Here are the top three books written by foreign authors for non-Chinese readers which I feel truly grasp the essence of this spectacular country and culture. There are any more good books on China but if you must pick five to start, here they are and you won’t regret it.
Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower (by Henry M Paulson Jr) For business people who are affected by China, this book is completely up to date and reveals many high-level backroom scenarios that confronted the former Treasury secretary. Unbeknownst to many, Henry Paulson has been to China over 100 times over the span of a decade. It really deserves a rating of 10/10 and worth more than its price and your time 100 times over.
The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers (Richard McGregor) If you want to understand what the government is all about in China, this is the perfect read. This book is best read after you have seen a few documentaries, or have visited China at least once. China rookies would be confounded by the ability of the communist party to stay behind the scenes so much so that you will even learn how it is actually impossible to find or bring a lawsuit against them.
The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy (Daniel A Bell) This is best read by folks who have already visited or recently started their work in China and have some experience with the culture. Written by an author with decades of experience, his views are truly balanced and will challenge your thoughts about Western political ideals.
Other notable books on China:
Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (Leslie T. Chang)
On China (Henry Kissenger)