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City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir • Paul French

City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir is a masterpiece, one that could probably only have been written by Paul French. This narrative non-fiction account of Western gangsters in 1930s Shanghai is I think his best work – even better than Midnight in Peking, which was an investigation into the unsolved […]

By |April 9th, 2018|Uncategorised|0 Comments

The Accidental Citizen-Soldier: The Story of an American in the Korean Army • Young Chun

For many of us expats, a trip to the immigration office can be stressful. Apart from the hassle of paperwork, there’s always the possibility of some nasty little surprise – a new regulation, a bureaucratic screw-up, an obscure regulation unknowingly violated – which results in you rushing off to get […]

By |April 4th, 2018|Uncategorised|0 Comments

Shanghai Lawyer • Norwood F. Allman

Shanghai Lawyer. It’s an uninspiring title and even the author’s name – Norwood F. Allman – has the dullness of an accountant about it. But Allman was very much more than just a lawyer, and his memoir is one of my all-time favourites. For breadth and depth of experience during […]

By |March 9th, 2018|Uncategorised|0 Comments

Hong Kong on the Brink: An American Diplomat Relives 1967’s Darkest Days • Syd Goldsmith

Perhaps I’ve just been unlucky in the books I’ve read, but, heavens above, diplomats are among the very dullest of writers. They have a tendency to self-importance, unnecessary detail, and verbosity, and, although their professional life calls for a certain mastery of language, too often their skill for saying a […]

By |March 5th, 2018|Uncategorised|0 Comments

Ulaanbaatar beyond Water and Grass: A Guide to the Capital of Mongolia • M. A. Aldrich

One of the world’s most distinctive cities, Ulaanbaatar finally has the book it deserves. Although Mongolia and Ulaanbaatar are bywords for remoteness, the city has for centuries been an important regional center, resulting in a fascinating mix of traditional and modern, local and foreign influences.

Aldrich, an American lawyer and writer […]

By |February 28th, 2018|Uncategorised|0 Comments

The Real Taiwan and the Dutch: Traveling Notes from the Netherlands Representative • Menno Goedhart and Cheryl Robbins

When I came upon this Dutch-flavored guidebook in Jenny Wilsen’s independent bookstore in Taichung (gone the way of all flesh alas despite my NT$450 purchase) first impressions were decidedly mixed. Beautifully printed and lavishly illustrated, it looked, however, with its multitude of pictures of the author (over fifty of them!) […]

By |January 25th, 2018|Uncategorised|0 Comments

The Formosa Fraud: The story of George Psalmanazar, one of the greatest Charlatans in Literary History • Graham Earnshaw

The subtitle is no exaggeration: the Formosan imposter, who went by the name Psalmanazar, really was one of the greatest charlatans in literary history. As author Graham Earnshaw says, “he not only faked literary works, he faked himself, too.”

Despite Psalmanazar writing a confessional memoir, published posthumously, many of the details […]

By |January 24th, 2018|Uncategorised|0 Comments

Taiwan’s Imagined Geography: Chinese Colonial Writing and Pictures, 1683–1895 • Emma Jinhua Teng

Although Taiwan’s Imagined Geography is more an academic work than popular non-fiction (no surprise to learn that it began life as a doctoral dissertation) it’s digestible enough for the non-specialist general reader to tackle. Published in 2004 by Harvard University Press, the book is actually one of the best-selling titles […]

By |January 23rd, 2018|Uncategorised|0 Comments

Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West • Tonio Andrade

I approached Lost Colony with scepticism because of the book’s overreaching subtitle: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West. While the story of the battle for Fort Zeelandia in 1661–1662 is little known to those unfamiliar with Chinese or Taiwanese history, it’s hardly untold. Nor can […]

By |January 21st, 2018|Uncategorised|0 Comments

The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History • Tonio Andrade

Tonio Andrade is one of the best historians currently writing about East Asia, and The Gunpowder Age (2016) is the best of his three excellent books. It expands on the Lost Colony’s comparison of European and Chinese military might during the 1660s, when Koxinga’s remnant Ming forces laid siege to the Dutch […]

By |January 15th, 2018|Uncategorised|0 Comments