Country side dwellers: The Good Earth- Pearl Buck
A China classic, Buck tells the story of a poor farmer in the countryside in the 1930ies. I imagine that despite the economic rise, there are still millions in China’s countryside leading a similar life, or are but one generation away from it.
Tourists and travelers: Lenin’s Kisses- Yan Lianke
This is a hilarious novel about creating a tourist attraction from scratch. A local village chief decides to buy the embalmed remains of Lenin from Russia and construct a major tourist attraction. For those traversing China by train, Paul Theroux’s Riding the Iron Rooster is a classic.
Romantic souls: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers- Xiaolu Guo
Reverse Culture Shock. A novel about a Chinese girl who moves to England for study and finds love while being lost in translation.
Storytellers: Mao’s last dancer- Li Cunxin
A beautiful, real-life story about how a boy (Li Cunxin) growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China becomes a major ballet star in the United States. There is also a film made of this, though I haven’t watched it yet.