10 Popular Chinese Novels: Learn Mandarin by Reading Books
You may have read our article on Chinese books for beginners and added many books from that list to your learning library.
Now that you’re fully convinced of the language benefits you receive from reading Chinese books, let’s continue to the next levels of learning.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 novels to get you started, ranging from intermediate to advanced.
Keep reading to learn how reading in Chinese can continue improving your language skills.
- 1. “Tiny Times 1.0”
- 2. “The Wolf Totem”
- 3. “Decode”
- 4. “Tongwan City”
- 5. “Three-Body Problem”
- 6. “Dream of Ding Village”
- 7. “Wild Grass”
- 8. “The Hunger Games 3: Mockingjay (Chinese Edition)”
- 9. “The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain”
- 10. “The Bilingual Essays of Lin Yutang”
- Why You Should Start Reading Chinese Books
- Tips on How to Learn Chinese Through Books
1. “Tiny Times 1.0”
Written by the famous young author 郭敬明 in what appears to be the first of a series, “Tiny Times 1.0” explores the lives of the rich and wealthy.
Centered on four female university students, it gives a materialistic view of how they deal with friendship, family, work and their future.
If you’re a fan of “Sex and the City” and “Meteor Garden,” then this book’s for you.
2. “The Wolf Totem”
Depicting the Mongolian tribe as the wolf and the Chinese farmers as the sheep, Wolf Totem provides us with a realistic view of the lives of the people belonging to two different nations.
“The Wolf Totem” also gives us a preview of each of their culture, lifestyle and beliefs.
If you’re intrigued with cryptology, the secret service and thrill-seeking adventures then, be sure to pick up this book.
“Decode” depicts the story of a genius who was recruited by the Chinese secret service and praised because of his extraordinary skills but later shunned due to a simple mistake.
4. “Tongwan City”
“Tongwan City” combines fragments of China’s history, culture and religion in this bestselling novel.
Comparing the patience of a Buddhist monk and the recklessness of a Hun warlord, the story teaches us the most effective way of building an empire, one that will last throughout their legacy.
5. “Three-Body Problem”
For sci-fi lovers out there, this one’s for you.
The first novel in a trilogy, “Three-Body Problem,” tells the story of an alien race struggling for survival and the search for their last hope to save their race, eventually landing on Earth.
6. “Dream of Ding Village”
Based on a true story, this novel depicts the harsh reality that unfolded in China after the AIDS epidemic ravaged a small town as a result of blood-selling businesses.
The story is told through the voice of a dead child—his father one of the most dangerous blood buyers. His grandfather pained by the loss of his grandson and ashamed by his own son’s part in his death.
7. “Wild Grass”
Wild Grass is a book comprised of a series of 23 prose poems written between 1924 and 1926 by the famous historical Chinese writer, Lu Xun.
This book is a great way to help readers learn more advanced words in Mandarin while enriching themselves with classic literature.
8. “The Hunger Games 3: Mockingjay (Chinese Edition)”
The best-selling, trilogy of The Hunger Games is a favorite worldwide with several different translated copies of the series that you can find online.
One translated version that has been well received is by Gengfeng, and it’s “The Hunger Games 3″ Mockingjay.”
9. “The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain”
If you ever wanted to read all 307 beautiful Chinese poems by the highly talented Buddhist poet Hanshan, then “The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain” might pique your interest.
This particular book—translated by Red Pine—has received top reviews for its excellent translations that make all of the poems very understandable and easy to read (not to mention inspiring).
“The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain” features poems by not only Hanshan himself, but also two of his very close friends who were also gifted poets.
10. “The Bilingual Essays of Lin Yutang”
If you’re a fan of nonfiction and a history buff, then this book of bilingual essays on Chinese culture and society spanning from the 1930s to 1950s may appeal to you.
This is one of the more difficult books on this list, but it can be an easy read for readers who are above the intermediate level.
Each of these essays is written in both Mandarin and English so that readers can look back and forth to match the words and sentences up.
Why You Should Start Reading Chinese Books
- It enhances your vocabulary. Reading a Chinese novel helps you see and learn a variety of Chinese characters, which not only expands your vocabulary but also how also demonstrates their structure in sentences.
- It helps retain what you’ve learned. It’s a common problem for language learners to forget what we’ve learned as time progresses. If we’re not immersing ourselves in the language daily, it can be tricky to recall certain words or phrases. To avoid this, it’s best to pick up a book from time to time and immerse yourself through reading.
- It helps improves your sentence structure. Books provide you with a variety of sentences—narrative, descriptive, informative and conversations. You’ll benefit from reading, and you’ll get a stronger sense of the different ways to position your characters.
- It’s fun and relaxing. There’s nothing more relaxing than reading a book. Grab a copy of the latest novel by your favorite author translated into Mandarin, and have fun learning the language.
- You can do it anywhere, at any time. Whether you’re reading your favorite Chinese novel on your Kindle, on your laptop, or physically holding a book in your hand—reading can be done anywhere, at any time.
Tips on How to Learn Chinese Through Books
- Read out loud. When you pick up a Chinese book to read, practice pronouncing the characters by reading the text out loud. It not only improves your concentration but also helps you retain what you’ve read also.
- Look for context clues. Instead of searching for the meaning of the Chinese characters each time you stumble upon an unfamiliar word, look for context clues instead. If the same word keeps reappearing, look it up to confirm its meaning.
Then, find the word in use in other Chinese content, like the videos on FluentU. The more you use new words in use naturally, the better you’ll learn them.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
- Stick to the Chinese text. Don’t depend on the English translation. The purpose of picking up a Chinese novel is to read the content in its intended language—Chinese—and learn as you’re reading.
- Read and reread. Practice makes perfect! It’s such a cliché but still very much applicable to all of us. While reading in a new language may be challenging, it helps you retain information to memory that you’ll be able to recall later. And, it’s all a part of the learning process.
That’s our list of 10 popular Chinese novels to help immerse you deeper into learning the language. Whether you’re a fiction fan or you prefer non-fiction, there’s something on this list for everyone!
So, start flipping those pages and get reading!
And One More Thing...
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FluentU's Learn Mode 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.
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