951. Books on China and adjacent areas
Peter Hessler Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China and the West, 2006.
Throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, China changed rapidly. Journalist Peter Hessler describes how they affected the lives of several ordinary people, including a member of an ethnic minority, a teacher, a factory worker, and a scholar. Each story shares a different side of emerging China.
Robin Hutton Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse, 2014.
At the end of the Korean War, the Saturday Evening Post featured a story on a brave little war horse doing her share to help the Americans. Sgt. Reckless, as she was called, was a Mongolian Mare who made 51 round trips carrying almost five tons of explosives to soldiers in a single day. She also saved wounded soldiers, carrying them off the fields. Her efforts won her various decorations, including two purple hearts. Equine enthusiast Robin Hutton narrates her story here.
Evan Osnos Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, 2014.
Paradoxes are a common feature of China today. Beijing correspondent Evan Osnos spent years there, writing of the government’s successes in lifting its citizens from poverty while stridently restricting their freedom. He explains the intense pursuit of wealth and how the Chinese try to maintain a sense of meaning in the midst of it. And he speaks of the people’s ambivalence about the influence of the West.
James Palmer Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Death of Mao’s China, 2012.
Mao Tse Tung died in 1976 when a historic earthquake leveled the city of Tangshan, killing more than half a million people. It was also the year popular premier Zhou Enlai passed away. James Palmer tells how anger toward the Communist Party reached its full height, and everything came to a head. But, when things settled, a new China was beginning.
Barbara W. Tuchman Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945, 1971.
Award-winning self-trained historian Barbara W. Tuchman provides a biography of Joseph Stilwell, aka Vinegar Joe, who served as military attaché to China, then served as allied chief of staff to Chiang Kai-shek in 1942-44. She combines his life story with the history of China to provide an overview of each.
Jan Wong Red China Blue: My Long March from Mao to Now, 1997.
As an idealistic young Canadian woman of Chinese descent, Jan Wong traveled to China in 1972 to join the Maoist Cultural Revolution. She was allowed to enroll at Beijing University and devoted herself completely to the communist cause. But after six years, her ardor had cooled, and she confronted the harsh realities the country was facing. Here, she uncovers unsettling facts about life in China in the late 20th century.
Susan Edwards McKee Days Like Floating Water: A Story of Modern China, 2008.
When Susan McKee and her husband Robert go to China to teach English, they learn to navigate a culture completely foreign to them. At first, everything is strange and daunting, but they gradually settle in and get to know their students. They share how they build connections across cultural and political boundaries.
Keum Suk Gendry-Kim Grass, translated by Janet Hong, 2019.
Okseon Lee, a girl in Korea, was forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army. This graphic novel tells of that experience, and those of Korea’s other citizens, during the Japanese occupation.
Neil Monnery Architect of Prosperity: Sir John Cowperthwaite and the Making of Hong Kong, 2017.
After World War II, a small group of British civil servants, including John Cowperthawaite, built Hong Kong into a vibrant, global powerhouse from its former deteriorated state. Neil Monnery says they accomplished the feat through a hands-off approach. Cowperthwaite’s resolve to let the market run its course, he says, impacted the fortunes of the city.
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