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eXpAt–tAcULar China! Memoirs from forty fabulous foreigners in the PRC

Xiamen Expat
The list author says: "There are nearly 600,000 foreigners presently living and working in the Chinese mainland. They teach English, they study Putonghua, they facilitate global trade and investment, they report on current events, and some are even celebrities.

Expats have been keeping diaries and writing memoirs of their exciting experiences in China for time immemorial, though not until the 1980s, beginning with one Mark Salzman, followed by the omnipresent Peter Hessler, have their careers as published authors launched a few fortunate foreigners in China into superstar status.

Here is a list of memoirs written within the past 2 decades by 40 fabulous foreigners in China. Some are sorely dated, some are eternal, some are clichéd, some are groundbreaking; but, when read a as collective work, all offer a very revealing, and entertaining, observation of life in the oldest (and arguably mysterious) civilization in the world."
Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing
Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing
"Alan Paul, China's latest "it-pat," stormed the Beijing scene as an expat blogger for the Wall Street Journal, the frontman for an infectiously-enjoyable bar band, and father of three. His entertaining memoir explains how he became so Big in China."
The Foremost Good Fortune
The Foremost Good Fortune
"Susan Conley, a saint amongst female expats in China, writes beautifully about her life as an expat wife, raising 2 children in ChinaÂ…and her battle with breast cancer in Beijing."
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.)
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.)
""Perpetually Publicized Peter," as expat expert Peter Hessler is known in literary circles due to his high name recognition, has authored 3 acclaimed books on his experiences in China. River Town, about teaching English, is his most popular."
Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China
Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China
"Rachel DeWoskin was the star of the popular 90's-era Chinese soap opera "Foreign Babes in Beijing". DeWoskin has fueled the bedtime fantasties of millions of Chinese men. This is her story."
China: Portrait of a People
China: Portrait of a People
"Photojournalist Tom Carter has lived in China for nearly a decade - and spent a quarter of that time traveling over 56,000 kilometers across all 33 provinces in China. His book CHINA: Portrait of a People is a photographic record of his record-breaking odyssey."
Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Language
Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Language
"Deborah FallowsÂ’ diary/dictionary Dreaming in Chinese is the latest "must-read" book for expat students learning Chinese. Combining language translation with her own personal cultural observations, Fallows teaches as much as she entertains."
Mr. China: A Memoir
Mr. China: A Memoir
"Many a western author have written about their successes in, and "expertise" on, doing business with the Chinese. Tim Clissold just might be the first to exploit his failures."
Iron and Silk
Iron and Silk
"Mark Salzman was teaching English in China while the rest of us were still in Key Stage 2. His Bible-status memoir (and the movie based on it) is renowned for "opening the door" for future expats the world-over."
Riding the Iron Rooster
Riding the Iron Rooster
"Along with Salzman and Hessler, Theroux is another 80's-era "Old China Hand" whose books have become a staple in the literary diet of foreigners and backpackers across Asia. Severely dated, but considered essential expat reading."
The River At The Center Of The World
The River At The Center Of The World
"Simon Winchester is one of the UK's most prolific authors. His novels about China are best-sellers, but it is in his memoir about his own journeys meandering along the Yangtze River where we REALLY get to know Mr. Winchester - and China."
The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed
The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed
"Journalist Michael Meyer intertwines his diary about living in China with a historical retrospective of Beijing's fast-disappearing "hutong" - ancient neighborhoods that are being destroyed so the Communist government can build skyscrapers."
Eating Smoke: One Man's Descent into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong's Triad Heartland
Eating Smoke: One Man's Descent into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong's Triad Heartland
"Chris Thrall has been a bad bloke. Leaving our Royal Marines to "find his fortune" in Hong Kong, Thrall instead gets mixed up the red-light dealings of Wan Chai and soon finds himself working as a triad soldier for the Chinese mafia."
A Season in Red: My Great Leap Forward into the New China
A Season in Red: My Great Leap Forward into the New China
"This memoir by journalist Kristy Needham is a colorful mix of female-hued observations of expat life in Beijing and her fledgling career at the Communist-controlled China Daily newspaper."
Harvest Season: A Novel
Harvest Season: A Novel
"Chris Taylor, who is responsible for (or should we say guilty of) writing all those Lonely Planet China guidebooks, returns to his own private Shangrila in Yunnan province to find it over-run with drug-dealing, hard-partying expats. Think: George Ernest Morrison meets "The Beach"."
Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China
Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China
"Food writer Fuchsia Dunlop has written a savory, stir-fried memoir about her career as a professional chef in China. Food meets travel - a delicious recipe for reading."
Chasing China: How I Went to China in Search of a Fortune and Found a Life
Chasing China: How I Went to China in Search of a Fortune and Found a Life
"In Chasing China (China Cuckoo in the U.K.) Mark Kitto describes his experiences as a former publishing magnate in China who had his entire business appropriated by the Communist government. Rather than "fight the power," Kitto retired to the Moganshan mountains, where he now runs an inn."
Blonde Lotus
Blonde Lotus
"Hong Kong-based radio personality Cecilie Gamst Berg recalls her more adventurous days as a sexually-liberated European bird out to devirginize as many young Chinese men as possible during 1980's-era China."
Monkey House Blues: A Shanghai Prison Memoir
Monkey House Blues: A Shanghai Prison Memoir
"Drug-dealing Dominic Stevenson spent over two years in China's largest jail, Shanghai Municipal Prison. His memoir recounts his experiences as a naughty expat in various Asian countries leading up to his arrest on the Silk Road."
Silent Tears: A Journey Of Hope In A Chinese Orphanage
Silent Tears: A Journey Of Hope In A Chinese Orphanage
"Kay Bratt's brook Silent Tears has become something of a Bible for families embarking on ChinaÂ’s grueling adoption process. Bratt relocates to China with her family and takes a position at a local orphanage. Career becomes crusade as this brave woman seeks to improve living conditions for Chinese orphans."
Behind the Wall : A Journey Though China
Behind the Wall : A Journey Though China
"Colin Thubron has authored 30 books about his adventures as a world traveler. In Behind the Wall, Thubron shares the China-based portion of his journey, offering insight into 1980s-era Chinese society."
The Hotel on the Roof of the World: From Miss Tibet to Shangri La
The Hotel on the Roof of the World: From Miss Tibet to Shangri La
"Alec Le Sueur's memoir about working at a Holiday Inn in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, has been hailed as one of the funniest books about Tibet, which is refreshing considering the suppressive subject matter."
American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China
American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China
"Matthew Polly makes the journey to Shaolin Temple in Henan province to learn Kung Fu. But more than just jumping and kicking, his memoir is a study on the silly spectacle that all foreigners in China seem to make of themselves."
Business Republic of China: Tales from the Front Line of China's New Revolution
Business Republic of China: Tales from the Front Line of China's New Revolution
"20 years on the frontlines of doing business in China more than qualifies Jack Leblanc as a captain of Sino-industry. He uses his memoir Business Republic of China as a venue to outline in useful detail Chinese business practices, customs and etiquettes while reliving his own journey across commercial China."
China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power
China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power
"After years working in China as a correspondent for National Public Radio, Rob Gifford spends 6 weeks traveling westward across China, interviewing dozens of people along the way. Less a memoir than a travelogue, but GiffordÂ’s journalistic expertise makes for good reading."
China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom (Samuel and Althea Stroum Books)
China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom (Samuel and Althea Stroum Books)
"Senior China scholar Richard Baum's book is part memoir about his days living in 1960's-era China, and part State Department-esque policy advisory on China-US relations."
Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China's Other Billion
Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China's Other Billion
"Like his hero Peter Hessler, Michael Levy also came to China as a Peace Corps volunteer, then wrote a book about it too. Slightly different than River Town, however, as Levy's narrative of China as seen through the eyes of a Jewish-American will appeal to Kosher readers."
Golden Boy: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood
Golden Boy: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood
"Though published in 2006, British author Booth's memoir focuses on his upbringing in 1950's Hong Kong. Despite the fact that Hong Kong was once controlled by the English, the lack of memoirs by Englishmen living in HK is disconcerting."
My China Daily
My China Daily
"Edwin Maher is "that New Zealand guy" who we always see giving the news on CCTV, China's government-run television network. He also does reporting for China Daily, the Communist-controlled newspaper. Some see him as a sellout, but nobody can deny his celebrity."
FAULT LINES on the FACE of CHINA: 50 REASONS WHY CHINA MAY NEVER BE GREAT
FAULT LINES on the FACE of CHINA: 50 REASONS WHY CHINA MAY NEVER BE GREAT
"David Marriott aka "China Bounder" made headlines when he was arrested and deported from China for blogging about his sexual relations with a multitude of his female students. Now he's back with a more scholarly outlook on the present political situation in China."
Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China
Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China
"A refreshing look at laowai life from the eyes of an Indian (and female no less) expat. Pallavi Aiyar's work is important considering that both China and India are contending for world superpower status."
The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet
The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet
"Graham Earnshaw has lived in Shanghai for over two decades, during which he has worked as a reporter, publisher and muscician. On his days off, he likes to WALK across China, picking up where he has left off the previous time. His memoir describes his journeys by foot from Shanghai to Tibet."
Expat Wife in China: Living in the Unknown
Expat Wife in China: Living in the Unknown
"An ideal reading companion for any wife who has been forced to uproot and relocate to China because of her husband's career. Not as well-publicized as Susan Conley's book, but Sanet Mouton still provides a good read for women and wives in China."
Above the Sea: Expat in China
Above the Sea: Expat in China
"Though a bit dated (2002), Jim Bainbridge's touching memoir about working in China and marrying a Chinese woman compliments the ever-growing collection of expat tales."
Ni Howdy!: An American Woman's (Mal)Adaptation to Life in the People's Republic of China
Ni Howdy!: An American Woman's (Mal)Adaptation to Life in the People's Republic of China
"English teacher Desi Downey narrates her 6 zany years living in China, describing in cringing detail all the insecurities that newbies in China inevitably go through as they adjust to life in the world's oldest culture."
Dragons, donkeys, and dust: Memoirs from a decade in China
Dragons, donkeys, and dust: Memoirs from a decade in China
"Rudy Kong, a Canadian, goes to China in search of those two universal male quests - a life and a wife. His funny novel focuses primarily on amusing anecdotes and laowai silliness rather than any profound political diatribe like other China expat books tend to do."
Msg: Memoirs From China
Msg: Memoirs From China
"Nicole Kindred' self-published memoir tells about her experiences working as an English teacher for six months in China."
Sex Rice and Rock'n'roll: Quintessential Chinese Street Language and Sub-Culture Companion Volume One
Sex Rice and Rock'n'roll: Quintessential Chinese Street Language and Sub-Culture Companion Volume One
"Anonymously self-published memoir/guide to China based on the experiences of a self-proclaimed rock-star who claims to have lived in China for 15 years."
Rebeka Goes To China
Rebeka Goes To China
"Not a book but a DVD videologue narrated by an adorable 9 year-old girl living and going to school in Beijing at the peak of the 1989 Tiananmen protests."
Moon Living Abroad in China: Including Hong Kong and Macau
Moon Living Abroad in China: Including Hong Kong and Macau
"An up-to-date insider's guide for expats living and working (as opposed to traveling) in China, author Strother cleverly capitalizes on providing something that China is not very efficient in giving out - information."
Beijing Blues
Beijing Blues
"While reading Big in China, listen to "Beijing Blues", the foot-tapping, finger-snapping debut album by Alan Paul's band Woodie Alan."