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realmayo

Author:  王强  Wang Qiang

 

《圈子圈套》

A trilogy dealing with office intrigue and politics inside high-tech companies in modern-day Beijing (and greater China). The language is not too difficult, and the characters are mostly the type of young-ish white collar Chinese workers who like to use English names when talking to each other and who pepper their sentences with English. (Imron)

 

This book has its own topic here

 

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realmayo

Author:  麦家  Mai Jia

 

《解密》 (Decoded)

About the narrator’s quest to learn more about a (fictional) orphan maths genius who became an elite codebreaker in post-Liberation China before making one mistake and disappearing from view. Quite surreal and quite gripping. Language is slightly trickier than average. Plot is complicated too. English translation available.

2002

 

I read this because the Economist called it “The Chinese novel everyone should read” when its English translation came out. Here’s the review. I struggled through bits of it but I was in a bit of a rush and am tempted to re-read it at some point. (Realmayo)

 

《风声》

Basil wrote:

Comprised of two stories, the telling of a true story about events over a couple of weeks in Hangzhou during the Japanese occupation, initially from the perspective of the occupiers as they try and root out a communist spy. 

… it was a good book. After the initial starting hump, I read with interest, and looked forward to my reading sessions, and lamented that I couldn’t read more than I did in a single session.

More on 《风声》 here

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realmayo

Author:  巴金  Ba Jin

 

《家》

It's about a large, well-off family in Chengdu, and it challenges the strict and oppressive traditional family structure. So yeah, it is somewhat depressing.

On the other hand, it is a true classic of modern Chinese literature that not many others can compare to, and it is surprisingly easy to read. Ba Jin is known for an accessible writing style, but his books still offer an incredible depth.  (Renzhe)

(1931)

 

Has its own topic here.

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realmayo

Author  颜歌  Yan Ge

 

《我们家》

"This is a family drama that manages to be both warm and funny, and barbed and irreverent. The novel is set in a (fictional) small Sichuan town in twenty-first century China, where Gran’s impending eightieth birthday celebrations are the trigger for growing tensions between the family’s middle-aged siblings." -- according to Nicky Harman, here.

(2013)

 

我们家 from 颜歌 is also quite funny, especially if you have been to Sichuan/Chengdu before, you will laugh a lot on the typical characteristics of the region.  (ZhangKaiRong)

 

At first glance the book looked quite easy but actually it's full of very colloquial language and I think quite a bit of Sichuan dialect. I gave up around half way through because I found the language challenging and the characters unsympathetic. But there's probably lots more humour and other things going on in the language or the story that I have completely missed because I was finding it hard to read. (Realmayo)

 

The first chapter is translated into English by Nicky Harman here.

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realmayo

Author: 三毛 Sanmao

 

I strongly recommend San Mao's novels to people who want to read easier novels (in terms of difficulty, I'd compare her to Yu Hua). I've read one short story and two of her novels, and I'm currently reading the third one. ….. her books don't have a typical storyline, they are rather a succession of anecdotes. However, it can be good for busy people who only read for short periods of time, because each anecdote is independent from the others. (Geiko)

 

She has her own topic here

 

Maybe @Lu who I think is our Sanmao expert might volunteer an introductory line or two? :)

 

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realmayo

Author:  余华  Yu Hua

 

Yu Hua intentionally writes in straightforward, simple language. That’s one reason he’s often recommended for people learning Chinese who are looking for a first novel to read. 《活着》is the one lots of people start off with.

 

《活着》

Very popular among people studying Chinese. There is an English translation (To Live) and a movie (with English subtitles). The life of a couple from pre-Liberation to after the Cultural Revoltion.

reading-yu-huas-to-live/

review-with-spoilers/

 

《许三观卖血记》

Chronicle of a Blood Merchant. English translation. Set in the 50s to the 80s.

I thought it was going to be a tale focused mainly around the selling of blood and the tragedy of what happens to the people involved with that, however it ended up instead being a story about a guy's life, and how he would sell his blood every few years when he found he was in need of some cash, with very little blood-selling related tragedy involved.... I did enjoy reading it though, and would agree that it's a good book for people starting out with native-level literature. (Imron) 

许三观卖血记-余华/

 

《在细雨中呼喊》

...was good, but at times it seemed a bit disjointed. The book is a series of recollections by the protagonist about his childhood, but rather than having a linear timeline, it regularly skips around in time, so you need to pay attention otherwise it's easy to get lost. (Imron)

 

《兄弟》

There are actually two novels so together it’s a long read.  The first one is mainly set before and during the Cultural Revolution; the second one is after.

book-of-the-month-oct-2005-兄弟

兄弟-by-余华-spoiler-page

 

《第七天》

A touch trickier to read than 《活着》, perhaps because the language is a little more abstract at times, more likely because the plot is frankly surreal. But overall the language felt fairly straightforward. English translation available.  I didn't find it gut-wrenching sad as 《活着》. But it's not exactly cheery! There's lots and lots (and lots) about the bad side of modern China. But some of the characters are quite sweet. And it's definitely funny at times. I really liked it. (Realmayo)

 

《十个词汇里的中国》

Autobiography/essays. English translation available as China in Ten Words.

 

Elegantly written and autobiographical. Often very moving. (Gato)

I've recently finished this (in English - the edition is beautifully set and the translation is excellent). All round a very interesting book. He explains why critics and readers often think of his books as easy to read, which is something I've seen people on here often comment on. (michaelS)

十個詞彙裡的中國

 

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realmayo

Author:  钟阿城   Zhong Acheng

 

《棋王》

This short novel is about two people sent down to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, one of whom is brilliant at chess. There’s an English translation. Also a 1988 film version available on youtube. I think it’s been used by ICLP and NNTU in Taiwan as teaching material. I think ICLP and NNTU have used a book of the same name but by a different writer: 张系国

 

I think it’s fair to say the language is relatively easy for something which is a bit literary and “well-written”?

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chess_Master

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realmayo

Author: 洪放 Hong Fang

 

《秘书长》

A trilogy following a Chinese official who is secretary-general in a fictional city as he deals with scandals, corruption and colleagues jockeying for power.

Straightforward language except for specialised vocabulary involving government positions and other terminology.

2007-2009

 

I really liked the first two of these (haven’t read the final one yet): written from the point of view of an ex-soldier who is now on the lowest rung of the standing committee (秘书长) that runs a fictional city in China. There’s plenty of corruption and power plays, a bit of romance, lots of instances where we’re shown how someone is a good political operator because of what they say or don’t say, how they pick up on hints, what happens when the party secretary and the mayor disagree etc. The language is straightforward except for the political vocabulary. For me the trilogy is the political equivalent of the 圈子圈套 trilogy that deals with someone making it in the sales business in China.

(Realmayo)

 

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realmayo

Author:   路遥   Lu Yao

 

《平凡的世界》

I've just finished reading 路遥's 《平凡的世界》, a three-book story spanning the lives and loves of a handful of characters over the ten-year period between 1975 and 1985, and I have to say that this is definitely one of my favourite Chinese novels out of all the ones I've read so far.

In fact, I'll go as far to say that I think anyone seriously interested in learning about China and modern-day mainland Chinese culture should read this book ... The language used is also not too difficult ... and so it might be a good choice for someone who is already comfortable reading smaller-length newspaper articles or magazines and is maybe looking to find a first novel to read. (@imron)

The book has its own, extensive topic here: 《平凡的世界》-highly-recommended

 

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laurenth

 Author: 张牧野  Zhang Muye

 

《鬼吹灯

The story is surprisingly entertaining and well-written. The first chapter firmly belongs to the long and proud tradition of Chinese ghost stories (Pu Songling et al.). The second chapter takes a more picaresque turn, with the hero befriending an opium addict rat that's also a thief. After that, there are insects capable of burning a man alive, underground scenes in  monster-infested caves, and a thread consisting of a mysterious dilapidated book with a hidden meaning.

If that's not enough to wet your appetite, I don't know what is  :-)

The book has its own topic here: Reading 鬼吹灯 - pulpy supernatural fiction

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laurenth

Author: 古龙 Gu Long

 

《流星·蝴蝶·剑》

I discovered that this novel was easier than a textbook for 3rd graders I had been reading before that - not to mention more fun. I know Gu Long has a reputation for being the easiest among wuxia writers, and that that particular novel is one of Gu Long's easiest, according to this series of articles on Hacking Chinese.

There's an introductory post in the What are you reading? thread and a specific thread here: Reading Gu Long's "流星•蝴蝶•剑"

 

 

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