The Good Earth

There’s a possibility of upcoming work in China, so I’m trying to get a feel for the history, places, and people. I had read some “Complete History of” titles for the macro sweep view when Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth was released in a new edition. (OK, fine. It was for Oprah’s Book Club. Can I help it that she picked this book too?) It is a deceptively simple book about a farmer who achieves great success through hard work and love for his land while, periperhal to his rural experience, the country heaves and lurches toward revolution. The tale is reminiscent in a way of William Dean Howells’ classic American novel The Rise of Silas Lapham, though Buck’s story is made more powerful by the knowledge of what would happen to China after she wrote the book in 1931. Indeed, the final scene somewhat eerily presages the widespread seizures of land that marked the civil war and Communist rule.

Anybody have any other good titles on Chinese life, history, or politics?