The most recommended books about expats

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to expats, and here are their favorite expat books.
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Book cover of The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet

Tom Carter Author Of An American Bum in China: Featuring the bumblingly brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans

From my list on expats in China.

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, with two specifically focusing on the expatriate experience. This quirky yet timeless subgenre is my guilty pleasure; the following are but five of five hundred I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on expats in China

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

Graham Earnshaw, who has resided in the Middle Kingdom for the past 40+ years (longer than any other living expat here today), has also been casually strolling from Shanghai due west toward Tibet over the past two decades. Fluent in Mandarin, his spontaneous conversations with local peasants he has encountered along the way make The Great Walk a delightfully pleasant and profoundly insightful read. Published in 2010 by a small Hong Kong indie press and tragically overlooked by most Sinophiles, I can’t recommend this enough to anyone seeking an upbeat, unpretentious narrative of a foreigner drifting among the Chinese.

By Graham Earnshaw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What kind of people would you meet if you decided to walk across the world's most populous country? The Great Walk of China is a journey into China's heartland, away from its surging coastal cities. Through surprisingly frank conversations with the people he meets along the way, the Chinese-speaking author paints a portrait of a nation struggling to come to terms with its newfound identity and its place in the world.


Book cover of The Mustachioed Woman of Shanghai

Tom Carter Author Of An American Bum in China: Featuring the bumblingly brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans

From my list on expats in China.

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, with two specifically focusing on the expatriate experience. This quirky yet timeless subgenre is my guilty pleasure; the following are but five of five hundred I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on expats in China

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

Decidedly contemporary China’s most provocative foreign writer, Isham Cook has spent the past decade in Beijing penning books about taboo subject matter that heretofore few expat authors have been willing to publicly reveal about their lives here. Specifically, prurience and libertine excess. I liken him as a reincarnated Edmund Backhouse with a hint of Henry Miller and a dash of de Sade. In his putative memoir The Mustachioed Woman of Shanghai, Cook reimagines himself as an Asian woman in order to psychoanalyze his past relationships with Chinese girlfriends whom he tormented with polyamory. If nothing else, read this for its sheer audacity.

By Isham Cook,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An erotic thriller of "ambitious, Faulknerian structure" (Kirkus Reviews)exposing what's really going on with relationships in China today.

It is the Shanghai of courtesans and concubines, danger and decadence, updated to 2020. American expat author Isham Cook has disappeared. His last known history is chronicled by an exotic woman who seems right out of 1930s Shanghai herself, Marguerite, a mustachioed Afghan-American who weaves Persian rugs and deals in psychedelics. As she tells it, Isham's story all began with Luna, a beguiling but troubled Chinese woman who happens to have a mustache herself. Also vying for Isham's affection is the charismatic…


Book cover of Foreign Devils in the Flowery Kingdom

Tom Carter Author Of An American Bum in China: Featuring the bumblingly brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans

From my list on expats in China.

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, with two specifically focusing on the expatriate experience. This quirky yet timeless subgenre is my guilty pleasure; the following are but five of five hundred I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on expats in China

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

Arguably Chinese history’s most romanticized foreign resident, Carl Crow is a sort of Gatsby-esque expatriate hailing from glamorous 1920s Shanghai. The dapper ad agency magnate (who was behind those now-iconic “haipai” Chinese calendar girls), penned 16 books about China, most notably Foreign Devils in the Flowery Kingdom. Rivaling The Great Gatsby in decadent cocktail parties, privileged bachelors on the prowl, and shameless colonialist classicism, Flowery focuses strictly on the ritzy lives of Shanghai’s Occidental aristocracy, with only a passing mention of the people whose world they inhabit. To contemporary readers, it may come across as offensively unwoke, but as a historical account of that era’s high society expatriates, it is fascinating.

By Carl Crow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Foreign Devils in the Flowery Kingdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1940, this is Carl Crow's entertaining autobiography, the story of his more than 25 years of adventures and success in Shanghai during the tumultuous early decades of the 20th century. This book is a tale of East meets West set in the wild and heady days of inter-war China. It is an account of how two cultures clashed, bickering over business deals and social norms as they tried to find a way to live with each other.


Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

Book cover of Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

Sam Baldwin Author Of Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an Englishman who fell in love with a 300-year-old former sausage curing hut on the side of a Slovenian mountain in 2007. After years of visits spent renovating the place, I moved to Slovenia, where I lived and worked for many years, exploring the country, customs, and culture, learning some of the language, and visiting its most beautiful places. I continue to be enamored with Slovenia, and you will regularly find me at my cabin, making repairs and splitting firewood.

Sam's book list on books about Slovenia

What is my book about?

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house, but what was meant as a pitstop becomes life-changing when he decides to stay. Along the way, he meets a colourful cross-section of Slovene society: from dormouse hunters, moonshine makers, beekeepers, and bitcoin miners, to a man who swam the Amazon, and a hilltop matriarch who…

Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

What is this book about?

'Charming, funny, insightful, and moving. The perfect book for any Slovenophile' - Noah Charney, BBC presenter

'A rollicking and very affectionate tour' - Steve Fallon, author of Lonely Planet Slovenia

'Delivers discovery and adventure...captivating!' - Bartosz Stefaniak, editor, 3 Seas Europe

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house but what was meant as…


Book cover of Snowball Oranges

Alice Leccese Powers Author Of Spain in Mind

From my list on ex-pat life in Spain.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am passionate about the written word and effective communication. My articles and reviews have been published in major newspapers and magazines and for two decades I taught writing on the university level. Travel writing is a subset of my experience as editor of the best-selling In Mind literary anthologies and editor and writer for more than a dozen guidebooks. In addition, I have been “first reader” and editor for prospective authors and shepherded several books to publication, the most recent Red Clay Suzie by first-time novelist Jeffrey Lofton (publication January 2023). 

Alice's book list on ex-pat life in Spain

Alice Leccese Powers Why did Alice love this book?

Snowball Oranges is by my Scottish friend Peter Kerr. Kerr and his wife left their home in East Lothian, Scotland, and moved to Majorca to grow oranges. Anyone familiar with the Peter Mayle/Frances Mayes genre can predict what happens to the Kerrs. They are buffaloed by the locals, battle the elements, and ultimately triumph—or not.

After three years in Majorca, the Kerrs returned to Scotland, but Spain left an enduring impression. “We were beginning to realize that the passage of time through the unhurried serenity of Majorcan country life was something to be marked by the slowly changing face of nature, not by the hands of a clock or the pages of a calendar.”

By Peter Kerr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

I could hardly believe my eyes. A cold mantle of white was rapidly transforming our sunny paradise into a bizarre winterscape of citrus Christmas trees, cotton wool palms and snowball oranges.

When the Kerr family leave Scotland to grow oranges in a secluded valley on the island of Mallorca they are surprised to be greeted by the same freezing weather they have left behind. Then they realise that their new orange farm is a bit of a lemon...

Laughter, finds Peter Kerr, is the best medicine when faced with a local dish of rats and the live-chicken-down-a-chimney technique of household…


Book cover of A Woman Unknown: Voices from a Spanish Life

Alice Leccese Powers Author Of Spain in Mind

From my list on ex-pat life in Spain.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am passionate about the written word and effective communication. My articles and reviews have been published in major newspapers and magazines and for two decades I taught writing on the university level. Travel writing is a subset of my experience as editor of the best-selling In Mind literary anthologies and editor and writer for more than a dozen guidebooks. In addition, I have been “first reader” and editor for prospective authors and shepherded several books to publication, the most recent Red Clay Suzie by first-time novelist Jeffrey Lofton (publication January 2023). 

Alice's book list on ex-pat life in Spain

Alice Leccese Powers Why did Alice love this book?

I love to read books about women travelers whose lives take an unusual path. Lucia Graves is the daughter of poet Robert Graves and his second wife. Her parents moved to Majorca after World War II, and their daughter—like many ex-pats—had to bridge the cultures between the land of her birth, England, and the land of her heart, Spain.

She was raised in a Bohemian household but educated in the strict Catholic schools of Franco’s Spain. Her book A Woman Unknown explores the sense of dislocation and disorientation of her bifurcated life. “I found myself creating an imaginary land where I spent much of my time.”

By Lucia Graves,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lucia Graves, daughter of the poet Robert Graves and his wife Beryl, grew up in the beautiful village of Deia on the island of Majorca. Neither Spanish nor Catholic by birth, she nevertheless absorbed the different traditions of Spain and felt the full impact of Franco's dictatorship through the experience of her education. Lucia found herself continually bridging the gaps between Catalan, Spanish and English, as she picked up the patterns and nuances that contain the essence of each culture.

Portraying her life as a child watching the hills lit up by bonfires on Good Friday, or, years later, walking…


Book cover of Understanding Healthcare: A historical perspective

Hunter N. Schultz Author Of Expat Health Guide: Five steps to securing outstanding expat healthcare

From my list on being an expat taught me to loathe America’s healthcare.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born and raised in the Chicago area, I worked in the automotive industry as a car salesperson and racing team manager, financial services as a Registered Representative, and a member of the Chicago Board Options Exchange. An expat in Panama since 2004, I worked in business development for several healthcare products and co-founded an air medical transport service. Over the last decade, I’ve represented two businesses delivering protective medical care to high-net-worth individuals where I learned care’s gold standard from former White House physicians. My research included the books I recommend here and inspired me to write the Expat Health Guide for current and future expats. 

Hunter's book list on being an expat taught me to loathe America’s healthcare

Hunter N. Schultz Why did Hunter love this book?

In my ongoing research into America’s dysfunctional healthcare system, Dr. Ken Fisher was a name I kept hearing. “Read his book,” said the MDs I trust. The roots of our current mess stretch back over one hundred years. Just after blood-letting was a thing. I didn’t know Otto Von Bismarck offered a nationalized healthcare plan for Germany. Though he failed, Prime Minister Lloyd George introduced the concept to England, and the NHS was born. Ken lays out the dominoes and how they fell into today’s American system. I learned how unleashing Health Savings Accounts enables a better system than the current employer-centered mess. I was thrilled Ken agreed to be a Winning Healthcare Food Fights podcast guest. 

By Kenneth A. Fisher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Freedom in Health Care, by Kenneth A. Fisher, MD. Feb. 2016, 154 pages plus tables, reading list, and footnotes. (ISBN: 9780997151114)
Dr. Fisher provides the reader an in-depth understanding of how we got into this controversial, overly expensive, exceedingly complex and bureaucratic healthcare system and ends with a comprehensive solution delivering the promise of personalized health care for all at far less cost.

This manuscript was written with a historical perspective so that the reader will gain a clear understanding of the misconceptions and accidents of history that have led to our present dysfunctional and contentious system of healthcare. To…


Book cover of The Age of Water

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?

This novel brings readers up close and personal with Hong Kong. Clarke is a young Englishman doing a banking stint in the fabled city. He lives a relatively sedate existence in his corporately antiseptic neighborhood. But one day he decides to get off his beaten path and winds up having his life changed dramatically. He becomes enamored with a shantytown prostitute, embroiled in the geopolitical struggle with Mainland China, and involved in a potential swindle of international proportions. In addition to spinning an interesting tale, Craft is also able to weave in the ticking time bomb of environmental hazards that plague the area without pious preaching and totally within the confines of the story he’s telling. 

By Sean Craft,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rivers had become toxic and the ocean shore is a sea of plastic: there's money to be made. But for Philip Clarke, handsome, clever, and decidedly available, that world seemed a distraction from an altogether different one, where the possibilities of pleasure overwrote the machinery of commerce.

Newly arrived in Hong Kong, his island world lay somewhere between the looming shadow of China, and its strange double downtown, where bankers and brokers breathed the same crowded air as a new breed of political activists. In his mind, he was thankfully immune from both.

But the tranquillity of his island home…


Book cover of The Expats

Andrea Barton Author Of The Godfather of Dance

From my list on mystery novels with a strong sense of place.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Australian but have lived in four other countries – England, Nigeria, USA, and Qatar – so I love reading about life overseas. How does the weather impact daily life, from what people wear to the available activities? How does culture influence behavior? Food, from what’s in the supermarket to the menus at local restaurants, can change the flavors and smells in homes and on the street. And what about alcohol? Does banning wine and spirits impact the vibe? (Hint: yes, it does!) These factors play out in my writing, and I love seeing how other authors portray place on the page. 

Andrea's book list on mystery novels with a strong sense of place

Andrea Barton Why did Andrea love this book?

Having lived as an expat for thirteen years, the title immediately grabbed me. I’ve since read all of Chris Pavone’s books.

Kate moved to Luxembourg for her husband’s job and is trying to settle into her role as a housewife, but a series of strange events make her wonder whether her past life in an unconventional career is catching up with her.

I related to Kate’s struggles of leaving a job she loved to focus on family, both the positives and negatives (minus the life-threatening danger). When I left my career, I started writing to create a portable job I could take with me as we traveled the world for my husband’s work, so I completely understood Kate’s need to find purpose in her life.

By Chris Pavone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Sunday Times and New York Times Bestseller

Winner of the Edgar and Anthony Awards for Best First Novel

'Bristling with suspense and elegantly crafted' Patricia Cornwell

'Smart, clever suspense, skilfully plotted, and a lot of fun to read' John Grisham

Kate Moore is an expat mum, newly transplanted from Washington D.C. In the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg, her days are filled with play dates and coffee mornings, her weekends spent in Paris or skiing in the Alps. Kate is also guarding a secret - one so momentous it could destroy her neat little expat life - and she suspects…


Book cover of Anywhere but Bordeaux! Adventures of an American Teacher in France

Jennifer Nelson Author Of Teaching with Heart: Lessons Learned in a Classroom

From my list on becoming a great teacher.

Why am I passionate about this?

For almost 20 years, I worked in public and private schools, first teaching with the Peace Corps in Niger and finally in a public high school in New Jersey. For a while, I didn’t feel I knew how to teach. I struggled to reach American teens. I thought they had attitude—and were nasty and lazy. I didn’t want to be in the classroom. But then matters turned around and I began to see how I could make a difference in their lives, enjoying the time I spent with them, and shaping them into decent, hardworking types. And, in the process, they all learned some French—and respected me.

Jennifer's book list on becoming a great teacher

Jennifer Nelson Why did Jennifer love this book?

I enjoyed reading about an American teacher who spends a year teaching in a middle school in France.

She brings her husband with her, leaving behind a stable, well-established life in America, and views this an adventure. The struggles she faces as she realizes that living in a foreign country is much less romantic than she anticipated. It made me remember how I too found it tough living overseas as I adjusted to new cultures and learned new langauges.

I appreciated how she compared American culture with the French one, and how she let me know about her friendships with colleagues at her new school. I related to how she mastered thriving in a foreign culture, embracing the unknown, and understanding that the mysteries she uncovered were magical.

By Jacqueline King Donnelly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anywhere but Bordeaux! Adventures of an American Teacher in France as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jacqueline Donnelly recounts with humor her ex-pat life teaching English in a middle school in Bordeaux, France. Hoping to escape her predictable American life in the States, she runs away in search of adventure and self-discovery.The story reveals daily life in France, and the encounters with wonderful and not so wonderful characters along the way.It is perfect reading for anyone tempted to run away and ideal for a book club.


Book cover of A Burnt-Out Case

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?

Graham Greene is considered by many to be the acknowledged master of expat tales. This is actually one of his lesser-known novels. It tells the story of Querry, an internationally famous architect suffering from terminal ennui. Life no longer holds meaning for him, or even pleasure. He takes a boat up river in Africa to its last stop, a leper village in the Congo. There, he attempts to lose himself by helping the indigenous afflicted, and in so doing begins to cure his own ills as well. But fate and the white community can’t let well enough alone. 

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Burnt-Out Case as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY GILES FODEN

Querry, a world famous architect, is the victim of a terrible attack of indifference: he no longer finds meaning in art or pleasure in life. Arriving anonymously at a Congo leper village, he is diagnosed as the mental equivalent of a 'burnt-out case', a leper mutilated by disease and amputation. Querry slowly moves towards a cure, his mind getting clearer as he works for the colony. However, in the heat of the tropics, no relationship with a married woman, will ever be taken as innocent...