Fun books about China?
March 22, 2010 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books to read during a Los Angeles - Beijing flight. I have a guidebook and an abridged copy of Journey to the West, and I would really like to read something more contemporary. Any suggestions?

The books listed here all seemed depressing, and I really would prefer something lighter. In other words, I don't want to read To Live, and even Brothers was a bit much.
posted by betweenthebars to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Book and the Sword was one of the the two novels in my Chinese Martial Arts Fiction class (the other being Outlaws of the Marsh which is also great but ~16th century) and is rather enjoyable.
posted by griphus at 12:12 PM on March 22, 2010

FWIW, when I took that flight a few years ago I read this book.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:20 PM on March 22, 2010

I really enjoyed River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze River and Back in Chinese Time. (Hope that link is good.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:24 PM on March 22, 2010

If you like mystery novels, try Death of a Red Heroine. I thought it was a good, classic whodunit as well as an interesting look at everyday life in China.
posted by warble at 12:24 PM on March 22, 2010

Pretty much anything by Peter Hessler is good. I haven't read Country Driving yet, but Oracle Bones is one of the best books I've seen on contemporary China.

If you just want to read relatively light fiction, Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Chinese Seamstress is a very cute book, though I guess everyone's read it by now. Fortress Besieged is probably the best Chinese novel written during the 20th century; unfortunately the translation is pretty lame. Ditto for the novellas of Wang Xiaobo that were poorly translated in a SUNY-published collection entitled Wang in Love and Bondage.
posted by bokane at 12:40 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anything by Peter Hessler. The man is a journalist who can write.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:52 PM on March 22, 2010

Seconding warble's recommendation of Death of a Red Heroine, and basically anything else by the same author, Qiu Xiaolong. Not only are his stories fantastic in terms of page-turning quality, but China and its cities, cultures, languages, and traditions are true characters in that they are as well-described and as central to the plot as any of the people are.

Though not "light" in a "How Stella got her groove back" sense, they are not hard to read and will not leave you in a morbid mood.
posted by whatzit at 1:45 PM on March 22, 2010

Second Peter Hessler. His new book Country Diving is supposed to be great.
posted by Xurando at 3:57 PM on March 22, 2010

Well, my idea of fun reading would be the late Stephen Averill's exemplary Revolution in the Highlands: China's Jinggangshan Base Area on the early praxis and politics of the Communist Party as it transitioned from an urban to a rural strategy, but I realise that may not be to everyone's taste :D
posted by Abiezer at 9:07 PM on March 22, 2010

Thanks for the great suggestions!

griphus, The Book and the Sword looks like a great airplane read.

I might also check out Death of a Red Heroine, even though I have yet to see the words "fun" and "Cultural Revolution" used in the same book review.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:56 AM on March 23, 2010

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