Books to read to prepare for China
Today, we start our new mini-series.
We’re going to take turns at suggesting you different books (English and German) about China, to help you prepare for your internship or your travels, but also for people who just share a common interest in China!
Wild Swans (1991) by Jung Chang – One of the best known books about China, having sold over 13 million copies and claimed international recognition. It is a story of three generations of Chinese women in twentieth-century China, the author, her mother and her grandmother. It shows the clash of Communism with China’s deep-routed traditions, values and culture and the terror ensuing the Cultural Revolution. A very good read, which is more of a novel than a history, but a novel which will help you to understand China. If you enjoyed this, then her next piece (which she wrote with her husband) is also very exciting: Mao: The Unknown Story. More of a history book, it depicts Chairman Mao’s life. It has undergone a lot of scrutiny about how “factual” it is, and her interpretation of Mao is seen as having a strong negative bias, but it is still an interesting read!
China Road (2008) by Rob Gifford – Well worth a read for anyone interested in China. It tells the story of Gifford’s journey overland from Shanghai in the east, to China’s border with Kazazhastan in the north-west. It is a short, funny, and lively narrative, whilst being packed with insight into China and how it is changing. His adventure is explained through interviews with people he meets on the way – from prostitutes to Tibetan monks. He looks at China in a much more personal way, past China’s economic statistics and into the hearts of the people. Thoroughly recommended!
“Informative, delightful, and powerfully moving . . . Rob Gifford’s acute powers of observation, his sense of humor and adventure, and his determination to explore the wrenching dilemmas of China’s explosive development open readers’ eyes and reward their minds.”
–Robert A. Kapp, president, U.S.-China Business Council, 1994-2004
Lonely Planet (2011) or Rough Guide (2011): China – I have to say I am not sure which of these is better. Whichever you choose to go for it is a vital part of your luggage! Have a read through bits which interest you before you come and you should be able to be much more time efficient when you arrive – having an idea of what you want to see and do in China is very important; otherwise you might get swamped by the possibility of doing everything and may end up going nowhere! They also have little sections about China’s history and culture; very basic but also very interesting. They will give you a taste of what is to come. If nothing else, having a look through these before you leave will get you very excited about your trip.