As you prepare for your upcoming trip to China, you may want to consider reading some of the following selections:
* Wild Swans Three Daughters of China
Jung Chang (Doubleday 1991)
This tale of the travail of a Chinese family in the 20th century mirrors the larger tragedy experienced by Chinese society. It provides an intimate and personal view of the Chinese spirit facing unrelenting difficulty. A fascinating read!
* River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
Peter Hessler (HarperCollins 2001)
A delightful, interesting, and insightful look at everyday life in China, as told from the perspective of Peace Corps Volunteer Peter Hessler. Using humor, wit, and sensitivity, we are introduced to the trials and tribulations of the residents of Fuling, who struggle with economic reforms, social changes, and the dramatic alteration of their river.
"China: A New History" *
John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman (Harvard University Press 1998)
An excellent overview of the broad 2,000 year expanse of Chinese history, with emphasis on modern times, providing readers with a better understanding of this complex nation and its place in the world.
"The Search for Modern China" *
Jonathan Spence (Norton 1990)
This is the work to read if you want an approachable history of China with a scholars depth. The drama of Chinese history for the last four to five hundred years makes for heartrending reading.
"Before the Deluge, The Vanishing World of the Upper Yangtze River" *
Deirde Chetham ((Palgrave Macmillan 2002)
A vivid portrait of the Three Gorges region of the Upper Yangtze River by noted Harvard researcher and veteran lecturer on study trips to China.
"Shanghai: Collision Point of Cultures, 1918/1939"
Harriet Sergeant (Crown 1991)
This is the best book for getting a feel for the history of the city and its landmarks. A must-read book on a fascinating place.
"The Last Emperor: The Dramatic Story of the Emperor of China Who Became a Communist"
Arnold C. Brackman (Scribners 1975)
Of the many books on the subject, this is the one that achieves a balanced account between victim and traitor without sacrificing any of the high drama of the story.
"The Genius of China: 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery and Invention"
Robert Temple, ed. (Simon & Schuster 1986)
This book should change forever the way you think about China. But Beware! There are other books with the identical title, but not the same sub-title.
"Mao & China: Inside Chinas Cultural Revolution"
Stanley Karnow (Penguin 1972)
An excellent overview of the many convoluted and surreal stages of the Cultural Revolution by the creator of the PBS series, Viet Nam: A Television History. This book provides the best insight into Chinas disastrous experience with communists.
* If you only have time to read a few books before your trip to China, we highly recommend these selections.