24 books directly related to Taiwan 📚

All 24 Taiwan books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Formosa Moon

By Joshua Samuel Brown, Stephanie Huffman,

Book cover of Formosa Moon

Why this book?

Fun excursions around Taiwan told by the likable duo of Brown – a Taiwan long-timer and veteran travel writer – and Huffman, who is on her first trip to Asia. It’s a quirky travelogue packed with practical info, and with the pairing of new eyes and an old hand working beautifully. They both write with wit and affection for the country. Huffman’s observation that “Taiwan is never boring,” applies to the book. Memorable sections include a visit to the remote aboriginal village of Smangus, meeting various artists, an odd encounter with a fortune teller, and the auditory pleasures of living in “Dog Lane.” 

Formosa Moon

By Joshua Samuel Brown, Stephanie Huffman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Formosa Moon is a romantic, geeky cultural journey around Taiwan undertaken by a couple comprised of a seasoned guidebook writer intimately familiar with Asia and a first-time visitor who agreed to relocate sight unseen. Join the couple on their journey of discovery through Formosa, “The Beautiful Island”.


Book cover of Taiwanese Feet: My walk around Taiwan

Why this book?

A down-to-earth account of Canadian ex-pat John Groot’s circumnavigation, on foot and in stages, around the island’s entire 1,200 kilometers of coastline. Looking for a big adventure and also hoping to connect more deeply to the land and its people, he set off from his home in Danshui in late 2006. He walked on weekends and other days off, a total of 83 walking days spread out over eight years.

Groot’s epic trek is related with good humor, whether highlights like exploring the majestic East Coast, with its sea cliffs and soaring backdrop of mountains, or low points such as trudging through ugly west coast wastelands.

Taiwanese Feet: My walk around Taiwan

By John Groot,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Canadian John Groot’s walk around the entire coastline of Taiwan takes us through bustling cities, fishing ports, rural villages, military sites, and magnificent coastal scenery for a unique, intimate look at the country.

Groot first came to Taiwan in 2001, fell in love with the island and its friendly people, and decided to stay. Years later, looking for a big adventure and a way to forge deeper bonds to his adopted home, he set off on foot from Tamsui, traveling clockwise around the island on weekends and holidays, in what would turn out to be an eight-year trek.

Taiwanese Feet…


Book cover of Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts

Why this book?

Canadian Jessica Lee comes to Taiwan to unravel some family history (her grandfather, a pilot with the Flying Tigers, was part of the exodus to the island following the Nationalists’ defeat in China). A nature writer, Lee also investigates Taiwan’s beautiful mountain areas. The result is a well-written but sometimes odd mix of a family story and Taiwan’s plants. The country’s remarkable flora has too long been ignored in English-language works so it’s good to have it showcased, and by a capable writer. Two Trees Make a Forest is one of the most highly praised Taiwan titles of recent years.

Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts

By Jessica J. Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Two Trees Make a Forest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I have learned many words for 'island': isle, atoll, eyot, islet, or skerry. They exist in archipelagos or alone, and always, by definition, I have understood them by their relation to water. But the Chinese word for island knows nothing of water. For a civilisation grown inland from the sea, the vastness of mountains was a better analogue: (dao, 'island') built from the relationship between earth and sky.

Between tectonic plates and conflicting cultures, Taiwan is an island of extremes: high mountains, exposed flatlands, thick forests. After unearthing a hidden memoir of her grandfather's life, written on the cusp of…


Book cover of Through Formosa: An Account of Japan's Island Colony

Why this book?

A delightful travelogue based on a brief trip Rutter made in the spring of 1921, from Kaohsiung up the west coast to Taipei. At that time, Taiwan was a Japanese colony and largely closed to tourists, and Through Formosa a rare glimpse. Rutter was an English colonial administrator and rubber planter in Borneo, so as well as typical travel descriptions of transport, accommodation, and sights, we also get informed opinions on matters such as how the Japanese colonial government was developing agriculture and trying to assimilate the aborigines. 

Through Formosa: An Account of Japan's Island Colony

By Owen Rutter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Excerpt from Through Formosa

About the Publisher

Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books.

This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy. In rare cases, an imperfection in the original, such as a blemish or missing page, may be replicated in our edition. We do, however, repair the vast majority of imperfections successfully; any imperfections that remain are intentionally left to preserve the state of such historical works. This text has been…

Book cover of The Real Taiwan and the Dutch: Traveling Notes from the Netherlands Representative

Why this book?

An enjoyable read and a practical guide for those looking to explore Taiwan’s aboriginal cultures and the vestiges of Dutch rule on Taiwan in the seventeenth century. It’s a beautifully illustrated book containing hundreds of photographs and useful travel information. The focus is on getting off the beaten path, and the book details fascinating places not covered by other guidebooks, which is a testament to the two authors’ expert knowledge.

The Real Taiwan and the Dutch: Traveling Notes from the Netherlands Representative

By Menno Goedhart, Cheryl Robbins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Menno Goedhart was the Representative of The Netherlands for eight years. He traveled, together with tour guide Cheryl Robbins, to parts of Taiwan that most tourists do not see and met and befriended many indigenous people. This book contains a selection of fascinating places, with explanations on how to get there, where to stay, and what to eat. In the 17th century, Taiwan was occupied by Dutch East India Company forces. From their base in the southern city of Tainan, they explored the island, leaving behind many stories, some of which are also included in this book.

Heaven Lake

By John Dalton,

Book cover of Heaven Lake

Why this book?

Hard to beat for the quality of writing, this is a thoughtful coming-of-age story about faith, loneliness, and love, and also beautifully captures the early post-martial law years when Taiwan was newly rich and free for the very first time. It’s 1989 and recent college graduate Vincent arrives in small-town Taiwan to serve as a missionary. He’s approached with an offer to make some easy money; he just needs to go to Xinjiang in China’s far northwest and marry a woman and then bring his wife back to Taiwan. Vincent initially turns down the offer, but circumstances will see him change his mind.

Heaven Lake

By John Dalton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Vincent Saunders -- fresh out of college in the States -- arrives in Taiwan as a Christian volunteer and English teacher, he meets a wealthy Taiwanese businessman who wishes to marry a young woman living in China near Heaven Lake but is thwarted by political conflict. Mr. Gwa wonders: In exchange for money, will Vincent travel to China, take part in a counterfeit marriage, and bring the woman back to Taiwan for Gwa to marry legitimately? Believing that marriage is a sacrament, Vincent says no.
Soon, though, everything Vincent understands about himself and his vocation in Taiwan changes. A…

Book cover of Bu San Bu Si: A Taiwan Punk Tale

Why this book?

Readers looking for something different will enjoy this. There’s no history lesson here, no cultural tourism of night markets, martial arts, and temples, no Western protagonists finding their feet and getting a girl. Bu San Bu Si is a gritty journey into the underground music scene in Taipei. In electric prose, the novel follows the triumphs and more often the travails of Xiao Hei, the bass guitarist in a four-man band called Resistant Strain, “a bunch of nobodies in a scene full of more nobodies.” The talented young man’s work ethic doesn’t match his ambitions for street cred, fame, and fortune. When gangster connections offer a shortcut, things spin out of control.  

Bu San Bu Si: A Taiwan Punk Tale

By J.W. Henley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bu San Bu Si—"not three not four." To the Taiwanese people, it's an idiom used to describe the punks, lowlifes, and losers of society—the ones who don't fit in, and never will. It's what they would call someone like Xiao Hei. Talented and self-destructive, young and reckless, Xiao Hei is the guitar player for Taipei punk band Resistant Strain. He and his band mates don't just play punk. In the vein of the music's more nihilistic Western progenitors, they take it as a lifestyle. Live Fast. Die Young. Get Drunk. Stay Broke. And yet, at the back of their minds,…


Ghost Month

By Ed Lin,

Book cover of Ghost Month

Why this book?

In Ghost Month, the first in a 4-book mystery series, Ed Lin vibrantly depicts nightlife in Taiwan, particularly in the night markets. I love this book for doing what John Gardner says good fiction should—it creates a “vivid and continuous dream,” bringing to life so much of the sensory experiences of Taipei. I could see, smell, hear, and taste this book!

Ghost Month

By Ed Lin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Welcome to Unknown Pleasures, a food stand in Taipei's night market named after a Joy Division album, and also the location for a big-hearted new mystery set in the often undocumented Taiwan.

August is Ghost Month in Taiwan—a time to pay respects to the dead and avoid unlucky omens. Jing-nan, who runs a food stand in a bustling Taipei night market, isn’t superstitious, but this August will haunt him nonetheless. He learns that his high school sweetheart has been murdered—found scantily clad near a highway where she was selling betel nuts. Beyond his harrowing grief, Jing-nan is confused. “Betel nut…

The Hell Screens

By Alvin Lu,

Book cover of The Hell Screens

Why this book?

One of my favorite books set in Taiwan, The Hell Screens is dreamy and chilling, creating a landscape of winding alleys, dark apartments, and half-seen ghosts. It captures some of the peculiar alienation that I felt like a newcomer in Taiwan. Alvin Lu has such a unique voice and way of depicting the world—I can’t wait for more work from him.

The Hell Screens

By Alvin Lu,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cheng-Ming, a Taiwanese American, rummages through the used-book stalls and market bins of Taipei. His object is no ordinary one; he's searching obsessively for accounts of ghosts and spirits, suicides and murders in a city plagued by a rapist-killer and less tangible forces. Cheng-Ming is an outsider trying to unmask both the fugitive criminal and the otherworld of spiritual forces that are inexorably taking control of the city. Things get complicated when the fetid island atmosphere begins to melt his contact lenses and his worsening sight paradoxically opens up the teeming world of ghosts and chimeras that surround him. Vengeful…


Bestiary

By K-Ming Chang,

Book cover of Bestiary

Why this book?

Though Bestiary is not set in Taiwan, K. Ming Chang’s debut novel incorporates a sense of enchantment not only in her queer retellings of Taiwanese folk tales, but also in her dazzling language. She casts a spell on the reader as a magician of language, making nouns and verbs work together in innovative ways. 

Bestiary

By K-Ming Chang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this blazing debut of one family's queer desires, violent impulses and buried secrets.

One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman's body. Her name was Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterwards, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her estranged grandmother; a visiting aunt leaves red on everything she touches; a ghost bird shimmers in an…


Lord of Formosa

By Joyce Bergvelt,

Book cover of Lord of Formosa

Why this book?

Recounting Taiwan’s single most gripping historical episode, Ming loyalist warlord Koxinga and his fight with Dutch forces in southwestern Taiwan, Lord of Formosa sticks close to the known facts. Koxinga’s life intertwines perfectly with that of the Dutch presence on the island. He was born in 1624, the year that the Dutch East India Company established a settlement on Taiwan, and he died in 1662, the year the Dutch were expelled. Dutch-born author Bergvelt adds flesh and breath to a fascinating cast of real-life figures, making them accessible for modern readers.

Lord of Formosa

By Joyce Bergvelt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The year is 1624. In southwestern Taiwan the Dutch establish a trading settlement; in Nagasaki a boy is born who will become immortalized as Ming dynasty loyalist Koxinga. Lord of Formosa tells the intertwined stories of Koxinga and the Dutch colony from their beginnings to their fateful climax in 1662. The year before, as Ming China collapsed in the face of the Manchu conquest, Koxinga retreated across the Taiwan Strait intent on expelling the Dutch. Thus began a nine-month battle for Fort Zeelandia, the single most compelling episode in the history of Taiwan. The first major military clash between China…


A Pail of Oysters

By Vern Sneider,

Book cover of A Pail of Oysters

Why this book?

Published in 1953, this was the first English-language novel on the White Terror period and was long-banned in Taiwan. Sneider, better known for his comedic bestseller The Teahouse of the August Moon, came to Taiwan to do research for this moving novel. It tells the story of 19-year-old villager Li Liu, who travels to Taipei to recover his family’s kitchen god, which was stolen by Nationalist soldiers. Li Liu’s fate becomes entwined with that of Ralph Barton, an American journalist who finds himself drawn into the dangerous world of underground politics.

A Pail of Oysters

By Vern Sneider,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The most important English-language novel ever written about Taiwan.


"Touching, tragic; a testimony to the stubbornly optimistic human spirit."

-The San Francisco Chronicle


Set against the political repression and poverty of the White Terror era in Taiwan, A Pail of Oysters tells the moving story of nineteen-year-old villager Li Liu and his quest to recover his family's stolen kitchen god. Li Liu's fate becomes entwined with that of American journalist Ralph Barton, who, in trying to report honestly about Kuomintang rule of the island, investigates the situation beyond the propaganda, learns of a massacre, and is drawn into the world…


Book cover of Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China's First Great Victory Over the West

Why this book?

Few stood against many as the fate of Taiwan hung in the balance. This is a gripping account of the 1660s clash between Ming loyalist Koxinga and besieged Dutch colonists at Fort Zeelandia. Written by a historian with a flair for narrative, Taiwan’s most exciting historical episode is recounted in fascinating detail, with twists and turns, and wide zooms out for comparisons of European and Chinese technological prowess. It’s an accessible book yet so richly informative and dramatic that it rewards multiple readings. 

Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China's First Great Victory Over the West

By Tonio Andrade,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During the seventeenth century, Holland created the world's most dynamic colonial empire, outcompeting the British and capturing Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Yet, in the Sino-Dutch War - Europe's first war with China - the Dutch met their match in a colorful Chinese warlord named Koxinga. Part samurai, part pirate, he led his generals to victory over the Dutch and captured one of their largest and richest colonies - Taiwan. How did he do it? Examining the strengths and weaknesses of European and Chinese military techniques during the period, Lost Colony provides a balanced new perspective on long-held assumptions about Western…

Book cover of Playing in Isolation: A History of Baseball in Taiwan

Why this book?

Taiwan’s national sport helped forge a national identity and provided succor when the country was becoming increasingly isolated on the international stage. Between the years that saw the PRC take the China seat at the United Nations and Washington switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, Taiwan’s Little Leaguers enjoyed one of the greatest sporting runs of all time; from 1971 to 1981 they went unbeaten at the annual LLB championship in Williamsport. A whole generation of Taiwanese grew up rooting for these schoolboy teams, and among them was author Junwei Yu. He describes the history of baseball in Taiwan with passion and expertise, yet is not afraid to douse nostalgia with a cold bucket of scandal. An enjoyable read, even for non-baseball fans such as myself.

Playing in Isolation: A History of Baseball in Taiwan

By Junwei Yu,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Despite the political instability characterizing twentieth-century Taiwan, the value of baseball in the lives of Taiwanese has been a constant since the game was introduced in 1895. The game first gained popularity on the island under the Japanese occupation, and that popularity continued after World War II despite the withdrawal of the Japanese and an official lack of support from the new state power, the Chinese Nationalist Party. The remarkable success of Taiwanese Little League teams in the 1970s and 1980s cemented Taiwan's relationship with the game. Taiwanese native Junwei Yu's Playing in Isolation presents a comprehensive account of that…

Measuring Up

By Lily Lamotte, Ann Xu (illustrator),

Book cover of Measuring Up

Why this book?

Cici’s family is settling in Seattle. They come from Taiwan and want their daughter to study hard in the US in order to have a better life than theirs. But Cici is missing her beloved grandmother and worries about not fitting in at school. Deciding to sign up for a cooking contest will not only give her the chance to do what she likes doing the most, but will also make her meet a new friend. Or is it a rival?

I always love stories centered around the themes of trying to fit in and trying to please parents. Cici is a brave young girl with a quietly strong personality and I was rooting for her during mouth-watering cooking rounds.

Measuring Up

By Lily Lamotte, Ann Xu (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An ALA Top 10 Graphic Novel of 2021 * A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection * Fall 2020 Kids Indie Next List * Featured in Today Show's AAPI Heritage Month List * Amazon Best Books November Selection * Cybils Awards Finalist * An NBC AAPI Selection * Featured in Parents Magazine Book Nook October issue * A CBC Hot off the Press October Selection * WA State Book Awards Finalist * Texas Library Association Little Maverick Selection

For fans of American Born Chinese and Roller Girl, Measuring Up is a don't-miss graphic novel debut from Lily LaMotte and Ann…


Green Island

By Shawna Yang Ryan,

Book cover of Green Island

Why this book?

Both a family history and a political primer of Taiwan, spanning the years from 1947 to 2003, this is my go-to fiction recommendation. The title comes from the name of an island where many political prisoners were sent during the martial law era. Green Island opens with the birth of the female narrator as a revolt against oppressive Nationalist rule breaks out on the streets of Taipei. She is delivered by her father, a doctor who is arrested and sent to Green Island. A deserved popular and critical success, this is one of the few Taiwan works available as an audiobook.

Green Island

By Shawna Yang Ryan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Taipei, February 28, 1947: As an uprising rocks Taiwan, a young doctor is taken from his newborn daughter by Chinese Nationalists, on charges of speaking out against the government. Although he eventually returns to his family, his arrival is marked by alienation from his loved ones and paranoia among his community. Years later, this troubled past follows his youngest daughter to America, where, as a mother and a wife, she too is forced to decide between what is right and what might save her family-the same choice she witnessed her father make many years before. A stunningly lyrical story of…

Book cover of A Taste of Freedom: Memoirs of a Taiwanese Independence Leader

Why this book?

For a readable work about a political figure, it’s hard to beat this moving autobiography of a reluctant hero and his journey from bookish youth to renowned scholar to political dissident. Alongside the personal story, it gives a broad sweep of Taiwanese history; the increasingly militaristic Japanese rule of the 1930s, the disastrous early years of KMT rule, and the decades of White Terror political suffocation. The book was originally published in 1972 in English, two years after the author’s daring escape from house arrest in Taipei to freedom in the West. 

A Taste of Freedom: Memoirs of a Taiwanese Independence Leader

By Ming-Min Peng,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Peng Ming-min was imprisoned by the Kuomintang regime in Taiwan during the White Terror era for subversion. He was released from prison but still under house arrest when he evaded his minders and fled the country, first to Sweden and then to the US, where he led the fight for democracy in his homeland. He returned to stand as a candidate in the first democratic presidential elections in 1996. A Taste of Freedom is his incredible story.


The Stolen Bicycle

By Ming-Yi Wu, Darryl Sterk (translator),

Book cover of The Stolen Bicycle

Why this book?

There is a scene in this book where one of the characters finds himself diving among the bodies of dead veterans in the flooded basement of a building. Is it real? Is it a dream? The uncanniness and careful sense of loneliness and history in the scene not only intrigued my imagination, but touched my heart too. In talking about the search for a bicycle, this Booker International Prize-nominated novel encompasses so much more—archive, history, memory, war, colonialism, butterflies. This is a surprising and expansive book by one of Taiwan’s best contemporary writers.

The Stolen Bicycle

By Ming-Yi Wu, Darryl Sterk (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A writer embarks on an epic quest in search of his missing father’s stolen bicycle and soon finds himself ensnared in the strangely intertwined stories of Lin Wang, the oldest elephant who ever lived, the soldiers who fought in the jungles of South-East Asia during World War II, and the secret world of butterfly handicraft makers in Taiwan. The result is both a majestic historical novel and a profound, startlingly intimate meditation on memory, family and home. Wu’s writing has been compared to that of Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, W.G. Sebald and Yann Martel.

Loveboat, Taipei

By Abigail Hing Wen,

Book cover of Loveboat, Taipei

Why this book?

I was hooked from just reading about the premise of this book–eighteen-year-old Ever Wong is sent to a summer program in Taipei, Taiwan in order to hone her academic skills and learn Mandarin. But little do her parents know that this program is known as “Loveboat” where kids are partying and hooking up when they’re not busy with academics. Ever is a well-rounded protagonist, trying to balance her parents’ expectations and first love while figuring out who she is, all in one wild summer.

Loveboat, Taipei

By Abigail Hing Wen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, this romantic and layered Own Voices debut from Abigail Hing Wen is a dazzling, fun-filled romp.

"Our cousins have done this program," Sophie whispers. "Best kept secret. Zero supervision."

And just like that, Ever Wong's summer takes an unexpected turn. Gone is Chien Tan, the strict educational program in Taiwan that Ever was expecting. In its place, she finds Loveboat: a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, and the nightlife runs nonstop.

But not every student is quite what they seem:

Ever is working toward becoming a…

Book cover of Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan

Why this book?

Even though this is a work of anthropology, it also provides unique insights into rural history. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Margery Wolf did fieldwork in a poor village in rural Taiwan. At that time, modernization was just beginning to affect the countryside, so most aspects of village life were still traditional. Although Taiwanese society differed from the mainland in certain ways, in most aspects of life there carried on the traditions of Chinese village life. This book looks at rural society from a female perspective. Due to poverty, both women and men had few options. They did whatever it took to survive. Many of the people the author interviewed seem very discontent with their lives, but they usually had no other choice.

Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan

By Margery Wolf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Studies of Chinese society commonly emphasizze men's roles and functions, a not unreasonable approach to a society with patrilineal kinship structure. But this emphasis has left many important gaps in our knowledge of Chinese life.

This study seeks to fill some of these gaps by examining the ways rural Taiwanese women manipulate men and each other in the pursuit of their personal goals. The source of a woman's power, her home in a social structure dominated by men, is what the author calls the uterine family, a de facto social unity consisting of a mother and her children.

The first…


Book cover of A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949

Why this book?

President Truman sends George Marshall to China in December 1945 on a special mission to unify the Communists and Nationalists and create a non-Communist China. Marshall returns to the US in early 1947. The mission has failed. Had he been truly neutral as a broker, could the mission have succeeded?

A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949

By Kevin Peraino,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice • Winner of the 2018 Truman Book Award

A gripping narrative of the Truman Administration's response to the fall of Nationalist China and the triumph of Mao Zedong's Communist forces in 1949--an extraordinary political revolution that continues to shape East Asian politics to this day.
 
In the opening months of 1949, U.S. President Harry S. Truman found himself faced with a looming diplomatic catastrophe--"perhaps the greatest that this country has ever suffered," as the journalist Walter Lippmann put it. Throughout the spring and summer, Mao Zedong's Communist armies fanned out across mainland China,…

Book cover of Accidental State: Chiang Kai-Shek, the United States, and the Making of Taiwan

Why this book?

How did Taiwan become the country it is today, how did it become the Republic of China? Hsiao-ting Lin, a leading Taiwanese historian and an archivist at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, convincingly argues that the Nationalist state in Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek came about in large part from happenstance. The book draws on both English- and Chinese-language archival materials, including newly released official files and personal papers to explain what happened to Taiwan in the crucial years following World War II; it also examines what didn’t happen but might have, such as the island being placed under temporary American trusteeship. Accidental State is unbiased and nuanced history, and packed with fun but intelligent counterfactual nuggets.

Accidental State: Chiang Kai-Shek, the United States, and the Making of Taiwan

By Hsiao-ting Lin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The existence of two Chinese states-one controlling mainland China, the other controlling the island of Taiwan-is often understood as a seemingly inevitable outcome of the Chinese civil war. Defeated by Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to Taiwan to establish a rival state, thereby creating the "Two Chinas" dilemma that vexes international diplomacy to this day. Accidental State challenges this conventional narrative to offer a new perspective on the founding of modern Taiwan.

Hsiao-ting Lin marshals extensive research in recently declassified archives to show that the creation of a Taiwanese state in the early 1950s owed more to serendipity than…


Book cover of Pirates of the South China Coast, 1790-1810

Why this book?

Dian Murray spent ten years in Taiwan and mainland China in the 1970s and 1980s doing groundbreaking research into the early 19th century pirates, which became her PhD dissertation, later expanded into this book. This is the first attempt in any language to put together the full story of these pirates. Being an academic, her interest was less on the wider narrative and personalities, and more on various issues of historical development, sociology, weaponry, and more. By far the most important book for anyone researching these pirates. Sadly out of print.

Pirates of the South China Coast, 1790-1810

By Dian Murray,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pirates of the South China Coast, 1790-1810 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Notes of a Crocodile

By Qiu Miaojin, Bonnie Huie (translator),

Book cover of Notes of a Crocodile

Why this book?

This affecting and disturbing novel about a group of queer friends in late-80s Taiwan was ahead of its time in content, form, and vision. Premised on the idea of a collection of notebooks, the text incorporates multiple literary forms, and the “otherworldly” element is in Qiu’s use of the crocodile as a literalized metaphor for queer identity. A sobering and captivating read. 

Notes of a Crocodile

By Qiu Miaojin, Bonnie Huie (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Notes of a Crocodile as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize Longlisted for the PEN Translation Prize A New York Times Editors' Choice
The English-language premiere of Qiu Miaojin's coming-of-age novel about queer teenagers in Taiwan, a cult classic in China and winner of the 1995 China Times Literature Award.

An NYRB Classics Original

Set in the post-martial-law era of late-1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile is a coming-of-age story of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan's most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, this cult classic is a…