Alright, so I was cruising through my copy of the Lonely Planet guide to China this afternoon, just looking at some of their suggested travel routes and daydreaming a bit, when I came across a page of books that the editors feel are good for individuals looking to up their China knowledge before starting a trip. The list started off great, with Tim Clissold’s “Mr. China” at the top of the list. I, too, highly recommend “Mr China” and have reviewed it in the past
But then the suggested reading took a turn for the terrible; It seems that the editors liked Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s “Mao: The Unknown Story”. For the love of good education, please spare yourself and your mind, and pick a different book. “Mao: The Unknown Story” was largely contested across the academic community almost immediately after it was published. My mom gave me a copy of it one year, and when I asked my professor his thoughts, he cringed. The next day, I found my inbox filled with multiple seething reviews that he had compiled for me. I’ve read most of the work, and found it to be unnecessarily long, overly complex and ultimately making claims that can be nothing but speculation.
If you really want to read about Mao (your China education will not be complete if you don’t!), I suggest Rebecca E. Karl’s “Mao and China in the 20th Century World“. It is concise, it is easy to read, and it will give you a strong sense of the infamous leader without delving so far into speculative territory.
If you are interested in purchasing the book, amazon has a good price – just click the link below!