Books with a China theme (2016 list)
Last year I wrote a post about the books related to China that I had read in 2015. I decided that this should become an annual habit! So this is my list for 2016.
In 2016 I read 32 books, 7 comic books (two of them in Chinese) and 2 novelettes. Not bad, eh? Three of those books were from the A Song of Ice and Fire series (a.k.a. Game of Thrones) and each of them had more than 1,000 pages. According to Goodreads (which I use to keep track of my readings), the average length of my readings was 421 pages.
I will list here only the ones that are related to China. I read all of them in English, except one comic book that was in Chinese. My new year resolution for 2017 will be reading more in Chinese. I think every year I make this same resolution but well…
– Tiger Tail Soup by Nicki Chen
My year started with Nicki’s first novel! It’s a story about a woman from Gulangyu (in Xiamen) who has to take care of her family alone as her husband is away during the second Sino-Japanese war. I thought it was beautifully written and I enjoyed the story a lot.
– The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel
I got to know this book because I was offered to review it in the blog. It’s a historical fiction about the early life of Wu Zetian, the only empress on her own right in the history of China (Cixi was regent). She lived during the Tang dynasty, which I think everybody agrees is the coolest one. The story focuses on her adventures before she got to be empress and her life in court as a concubine. I thought it was very interesting and I loved the rich descriptions of the palaces, clothes, hairstyles, etc. And those court intrigues!
– The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel
It’s the second part of the previous book! It follows her adventures until she gets the throne.
– The Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence
A fascinating account of the history of China since the end of the Ming dynasty to 1990 more or less. I mentioned it on my post about the death by a thousand cuts. If you are interested in history, you have to read it.
– Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside by Quincy Carroll
A story about English teachers in rural China. I reviewed it here.
– The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
I had been meaning to read it for ages as it’s basically a classic. The author lived in China many years and was fluent in Chinese. She won the Nobel prize in Literature in 1938. The story is about a Chinese peasant during the 1930s, his family and his conviction that his fortune has to be linked to the land he possesses.
– Country Driving by Peter Hessler
Peter Hessler is a foreign journalist who after living in China for several years decided to get a driving license and drive around the country. Then he wrote some of the stories he experienced. Very entertaining.
– 幻境三日游 by Li Kunwu
A new comic book from the author of A Chinese Life (which I also reviewed here). It’s about a trip to hell that the author does accompanied by an old lady and a child. It’s a bit strange, and adding the fact that I read it in Chinese, I’m not sure I understood it completely, haha. There were many references to Chinese mythology and beliefs.
– Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang
A very interesting science fiction novelette. I loved the premise about a city (Beijing) divided in 3 zones (for poor workers, middle class and elite) that literally folds and unfolds. You can read it for free here. It won a Hugo prize.
– The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
The other novelette I read. It won prizes too but I didn’t like it that much. It’s about a Chinese American boy and his relationship with his mother. You can read it for free here. Ken Liu is also a translator and translated into English the Chinese science fiction trilogy The Three Body Problem.
– The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China by Lu Xun
Lu Xun is considered one of the first modern writers in China and his short stories are very well known. I normally prefer longer stories as I can bond more with the characters, but this is a classic of Chinese literature and I just had to read it.
– Death’s End by Liu Cixin
Finally! The third part of the Three Body Problem science fiction trilogy was published in English last September and I could finally read the end of the story. I vehemently recommend it (the full trilogy).
– The Good Women of China by Xinran
Maybe because of the title I expected something different, like stories about different women in China, in general. But all of the stories are sad and tragic and seem to imply that “men are the cause of all of women’s problems and tragedies”. So I didn’t like it as much as I expected. Xinran was a radio journalist in China during the 80s and 90s and had a program about women, so she got to know many women and their troubles.
I have a few dozen books queued on kindle and on my bookshelf but I always welcome recommendations! Did you read anything interesting this year?