With Drinks, helps to organize tours of local bookstores, and also co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, Conjunctions, Wired Magazine, Slate, and the Boston Review.

Charlie's book list on short stories that could change your life

Discover why each book is one of Charlie's favorite books.

Why did Charlie love this book?

Yap's debut collection is full of brilliant moments and haunting images. She wraps together Filipino folklore with characters who are endlessly rich and fascinating, and the result is sometimes terrifying, sometimes weird and unsettling, and always gorgeous. This book will leave you feeling as if uncanny worlds are waiting for you to discover them, just out of view. Many of these stories go to dark places, but then you stumble on a sweet tale like "A Spell For Foolish Hearts," involving a gay magician, a love potion, and a complicated relationship. You'll wish you could read this book for the first time more than once.

By Isabel Yap,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never Have I Ever as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Am I dead?" Mebuyen sighs.
She was hoping the girl would not ask.

Spells and stories, urban legends and immigrant tales: the magic in Isabel Yap's debut collection jumps right off the page, from the joy in her new novella, "A Spell for Foolish Hearts" to the terrifying tension of the urban legend "Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez."


Shanghai Homes

By Jie Li,

Book cover of Shanghai Homes: Palimpsests of Private Life

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom Author Of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink

From the list on twentieth-century Shanghai.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by history since I spent a year in Britain as a ten-year-old. I became hooked on novels set in ancient Greece and Rome and found it incredibly exotic to walk through old buildings and imagine the lives of the people who had walked through those same doors. In college, I began studying history in earnest and grew intrigued by China, especially Chinese cities during periods of upheaval and transformation. My first passion was Shanghai history, and I spent time there in the mid-1980s before the soaring Pudong skyscrapers that are now among its most iconic structures were built. I have since shifted my attention to Hong Kong, a city I had enjoyed visiting for decades but had not written about until after I completed my last book on Shanghai. My fascination with cities that are in China but enmeshed in global processes and are sites of protest has been a constant.

Jeffrey's book list on twentieth-century Shanghai

Discover why each book is one of Jeffrey's favorite books.

Why did Jeffrey love this book?

At this point in a list, it isn’t bad to note connections between works, so I’ll begin with those. This is the only book other than Champions Day that is by an academic, but Li, like Carter, is one who knows how to write for general audiences in a compelling and accessible way. Hers is another book, like Zia’s, that is partly an effort to reconstruct the history of the author’s own family, as key figures in this author’s reconstruction of the changing (and enduring) rhythms of life in a Shanghai neighborhood in the 1950s and beyond are relatives she interviewed. There is also a tie to Lynn Pan’s work, in the sense that Li has moved between different parts of the world in her life. All this said, Shanghai Homes is a unique work that reminds me of the best ethnographically minded studies of connections between people and patterns…

By Jie Li,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the dazzling global metropolis of Shanghai, what has it meant to call this city home? In this account-part microhistory, part memoir-Jie Li salvages intimate recollections by successive generations of inhabitants of two vibrant, culturally mixed Shanghai alleyways from the Republican, Maoist, and post-Mao eras. Exploring three dimensions of private life-territories, artifacts, and gossip-Li re-creates the sounds, smells, look, and feel of home over a tumultuous century. First built by British and Japanese companies in 1915 and 1927, the two homes at the center of this narrative were located in an industrial part of the former "International Settlement." Before their…


Book cover of The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World

Dori Jones Yang Author Of When the Red Gates Opened: A Memoir of China's Reawakening

From the list on China today.

Who am I?

A Seattle-based author, I have written eight books, including When the Red Gates Opened: A Memoir of China’s Reawakening, about the eight years I spent as Business Week’s reporter covering China, 1982-1990. In it, I give readers an inside look at China’s transformation from Maoism to modernity. A fluent speaker of Mandarin, I have traveled widely in China for over forty years and befriended Chinese people at many levels of society, leading me to a strong belief in the importance of direct cross-cultural communication and deepened mutual understanding.

Dori's book list on China today

Discover why each book is one of Dori's favorite books.

Why did Dori love this book?

I’m not fond of the title, but I like this book because it exposes us readers to a little-known population: China’s poor migrant workers. During many visits over ten years, Bloomberg BusinessWeek Beijing correspondent Tiff Roberts befriended a rural family in impoverished Guizhou Province and their relatives who had found industrial jobs in modern Guangdong. His unusual access lets readers understand a key weakness of modern China: the discontent of those not able to prosper during these decades of modernization.

By Dexter Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The untold story of how restrictive policies are preventing China from becoming the world’s largest economy

Dexter Roberts lived in Beijing for two decades working as a reporter on economics, business and politics for Bloomberg Businessweek. In The Myth of Chinese Capitalism, Roberts explores the reality behind today’s financially-ascendant China and pulls the curtain back on how the Chinese manufacturing machine is actually powered.

He focuses on two places: the village of Binghuacun in the province of Guizhou, one of China’s poorest regions that sends the highest proportion of its youth away to become migrants; and Dongguan, China’s most infamous…


Oil and Water

By Tom Cliff,

Book cover of Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang

Nick Holdstock Author Of China's Forgotten People: Xinjiang, Terror and the Chinese State

From the list on the concentration camps in Xinjiang.

Who am I?

I was living in Xinjiang on 9/11 and got to witness the swiftness with which the state imposed strict regulations that harmed the Uyghur community. For me, this was an indelible lesson in the abuses of power and authority on people who just wanted to work, raise families, and enjoy their lives. Since then I’ve tried to raise awareness, first in my memoir, The Tree That Bleeds, then in my journalism. I hope my work helps people think about how to respond as both politically engaged citizens and consumers to one of the worst human rights violations of the 21st century.

Nick's book list on the concentration camps in Xinjiang

Discover why each book is one of Nick's favorite books.

Why did Nick love this book?

Since 1949 the demographics of Xinjiang have been altered radically by waves of migration of Han Chinese, initially with the paramilitary bingtuan organisation, but in recent decades by economic migrants. Cliff’s book is an important reminder of how their presence functions in a neo-colonial fashion, and the influence that their needs and concerns have on official policy in the region – which to put it simplistically, is to keep them happy. Though he emphasises that Han in Xinjiang are far from a homogenous social group – something that often gets forgotten or obscured – the common viewpoints and concerns that emerge from his interviews are a sobering reminder of the difficulties in finding common ground between Han and Uyghur in the region.

By Tom Cliff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For decades, China's Xinjiang region has been the site of clashes between long-residing Uyghur and Han settlers. Up until now, much scholarly attention has been paid to state actions and the Uyghur's efforts to resist cultural and economic repression. This has left the other half of the puzzle-the motivations and ambitions of Han settlers themselves-sorely understudied.

With Oil and Water, anthropologist Tom Cliff offers the first ethnographic study of Han in Xinjiang, using in-depth vignettes, oral histories, and more than fifty original photographs to explore how and why they became the people they are now. By shifting focus to the…


Home Is Not Here

By Wang Gungwu,

Book cover of Home Is Not Here

Brantly Womack Author Of China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry

From the list on China perspectives.

Who am I?

Where you sit determines what you see. China is complex, and so it pays to move around and view it from as many perspectives as possible. My view of China is formed by visits to all of its 31 provinces and to most of its neighbors.  A professor of foreign affairs at the University of Virginia, I have taught and written about Chinese politics for the past forty years, and I have worked with Chinese universities and scholars. This list suggests some excellent books presenting different vantage points on China’s past and present.

Brantly's book list on China perspectives

Discover why each book is one of Brantly's favorite books.

Why did Brantly love this book?

Home is Not Here is a touching autobiographical account of a past Chinese world completely different in time and place from that of Hessler’s explorations. In the first half of the twentieth century millions of Chinese left China and migrated to Southeast Asia, including Wang’s parents. Wang traces their struggles to maintain their Chinese identity as minorities in different cultures. In telling his family’s story he gives a vivid picture of the upheavals and tribulations of both China and Southeast Asia in a troubled era. Wang Gungwu is my favorite historian of China, and author of many books on the grand sweep of Chinese history, but here we see China’s and Asia’s most turbulent era from a personal perspective.

By Wang Gungwu,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Home Is Not Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Asia's most important public intellectuals, Wang Gungwu is best-known for his explorations of Chinese history in the long view, and for his writings on the Chinese overseas. Here the historian of grand themes turns to the intimate scale of a single life history: his own.

"As someone who has studied history for much of my life, I have found the past fascinating. But it has always been some grand and even intimidating universe that I wanted to unpick and explain to myself.... While we talk grandly of the importance of history, we can be insensitive to what people…


Lives of the Family

By Denise Chong,

Book cover of Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate & Circumstance

Alison R. Marshall Author Of The Way of the Bachelor: Early Chinese Settlement in Manitoba

From the list on to reimagine Chinatown.

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by Chinese culture. My great uncle owned an import-export shop in 1920s Montreal and many of the things in his shop decorated my family home. An aunt who worked in Toronto’s Chinatown took me to see a Chinese opera performance and this began my journey to understand Chinese thought and culture first with an MA in Chinese poetry and then with a Ph.D. in East Asian Studies. After I learned that Sun Yatsen had visited Manitoba, where I had moved for work, my attention turned to Chinese nationalism. More than 15 years later, my research and work on KMT culture continues.

Alison's book list on to reimagine Chinatown

Discover why each book is one of Alison's favorite books.

Why did Alison love this book?

Denise Chong explores a similar period of Chinese Canadian history in Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate & Circumstance. Similar to my own book, Lives of the Family looks beyond Vancouver and British Columbia Chinatowns to tell the story of Chinese Canadian migrants, whose lives straddled continents, who ran successful businesses, and were involved with the KMT. 

By Denise Chong,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

International bestselling author of The Concubine's Children, Denise Chong returns to the subject of her most beloved book, the lives and times of Canada's early Chinese families.
     In 2011, Denise Chong set out to collect the history of the earliest Chinese settlers in and around Ottawa, who made their homes far from any major Chinatown. Many would open cafes, establishments that once dotted the landscape across the country and were a monument to small-town Canada. This generation of Chinese immigrants lived at the intersection of the Exclusion Act in Canada, which divided families between here and China, and 2 momentous…


China's Good War

By Rana Mitter,

Book cover of China's Good War: How World War II Is Shaping a New Nationalism

Sylvia Vetta Author Of Brushstrokes in Time

From the list on the heart and soul of China.

Who am I?

I studied modern Chinese history so, when Qu Leilei told me the story of the Stars Art Movement, I couldn’t understand why I hadn't heard their courageous story. I spent three years interviewing Qu Leilei, researching and visiting China with him before writing the Stars story as a historical novel. I am a freelance writer, author, and speaker.

Sylvia's book list on the heart and soul of China

Discover why each book is one of Sylvia's favorite books.

Why did Sylvia love this book?

I am disturbed by what is happening in Hong Kong and Xinjiang but it’s important to take a long and balanced view if we want to influence China. Chinese dynasties harbour long memories including the humiliation of the Opium Wars and the sacking of the Imperial Summer Palace by colonial powers and the atrocities committed by Japan in WW2 in China. If we start by empathising with this shared but forgotten history of China in WW2, maybe we can help swing the pendulum to one that respects the diversity that is needed in both East and West.

By Rana Mitter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Chinese leaders once tried to suppress memories of their nation's brutal experience during World War II. Now they celebrate the "victory"-a key foundation of China's rising nationalism.

For most of its history, the People's Republic of China limited public discussion of the war against Japan. It was an experience of victimization-and one that saw Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek fighting for the same goals. But now, as China grows more powerful, the meaning of the war is changing. Rana Mitter argues that China's reassessment of the World War II years is central to its newfound confidence abroad and to mounting…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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