Books About China: Our Top 5

June 17, 2019

Now that Game of Thrones is over, you're going to need a new way to beat the heat!
Whether you prefer ocean waves or A/C this summer, why not grab some books about China and read about the beautiful place we call home?


If you’ve stuck around for the hot season here before, you’ll know that summer is to Beijing what winter is to Winterfell.

Here is a list of some of our favorite books about China to get you started:


1 Any of Peter Hessler‘s China travelogues.

For those of you looking to get lost in China’s culture, we highly recommend Hessler’s books River Town (2001), Oracle Bones (2006), and Country Driving (2010). Hessler spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sichuan and later moved to a small village outside of Beijing. His time in China birthed these riveting travelogues and investigations into the rapid changes stirring within China.

Read if: You want to pick out your next China travel destination.

Books about China: Hessler

2 Age of Ambition

by Evan Osnos

In the last couple decades China’s rate of growth and change has been exponential.Through the lives of everyday citizens he met during his time in China, Osnos discusses the economic, social, and political changes occurring in the country and what they will mean for China’s people, government, and future.
Read if: You are interested in the intersectionality of economics, politics, and morality in a rapidly changing nation.Books about China: Osnos

3 Lost on Planet China

by J. Maarten Troost

If you are looking for a humorous take on life in China, look no further.On the hunt for a home for himself and his family, Troost journeys to China and faces the same struggles that many new China expats are confronted with.While sometimes relying on generalizations to describe such a large and different place, Troost fills his book with laugh-out-loud moments through the lens of dry humor insights into Chinese culture that many readers may remember from the start of their own adventures in China.

Read if: You are having a rough “China day” and need a laugh.

Books about China: Troost

4 Falling Leaves

by Adeleine Yen Mah

Read this one with a box of tissues and a stress ball.This memoir follows Mah as she grows up in a family that does not love her. Adding to the sorrow of the emotional abuses that Mah faces is the political upheaval of the revolution that forces her family to flee their home and go into hiding in Hong Kong.As if the events of the book are not sad enough, the hardest part about Falling Leaves is knowing that it is non-fiction.

Read if: You need a good cry.

Books about China: Mah

5 The Last Days of Old Beijing

by Michael Meyer

Life in the hutongs has never felt closer. Meyer takes the reader with him on his daily adventures, from life in a shared hutong courtyard to teaching English in a local school.The hutong that Meyer and his neighbors call home is existing on borrowed time as the force Meyer refers to as “the Hand” silently sweeps through the alleyways, reducing them to dust.A poignant story of the tension between history and modernity, The Last Days of Old Beijing leaves us wondering, where does the balance lie?

Read if: You want to feel nostalgic for pre-Olympics Beijing.

Books about China: Meyer


So many books, so little time!

Even we haven't read all the China-related books out there.

Are there any you recommend? Let us know in the comments!



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