If shopping for holiday gifts has you stymied, China Beat is here to help. We’ve put together a list of China-related books that will make great gifts — and all of them are appropriate for the general-interest reader.
For: The Nostalgic Reader
Earnshaw Books has been reprinting a number of older books, including many expat memoirs from early 20th century China. We’ve previously reviewed Shanghai: High Lights, Low Lights, Tael Lights, an entertaining glimpse into 1930s Shanghai penned by Maurine Karns and Pat Patterson. The press is also releasing a three-volume set of drawings by White Russian cartoon artist Sapajou, which Paul French writes about here.
For: The Budding Entrepreneur
Another old title now available again is Carl Crow’s 400 Million Customers, which is a sharp-tongued set of observant essays about the ins and outs of doing business in China. Much of what Crow has to say about China in the 1930s is still true today, and his book serves as both a how-to guide and a cautionary tale for those who dream of cracking the China market.
For: The Visual Learner
The Inmost Shrine: A Photographic Odyssey of China assembles the late-19th century photographs of Scottish explorer John Thomson. An excerpt from Michael Meyer’s introduction to the book can be read at Danwei.
If there are fans of propaganda art on your shopping list, they might be interested in Postcards from Utopia, a collection of Socialist Realist and Fascist artwork from a variety of countries.
For: The Frequent Flyer
Looking for a paperback that will fit nicely into a carry-on bag? Consider China Underground, Zachary Mexico’s volume of tales about the lives of Chinese artists, rock musicians, and writers. Postcards from Tomorrow Square brings together James Fallows’s China columns from The Atlantic; read a review by Jonathan Spence at the New York Times website. Several of the general-interest China books that we recommended in last year’s gift guide are now available in paperback, such as Lijia Zhang’s “Socialism is Great!”, Michael Meyer’s The Last Days of Old Beijing, and Leslie T. Chang’s Factory Girls.
For: The History Buff
Readers who enjoy sinking their teeth into a good history book might like to receive William Rowe’s China’s Last Empire, which looks to be a very accessible overview of the Qing Dynasty by a highly regarded historian. There’s also a new biography of Hergé, creator of the Tintin comics, who set some of his adventures in China and had a decades-long interest in the country. Pierre Assouline’s Hergé: The Man Who Created Tintin tells this story, and you could gift that together with the Tintin-in-Shanghai comic The Blue Lotus or Tintin in Tibet.
For: The Less-than-Organized Shopper
If you don’t expect to finish your 2009 shopping until well into 2010, we have good news — several highly anticipated China books are coming out in the coming months, so slip an IOU into an envelope and don’t forget to pick up these titles when they’re released.
The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China, a new translation of Lu Xun’s fiction writings by Julia Lovell, has been published in the U.K., and the American edition will be out on January 26. Peter Hessler’s Country Driving is already available to German readers (it’s titled Über-land in Deutschland), and is scheduled for its English-language release on February 9, 2010. China Beat readers in Southern California can come to UC Irvine on February 16 to hear Hessler speak in a conversation with UCI History professor Ken Pomeranz. Finally, Jeff Wasserstrom’s China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know will be available in April, and would make a great gift for travelers embarking on their first trip to China.