Best Book Club Books Set in China

The Year of the Goat is upon us and it's an excuse for us to celebrate with some great books set in China - perfect for book clubs and thinking readers. All recommendations are backed by an excerpt, an in-depth review, a "beyond the book" article and a discussion guide.

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The Ten Thousand Things The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling

Hardcover/eBook Apr 2014, Paperback Apr 2015.
400 pages. Published by Overlook.

Let's go back. Way, way back to fourteenth-century China. The best thing about this elegiac novel is not the absolute transport to a way of life in a country and a time far away. It's that its lessons are still relevant here. And now. This is a finely crafted landscape painting. Pick it up for its gorgeous details. Then sit back and soak that vast canvas in.
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Pearl of China Pearl of China: A Novel by Anchee Min

Paperback/eBook Mar 2011. 304 pages. Published by Bloomsbury USA.

Contemporary news from China might mostly be about the economy or the environment so Pearl S. Buck's glimpse of the agrarian countryside is as insightful now as when it was published in the 1930s. But much before The Good Earth and the Nobel, what was Pearl, the daughter of Christian missionaries, like? This richly imagined novel explores the question through the lens of her friendship with the only child of a peasant family.
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Night in Shanghai Night in Shanghai: A Novel by Nicole Mones

Paperback/eBook Jan 2015. 288 pages. Published by Mariner Books.

What's an African-American classical music pianist got in common with a young Chinese woman living in bondage to a Shanghai mafia boss? Plenty, as it turns out. Nicole Mones shines light on black musicians in the Chinese jazz age and unearths a little-known tale of Holocaust heroism. The result is a story that soars and hits all the right notes.
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China Dolls China Dolls by Lisa See

Paperback/eBook 3 Mar 2015. 416 pages. Published by Random House.

The many shades of belonging as a Chinese American in the 1930s are epitomized by three girlfriends in San Francisco's Chinatown. Visiting nightclubs and Japanese internment camps all in one large sweep, Lisa See delivers a beautiful story not just of friendship but also about identity and its definition in a complex world.
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The Valley of Amazement The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

Paperback/eBook Jul 2014. 448 pages. Published by Ecco.

Words such as "sweeping" and "evocative" might be bandied about just a bit too frequently these days but these descriptors are just right for popular author Amy Tan's novel spanning forty years and two continents. Okay it's occasionally raunchy but don't let that faze you. The exploration of the role of power and the moving mother-daughter relationship made this one a BookBrowse favorite.
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The Bathing Women The Bathing Women: A Novel by Tie Ning

Paperback/eBook Oct 2014. 368 pages. Published by Scribner.

We've all heard of China's Cultural Revolution but what were its effects on young people of the time? Sure, the insight into communism and politics is invaluable. But it is the novel's exploration of love, loss and friendship through the eyes of four Chinese women that makes this one a winner.
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Beijing Coma Beijing Coma: A Novel by Ma Jian

Paperback/eBook Jun 2009. 624 pages. Published by Picador.

Who doesn't remember the iconic image of the lone Chinese man staring down the barrel of the government's massive machinery? Tank Man as he came to be called, soon became the default symbol of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the history of which is brilliantly explored in Beijing Coma. The searching exploration of China's changing political landscape made this one a BookBrowse favorite.
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Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love by Xue Xinran

Paperback/eBook Mar 2012. 272 pages. Published by Scribner.

We consider it essential reading for mothers. This is a heartbreaking glimpse at the many Chinese moms who have given up their daughters for adoption, a devastating fallout of the country's one-child policy and age-old thinking that favors boys. What's striking is the range of classes represented, the mothers are equally successful businesswomen as they are poor peasants.
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Any titles we've missed that you'd like to recommend?

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