"Just Fifteen Books" on China? A historic reading list!

By Jerome A. Cohen

I just discovered an essay that I much enjoyed writing done at the request of Harvard Magazine in 1974—Just Fifteen Books on China?. Apart from an inexplicable blooper over the name of author Hsu–not Kai, I can live with almost every word even today. The list, while compiled over forty years ago, would still be of interest to those who have made new year resolutions to read more books on China. Of course, now there are many more good books, which is a testament to how much this field has grown and the world changed. Belated Happy New Year!

Just Fifteen Books on China?

"It would be a delightful summer diversion. What China-watcher wouldn’t relish an assignment to select fifteen good books to introduce general readers to contemporary China? It promised to be easy. After all, I had recently reviewed the state of the art while my wife and I were working on our last book, China Today (Harvard Magazine, February 1975, Page 31). And the assignment would be worthwhile, spurring me to catch up on a flurry of new books. I had visions of days spent reading in the hammock or on the beach, and the evenings devoted to the new parlor game of challenging fellow Sinologues to name their fifteen favorites…"

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