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One of the great things about China is that there are lots of really great books. Many are not only informative, but are also really good reads.
River Town: Two Years on the Yangzi. Harper Perennial 2001. Peter Hessler. This is one of the most recommended books on China. It is a memoir of the authors years in Sichuan Province with the Peace Corps. Highly recommended and essential if you are visiting the Three Gorges on the Yangzi.
Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present. Peter Hessler . HarperCollins 2006. This new, critically acclaimed book. Shows the human side of China and tells riveting stories.
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. Touchstone 2003. Is probably the most recommended book about China. This is a compelling book about three generations of the authors family. In the process of reading the family story, the reader is introduced to the key events in 20th Century Chinese history.
The Search for Modern China. Jonathan Spence. W. W. Norton Company, 2001. This is a superior survey of modern Chinese history. Also check out other books by Jonathan Spence, many of which are biographies. They are top-notch scholarship but also enjoyable to read. You can find them in any bookstore.
Family. Pa Chin (also Ba Jin). Waveland Press 1972. Widely assigned in college courses on China, this highly readable novel and was one of the most popular in China after it was published in 1931. Conflict between the traditional older generation and their more modern children is the heart of the novel and gives a vivid portrayal of life in China at that time.
Wu. Jonathan Clements. Sutton Publishing 2007. the life and times of Empress Wu Zetian, wife of the Tang Dynasty Emperor Gaozong and the only woman to rule as Emperor of China. Published in United Kingdom and United States : Jan 2007 details.
Jonathan Clements has also written books on Qin Shih Huangdi and Mao Zedong as well other titles on things Chinese.
Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors. Ann Palludan. Thames & Hudson. 1998. (UK publisher). A reign by reign break down of every ruler in China's history with a table showing family trees. Time line of history runs along the *bottom* of pages. Colour photos and illustrations. Contains panels of historical fact alongside the Imperial histories.
Biography. Leaving Mother Lake. Namu. (a childhood at the edge of the world). United States: first published Little Brown Co: 2003. United Kingdom. Abacus 2003
This is the story of how a young Moso girl grows up in the far west of China, is selected to take part in a national singing competition and against all the odds when having returned home at the end of the contest, makes her way to Shanghai with no money and little information to find her way to studying music despite having little formal education. The book covers a great deal of Moso history and culture and what it's like to live in a big city when one is from an ethnic minority.
Biography. Seven Years In Tibet. Heinrich Harrer. Published by various publishers since the 1950s. The true story of how Heinrich Harrer, Peter Aufsnaiter and others escaped from a prison of war camp in Northern India and made their way (only Heirnrich Harrer and Peter Aufsniater finally made it) to Tibet. The film of the same name has a lot which is not true to this book. Read the book and then see the film. The black and white photo quality is second to none and holds up well against all the colour photos of Lhasa today.
Also: Return to Tibet by Heinrich Harrer. Published during the 1990s but not as gripping as Seven Years.
History/Culture/Music. Images of Asia Series. Chinese Musical Instruments. Alan Thrasher. Oxford Univesity Press. 2000
A slim book tracing the history of the Chinese musical instrument from earliest times to the 20th century. Black and white line drawings and some colour photos. One or two of the colour photos are the same as black & white ones from the CD 'Sizhu', Chamber Music ofSouth China, which was released on the Pan Records label in The Netherlands in 1994.
Death of a Red Heroine. Qiu Xiaolong. Soho Crime, 2000. Acclaimed poetic mystery based in Shanghai.
A Loyal Character Dancer. Qiu Xiaolong. Soho Crime 2002. Again based in Shanghai, this sequel to Death of a Red Heroine seems like of travelogue of China, as Inspector Chen travels to solve the mysteries. This books give entertaining glimpses of Chinese urban culture, housing, entertainment, the remnants of the Cultural Revolution and more.
Always browse any or all Travel Pictorial books about a country, region or a natural wonder of the world . You will find excellent photography to view at leisure. Check out any bookstore or library ( lending or reference ).
Always glance through any Travel Guide for the region you are planning to visit. You will always find some nuggat of useful information. The layout and content will always vary with the publisher. Every traveller should make it a priority to browse one or all of the guides listed below. It will be a great education to browse the layout and view the excellent photography. You decide which of the travel guide(s) you like the best.
Browse the children's or junior section of your local library for travel and geography guides. You will find a variety of guides to countries, regions or natural wonders of the world. The majority of these guides will be less than fifty pages in length. They will contain an excellent overview of a country etc. They are an excellent introduction to travel for a novice traveller.