Love reading but bored with your current options?
Don’t worry. Things are about to get more exciting.
Because we’re about to get you hooked on some engaging e-book titles for learning and reading Mandarin.
Whether we enjoy actual “books” or not, many of us spend a pretty massive amount of our time reading—be it social media, texts, emails, subtitles, what have you.
Amazon had picked up on this when they released the Kindle ten years ago.
The age of printed text was starting to die out, so they put all the benefits of reading a good book or checking out the daily news in a handheld digital form that was easier on the eyes than a smartphone or tablet.
Many people have a Kindle now and if you, reader, are one such person, why not invest in some great books to help you along in your language learning journey?
We put together a list of some fantastic Kindle e-books for you to download right now and put your Mandarin reading skills to the test, books that will please even the pickiest of readers and learners.
But first, we should probably explore how reading Chinese books on Kindle can help you improve your language skills.
How Can My Kindle Help Me Learn Chinese?
- Kindle books include everything from Chinese lesson books to parallel texts to full 汉字 (hàn zì — Chinese character) texts. Parallel texts are books of literature that, in this case, feature hanzi and English translations side-by-side (or on alternating pages) so the reader can translate the text as they go. Many Kindle books boast this feature and it’s incredibly useful for brushing up on reading in Mandarin. It’s important to note that e-books and Kindle books may operate a bit differently from print books, with the English translation usually following a passage rather than appearing next to it.
- You don’t need to lug around physical books or load your phone up with e-books to enjoy Chinese learning—it’s all on your Kindle device. The Kindle is an incredibly useful little device that can help keep your books separate and organized digitally. Along with any kind of leisure reading, this is useful for stocking up on Mandarin literature for reading practice.
- Many of these books are inexpensive, so you can practice your reading skills for cheap. The best resources are free or cheap resources. Well, most of the time.
- It can help put the reading skills you learn on FluentU into practice.
FluentU takes real-world Chinese videos—like music videos, movie trailers, documentaries, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
It has a wide range of contemporary videos, as you can see here:
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language: FluentU makes native Chinese videos approachable through interactive transcripts and subtitles.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
The powerful learning program turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your studies and suggests content and examples based on the words you’re learning. That means every user gets a 100% personalized experience!
7 Top Kindle Books for the Hard-to-please Chinese Learner
To add some variety to our list of awesome Kindle books to download, we’ve included textbooks as well as entertaining literature.
If there’s one tool every Mandarin learner needs, be they a beginner or advanced learner, it’s a dictionary. Mandarin Chinese-English dictionaries are super handy to have on hand because they provide easy access to unfamiliar characters. How will one learn difficult characters in Chinese if they don’t look up their pronunciation and translation?
“A Frequency Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese: Core Vocabulary for Learners” is available as a physical book, but the Kindle version offers so many more great features. These include note-taking, a search function and a highlighting feature.
The Kindle version is currently only a little over $30, which is more than worth it to have a well-written and organized dictionary on hand. Since this is a simple dictionary, it isn’t really “ideal” for a particular level of learner. Any learner can benefit from this handy little resource.
What kind of learner are you? Do you benefit from lectures, from studying on your own or from a more hands-on approach? If you prefer a more hands-on approach that covers alternative means of learning Chinese, then “Hacking Chinese: A Practical Guide to Learning Mandarin” is the perfect Kindle book for you.
This guide explores different ways of learning Chinese characters efficiently, as well as how to improve pronunciation and tips for learning on one’s own. This e-book also features “hacks” to help you make the most of your study time.
This Kindle download is a little over $8 and great for beginners or intermediate learners. It’s also under 200 pages, making it a great short read for any Mandarin learner.
Who doesn’t love a bit of moving fiction? 余华 (yú huá — Yu Hua) is a China-born avant-garde author known for his psychological dramas. “To Live” is one of his most heartwrenching and eye-opening novels on the beauty of personal and physical freedom yet. The book focuses on the life of a Chinese peasant struggling to survive illness and poverty in 20th-century China. It’s moving and enjoyable.
The style of writing in this book is simple yet profound. Some beginners may benefit from it, but it may be challenging enough for intermediate or advanced readers to give it a shot. This book is entirely in hanzi and it’s a fairly short read at under 230 pages. “To Live” is currently available for around $9 on Amazon.
“The Secret Garden” is a famous children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The book follows the life of Mary, a spoiled but ultimately unloved young girl growing up as a British child in India. The theme of the book is rejuvenation and healing—it’s a somewhat dark story for children to read, but one that inspires empathy in children and adults alike.
It’s worth noting that although this is a Mandarin version of a classic English-language story in a South Asian setting, the names and settings are often changed to Chinese names and places.
The Chinese version of the book is incredibly easy to read, seeing as it’s a children’s book. Beginners can absolutely benefit from this book and intermediate learners may learn a thing or two from it as well. If you’re familiar with the book in English, you may find it easier to follow along in Mandarin.
This Kindle version, which is around $7, is especially helpful for learning Mandarin as it contains audio links to the pronunciation of difficult words as well as portions in English, such as annotations and notes from the translators.
Who hasn’t read or watched a Sherlock Holmes tale at least once in their life? Like “The Secret Garden,” this Sherlock Holmes classic by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is ideal for children or beginner Mandarin learners. “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Curly Haired Company” is a bit simpler than “The Secret Garden,” so intermediate learners may not particularly get anything out of reading this one. However, this Kindle book features many of the same bells and whistles—audio clips, annotations and notes in English, highlighting and note-taking features.
Like “The Secret Garden,” this Mandarin Companion also features Chinese names and places, rather than the traditional names and settings.
“Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Curly Haired Company” is currently available on Amazon for about $7.
If you’re a beginner learner looking for more formal instruction, or you’d like to get the hang of conversational Mandarin, “Mandarin Chinese for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Chinese” is the absolute best book to check out.
For around $9 you can enjoy an immersive experience that teaches you what to say in practical real-life scenarios, how to speak Chinese at a proper speed and how to avoid cultural faux pas and speaking mistakes. This book contains a mix of English and Chinese, with much of the annotations and instructions in English. This makes this Kindle book perfect for beginners. It’s got all the basics packed into one easy-to-read guide.
Any level of reader can benefit from breezing through “Chinese Blockbuster 1.” While the focus of the book is mostly geared towards beginner Mandarin learners, it’s packed full of really helpful tips for excelling in Mandarin proficiency.
Are you struggling to memorize different character pronunciations? Do you want to learn more about the composition of Chinese characters? Need to get a better grasp of grammar? This book has every tip, trick and hack that any Mandarin learner could use for only about $10.
Now that you’re stocked up on some seriously helpful Mandarin literature and learning to read on your Kindle, you’ve taken a small but important step towards improving your Mandarin fluency.
There are tons of other Chinese Kindle books out there to try as well, all you need to do is a bit of searching.
Good luck with your leisurely studies, and no matter what you’re reading, don’t forget your 字典 (zì diǎn) — dictionary!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist who writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
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