The 20 Shanghai Books: Best 2024 Update and Review

Looking to immerse yourself in the rich history, captivating culture, and vibrant energy of Shanghai? Dive into these 20 best books about Shanghai that will transport you to the heart of this mesmerizing city. Whether you’re seeking a gripping novel set in 1930s Shanghai or a comprehensive non-fiction book on Shanghai’s architecture and urban development, this list has something for every avid reader and history enthusiast. Let’s explore the top books that beautifully capture the essence of Shanghai’s past and present.

20 Best Books About Shanghai

Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love and International Intrigue on the Eve of the Second World War

by Taras Grescoe

Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love and International Intrigue on the Eve of the Second World War by Taras Grescoe is a captivating book about Shanghai that delves into the city’s tumultuous history during the 1930s. Grescoe skillfully weaves together the stories of powerful warlords, foreign adventurers, and enterprising women to create a mesmerizing narrative of Shanghai on the brink of war. The book offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s complex social dynamics, from the glittering nightlife of the international settlement to the shadowy underworld of opium dens and brothels. Against this backdrop, Grescoe explores the forbidden love affairs and political intrigues that shaped the destiny of shanghai as it stood on the cusp of dramatic change. With meticulous research and vivid storytelling, Shanghai Grand is a compelling blend of history, romance, and international upheaval that will transport readers to a bygone era of glamour and danger.

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China

by Paul French

Midnight in Peking is an enthralling book about Shanghai that delves into the haunting murder of a young Englishwoman in the final days of Old China. Paul French skillfully weaves together a gripping narrative that transports readers to the vibrant and enigmatic streets of 1930s Peking. With meticulous research and evocative storytelling, French unravels the layers of mystery surrounding the brutal killing, offering a compelling blend of history, true crime, and social commentary. As the investigation unfolds, readers are immersed in the decadent and dangerous world of old Shanghai, where corruption, espionage, and opium dens lurk beneath the glittering surface. Midnight in Peking is a captivating and chilling exploration of a bygone era, filled with intrigue, scandal, and the relentless pursuit of justice.

Shanghai Girls

by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is a captivating book about Shanghai that follows the lives of two sisters, Pearl and May, as they navigate the tumultuous events of 20th century Shanghai. The novel offers a vivid depiction of the city’s opulence and the sisters’ glamorous lives, which are soon shattered by war, betrayal, and immigration to America. As they struggle to adapt to their new reality, the sisters lean on each other for support, facing heartbreaking challenges and uncovering painful family secrets. See’s rich storytelling and meticulous research bring the Shanghai of the past to life, offering readers a compelling glimpse into the city’s history and the enduring bond between sisters. This book on Shanghai is a powerful exploration of love, resilience, and the strength of familial ties.

Empire Made: My Search for an Outlaw Uncle Who Vanished in British India

by Kief Hillsbery

Empire Made: My Search for an Outlaw Uncle Who Vanished in British India by Kief Hillsbery is a captivating blend of memoir and historical detective work. The author embarks on a quest to uncover the mysterious life of his uncle, who disappeared in British India. The search takes him through the bustling streets of Shanghai, the opium dens of Canton, and the exotic landscapes of India. Hillsbery weaves a rich tapestry of history, culture, and personal discovery as he delves into the world of his enigmatic relative. This book is a thrilling journey through the complexities of British colonialism, the allure of the East, and the mysteries of family history. Empire Made is a must-read for anyone fascinated by the allure of the East and the secrets of the past.

The Shanghai Factor

by Charles McCarry

The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry is a thrilling espionage novel that takes readers deep into the world of international intrigue and political maneuvering. Set in the bustling city of Shanghai, the book follows the story of a young American operative who finds himself embroiled in a complex web of espionage, betrayal, and danger. As he navigates the shadowy underworld of the city, he must rely on his wits and instincts to survive and uncover the truth. With its fast-paced plot, vivid descriptions of the city, and gripping suspense, this book about Shanghai is a must-read for fans of espionage thrillers and anyone looking for a riveting adventure in an exotic setting.

The Last Empress

by Anchee Min

The Last Empress by Anchee Min is a captivating book about Shanghai that delves into the intriguing life of Empress Dowager Cixi. Set against the backdrop of the rapidly changing Shanghai during the late 19th century, the novel vividly brings to life the opulence and political intrigue of the Qing Dynasty. Through the eyes of Orchid, a young concubine who rises to become the powerful Empress Dowager, readers are transported into a world of forbidden love, betrayal, and the struggle for power. Min’s rich storytelling and meticulous research provide a gripping portrayal of the tumultuous events that shaped Shanghai and China during this pivotal period. The Last Empress is a mesmerizing historical fiction that offers a compelling glimpse into the complex history of the Forbidden City and the ever-changing landscape of Shanghai.

The Painter of Shanghai

by Jennifer Cody Epstein

The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein is a captivating novel set in the bustling metropolis of Shanghai. This compelling story follows the life of Pan Yuliang, a young girl sold into prostitution who later becomes a renowned artist. The book delves into the intricacies of Shanghai’s vibrant art scene and the challenges faced by a woman navigating through the societal norms and expectations of the time. The author skillfully weaves together history, art, and romance to create a rich and immersive reading experience. The vivid descriptions and well-developed characters bring the city to life, making it a must-read for anyone interested in a book about Shanghai that explores the complexities of art and identity in a changing world.

Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City

by Stella Dong

Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City by Stella Dong is a captivating exploration of the history and evolution of the bustling metropolis. Dong delves into the complexities of Shanghai’s past, covering its rise as a vibrant and decadent hub of culture, commerce, and vice, as well as its subsequent decline and resurgence. The book offers a vivid portrayal of the city’s dynamic transformation, from its heyday as a cosmopolitan playground to its tumultuous periods of war and political upheaval. Dong masterfully weaves together narratives of power, wealth, and social change, offering readers a rich tapestry of Shanghai’s past. This book about Shanghai is a must-read for anyone fascinated by the enigmatic allure of this iconic city.

The Shanghai Moon

by S.J. Rozan

The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan is a captivating mystery novel that takes readers on a thrilling journey through the bustling and enigmatic city of Shanghai. This book about Shanghai follows the adventures of private investigators Lydia Chin and Bill Smith as they delve into the dangerous world of international smuggling and intrigue. The story is filled with rich descriptions of the city’s vibrant streets, mysterious alleyways, and opulent nightlife, immersing readers in the exotic and alluring atmosphere of Shanghai. With its intricately woven plot, compelling characters, and evocative setting, The Shanghai Moon is a must-read for anyone looking for a gripping and atmospheric mystery novel set in the heart of a bustling metropolis. If you’re looking for a Shanghai book that will transport you to another time and place, this is the book on Shanghai for you.

Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family

by Jennifer Lin

Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family by Jennifer Lin is a captivating book about Shanghai that delves into the complex history of a Chinese Christian family. Through the author’s personal family story, readers are taken on a journey through the tumultuous events of 20th-century Shanghai, including the rise of communism and the Cultural Revolution. The book explores themes of faith, betrayal, and forgiveness as the family grapples with the challenges of living as Christians in a rapidly changing society. Jennifer Lin’s poignant storytelling and meticulous research bring to life the vibrant and tumultuous city of Shanghai, offering readers a deeper understanding of its rich history and the resilience of its people. This book on Shanghai is a compelling blend of memoir, history, and cultural exploration that will resonate with readers interested in family sagas and the complexities of faith in a changing world.

The Shanghai Gesture: A Novel

by Gary Indiana

The Shanghai Gesture: A Novel by Gary Indiana is a captivating and atmospheric book about the vibrant and enigmatic city of Shanghai. Set in the 1930s, this novel delves into the lives of a diverse cast of characters who are drawn together by the allure of Shanghai’s underworld. The city itself becomes a character in the story, with its opium dens, nightclubs, and shadowy back alleys providing the backdrop for the characters’ intriguing and often dangerous encounters. Gary Indiana’s vivid and evocative prose brings the city to life, making it feel like a living, breathing entity. This book on Shanghai is a compelling exploration of the city’s rich history, its complex social dynamics, and the allure of its dark underbelly. Readers will be transported to a bygone era and immersed in the intoxicating world of Shanghai.

Shanghai Redemption

by Qiu Xiaolong

Shanghai Redemption is a captivating crime thriller set in the bustling city of Shanghai. Qiu Xiaolong takes readers on a gripping journey through the dark underbelly of the city, as Chief Inspector Chen Cao navigates the complexities of the Chinese justice system and the dangerous power struggles of the political elite. As the investigation unfolds, readers are immersed in the rich culture and history of the city, making it a truly immersive and engaging read. Xiaolong’s vivid storytelling and intricate plot twists make this book a must-read for anyone interested in a compelling ‘book about Shanghai’ that is filled with suspense, intrigue, and an authentic portrayal of the city’s atmosphere. Shanghai Redemption is a thrilling and atmospheric ‘Shanghai book’ that will keep readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

The Shanghai Union of Industrial Mystics

by Nury Vittachi

The Shanghai Union of Industrial Mystics, written by Nury Vittachi, is a captivating book on Shanghai that combines the allure of the city with elements of mystery and intrigue. Set in the bustling metropolis of Shanghai, the story follows a group of industrial mystics who use their unique powers to navigate the complex world of business and commerce. As they delve into the city’s secrets, readers are taken on a thrilling journey filled with unexpected twists and turns. Vittachi’s vivid descriptions and engaging storytelling bring the vibrant streets of Shanghai to life, making this book a must-read for anyone interested in a captivating tale set in the heart of China. Whether you’re a fan of mysteries, urban settings, or simply fascinated by the enigmatic allure of Shanghai, this book about Shanghai is sure to captivate and enthrall.

Shanghai: A Novel

by Yokomitsu Riichi

Shanghai: A Novel by Yokomitsu Riichi is a captivating exploration of the vibrant and dynamic city of Shanghai in the early 20th century. This evocative book delves into the bustling streets, teeming with life and culture, as it follows the lives of various characters navigating the complexities of the city. Yokomitsu Riichi’s vivid prose brings to life the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of Shanghai, offering readers a rich and immersive experience. Through its compelling storytelling and intricate character development, this book about Shanghai provides a fascinating glimpse into the city’s history, society, and the human experience within its bustling streets. If you’re looking for a captivating and immersive shanghai book, this novel is a must-read for anyone interested in the history and culture of this iconic city.

Midnight in Peking

by Paul French

Midnight in Peking is a riveting book about the dark underbelly of old Peking, filled with intrigue, scandal, and murder. Written by Paul French, this gripping true crime story takes readers on a tumultuous journey through the streets of 1930s Peking, providing a vivid portrayal of the city’s complex history and culture. The book delves into the mysterious murder of Pamela Werner, a young British woman, and the subsequent investigation led by her father, E.T.C. Werner. As the narrative unfolds, readers are transported to a world of corruption, deception, and political turmoil, making for a compelling and immersive reading experience. With its rich historical detail and expert storytelling, Midnight in Peking is a must-read for anyone interested in the captivating history of the city now known as Beijing.

Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai

by Robert Bickers

Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai by Robert Bickers is a captivating book about an Englishman’s experiences in the bustling metropolis of Shanghai. The author delves into the fascinating world of Shanghai in the 1920s and 30s, exploring the city’s unique blend of East and West, and the impact of colonialism on its inhabitants. Through the lens of one man’s life, Bickers paints a vivid picture of the city’s opium dens, vibrant nightlife, and the complex social dynamics at play. This book on Shanghai offers a compelling insight into the tumultuous history of the city, and its role as a melting pot of cultures and influences. Empire Made Me is a must-read for anyone interested in a gripping and immersive exploration of Shanghai’s past.

Behind the Wall: A Journey Through China

by Colin Thubron

Behind the Wall: A Journey Through China by Colin Thubron is a captivating travelogue that takes readers on a mesmerizing exploration of the enigmatic and vibrant country of China. Thubron’s eloquent prose paints a vivid picture of the people, places, and culture he encounters during his journey. The book offers a deep insight into the complexities and contradictions of modern China, revealing the country’s rich history, diverse landscapes, and the resilience of its people. With evocative descriptions and keen observations, Thubron delves into the heart of China, from the bustling metropolis to the tranquil countryside, offering a unique perspective on this ancient civilization. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or an armchair adventurer, Behind the Wall is a must-read for anyone seeking to uncover the intricacies of this captivating country. It’s a truly mesmerizing book about Shanghai and the rest of China.

The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China

by Philip Ball

The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China by Philip Ball is a fascinating exploration of China’s relationship with water, spanning from ancient times to the present day. This book delves into the significance of water in shaping China’s history, culture, and identity, offering a unique perspective on the country’s development. Through vivid storytelling and meticulous research, Ball uncovers the intricate connections between the Chinese people and the water that surrounds them, shedding light on the hidden forces that have influenced the nation’s destiny. Whether you’re a history buff, a cultural enthusiast, or simply curious about the book about Shanghai, this captivating narrative will transport you to the heart of China’s Shanghai book, revealing the untold stories that lie beneath the surface of the water kingdom.

Aramis, or the Love of Technology

by Bruno Latour

Aramis, or the Love of Technology by Bruno Latour is a captivating exploration of the failed attempt to create an automated public transportation system in 1980s Paris. Through this intriguing story, Latour delves into the complex relationship between humans and technology, shedding light on the social, political, and cultural factors that shape technological innovation. This thought-provoking book offers a unique perspective on the role of technology in society and the ways in which it can both empower and constrain us. With its rich narrative and insightful analysis, Aramis invites readers to reconsider their assumptions about the intersection of human desires and technological advancements. Fans of books on Shanghai will find Aramis to be a fascinating exploration of the intricate dynamics at play in the development of urban infrastructure, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of technology and society.

The Shanghai Wife

by Emma Harcourt

The Shanghai Wife by Emma Harcourt is a captivating book about Shanghai that takes readers on a journey through the vibrant and tumultuous city of 1920s Shanghai. The novel follows the story of a young woman, who finds herself in a complex web of love, betrayal, and survival as she navigates the opulent and treacherous world of Shanghai’s elite society. With rich historical detail and vivid storytelling, Harcourt paints a vivid picture of a city teeming with glamour, intrigue, and danger. The Shanghai book is a mesmerizing tale of love, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit set against the backdrop of a city in the midst of great change. Readers will be transported to a world of forbidden love, high-stakes gambling, and the clash of tradition and modernity in this compelling book on Shanghai.

Conclusion

Exploring Shanghai through literature can be a fascinating journey, and these 20 best books about Shanghai offer a diverse and insightful glimpse into the city’s rich history, culture, and people. Whether you’re interested in fiction, non-fiction, or memoirs, these books provide a unique perspective on this vibrant and ever-changing metropolis. From the bustling streets to the hidden alleys, these books capture the essence of Shanghai in a way that only great literature can. Dive into these captivating reads and immerse yourself in the captivating world of Shanghai.

Which Shanghai book is best?

The best book on Shanghai can vary with personal preference, but three widely recommended titles are:

  1. Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love and International Intrigue on the Eve of the Second World War by Taras Grescoe,
  2. Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French,
  3. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See.

Each offers valuable insights and could be a great starting point.

What are the best books on Shanghai?