China Books

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Imitating his Gotham neighbor, Commissioner Gordon, Josh Brown put up the book signal.

Like the Deep Books request from Patrick O’Shaughnessy, I went through the 100+ replies to the above tweet. Below is the best. These are Amazon Affiliate links.

But first, consider travel. Tyler Cowen told David Perell that books are a good precursor for travel. “I’ve tried reading (about how the Balkan states are messed up) and I can’t grasp it. I go there and the mix of going there and the books make it all work.” Going there was a suggestion from the Twitter crowds to Brown too.

In honor of Cowen, we will include @MR links when available.

The Best! This is based on ranking books by the number of reviews, then reranking books by percent of reviews that are four stars or above, then adding one ranking score to the other. Or, more people read and liked this books than any other.

Country Driving by Hessler. “I found this to be an excellent travel memoir, a very good book on transportation economics, a wonderful book on China, and most of all a first-rate study of the adjustments and changing norms which accompany rapid economic development,” wrote TC@MR

Age of Ambition by Osnos. This was one of my favorite books from 2017. Osnos writes, “This book is an account of the collision of two forces: aspiration and authoritarianism.” “This is one of the best books on contemporary China, maybe the best,” wrote TC@MR.

Tai Pan by Clavell. I remember reading this as a teen and liking it. Jane Wells liked it too.

Wild Swans by Juan Chang. Wikipedia describes it as; “a family history that spans a century, recounting the lives of three female generations in China…”

Most reviewed These were the books with the most reviews on Amazon. It turns out people really like fiction, historical fiction, and/or gripping narratives. Art of War, The Three Body Problem, The Good Earth, and The Ghost Fleet topped the list.

Highest rated. These were the books with the highest percentage of 4 + 5-star reviews. This was trickier because the top few books here all had fewer than twenty reviews. Past that group of small numbers it was; Little Soldiers, Wish Lanterns and Search for Modern China.

Africa. There were a lot of books that included references to Africa. I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been. On a Caribbean cruise a few years ago, our family took an island tour and there were a set of apartments so colorful they looked like an Instagram picture.

‘What’s that?’ I asked the guide.

‘China money,’ he replied. The full list lets you dig in for more. Or…

Podcast it. Of course, you don’t have to actually read anything on this list. There are many YouTube talks and podcast interviews. I thought Graham Allison’s conversation at a16z gave me enough. Here is Allison and Kissinger (whose book On China also scored highly) on YouTube.

Multiple people suggested the TV The Three Kingdoms as well. Here’s the Wikipedia page.

Marginal Revolution is my go-to place for book suggestions and footholds, here is more Cowen; in 2006,  in 2011, New books and notes on China, and 2017, How to understand modern China.

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