To wrap up my week of posts on Chinese history, here are TEN of my favorite Chinese history books:
This is a riveting account of the madness that engulfed northern China at the turn of the century.
City of Heavenly Tranquility: Beijing in the History of China, by Jasper Becker
A great overview of the history of Beijing. I found it particularly interesting to read about the city in the early days of the People’s Republic of China.
God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong XuQuan, by Jonathan Spence
This book tells the story of Hong Xuquan, a mid-19th century drifter who becomes convinced he is Jesus’ younger brother. Convinced that God has called him to overthrow the Qing Dynasty, he launches the Taiping Rebellion, which kills 20 million people.
The Great Wall: China Against the World, by Julia Lovell
What we know as The Great Wall is actually a series of defensive structures that were built over thousands of years. This book helps set the record straight on many mythical stories about the Great Wall.
Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine, by Jasper Becker
In the late 1950’s Chairman Mao The Great Leap Forward, a collectivization campaign designed to speed up industrialization. It led to a famine that killed 30 million people. This book is the story of that famine.
Hessler uses the ancient oracle bones used for divination as a platform to explore the connections between ancient and modern China.
Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now, by Jan Wong
Canadian-born Jan Wong went to China as a committed Communist in the 1970’s. This is her story of her journey from euphoria at participating in the revolution to disillusionment as she watched the assault on Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The Search for Modern China, by Jonathan Spence
A good old-fashioned history book. Modern China, here, refers to the period from the 1600’s onward.
The Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History, by Joanna Waley-Cohen
This is a fascinating look at the history of China’s interaction with the outside world over the centuries. Hint — it began much earlier and was more extensive than most people think.
Stillwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945, by Barbara Tuchman
This is a fascinating look at the American involvement in China in the first half of the 20th century.
For a great list of NOVELS set within Chinese history, check out this list by my friend Amy, over at The Messy Middle.
What are YOUR favorite Chinese history books?