Need a Good Summer Read? Try These 28 Books Featured on the Blog

Today Hangzhou, China will reach a sizzling 36 degrees Celsius (that’s 97 degrees Fahrenheit). When the weather heats up, I love nothing better than curling up with a good book during the summer.

I’ve featured so many great books over the years, and many of them could be the perfect companion to your summer this year.

So whether you’re chilling out on the beach or cooling down indoors, here’s my list of recommended summer reads I’ve featured here on the blog, listed in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. (P.S.: These titles are linked to Amazon, where your purchases help support this blog.)

#1: “There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan” by Yuta Aoki

Yuta Aoki’s book shares the stories of 15 different people spanning 8 nationalities who dated Japanese locals, and explores the cultural dynamics. Learn more through my interview with Yuta.

#2: “Good Chinese Wife” by Susan Blumberg-Kason

When it comes to the success of a cross-cultural relationship, does culture or personality matter more? Susan Blumberg-Kason’s gripping memoir “Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair With China Gone Wrong” offers a very personal answer to that question. Learn more through my interview with Susan.

#3: “Tone Deaf in Bangkok” by Janet Brown

It’s never too late to follow your heart to Asia. Just ask writer Janet Brown, who went to Thailand at age 45 and fell in love with the people and places. Learn more through my interview with Janet.


Quincy Carroll#4: “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” by Quincy Carroll

This novel explores the clash between two Americans (a deadbeat and an idealist) teaching English in China, and the student who comes between them. Learn more through my interview with Quincy.

#5: “The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane” by Susan Chan

“The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane” is an easy breezy love story that reads like one of my favorite romantic comedies on the screen. Learn more through my interview with Susan.

#6: “Tiger Tail Soup” by Nicki Chen

In “Tiger Tail Soup”, Nicki Chen transports us to a place you don’t often find in wartime China literature – Fujian Province’s Gulangyu Island. Learn more through my interview with Nicki.

#7: “A Bollywood Affair” by Sonali Dev

“A Bollywood Affair” is such a unique and enchanting book that, even if you’ve sworn off the romance genre, you must read it. Learn more through my interview with Sonali.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes#8: “The Girl Who Wrote in Silk” by Kelli Estes

“The Girl Who Wrote in Silk” by Kelli Estes links two women across centuries to a silk embroidered sleeve in a story of love, courage and humanity. Learn more through my interview with Kelli.

#9: “Love Me Anyway” by Tiffany Hawk

Tiffany Hawk offers an inside look into being a flight attendant — along with some AMWF romance — in her coming-of-age debut novel, “Love Me Anyway.” Learn more through my interview with Tiffany.


#10: “Pearl River Drama: Dating in China” by Ray Hecht

Ray doesn’t shy away from letting you into his utterly imperfect love life, and ultimately he comes across as a genuinely nice foreign guy just looking for love in China. Learn more through my interview with Ray.

#11: “South China Morning Blues” by Ray Hecht

Through 12 viewpoints, South China Morning Blues takes readers on a tour of the underside of the expat scene in China. It’s a fresh take on modern China. Learn more through my interview with Ray.

The Porcelain Thief#12: “The Porcelain Thief” by Huan Hsu

“The Porcelain Thief” deftly combines Huan Hsu’s personal experiences as a Chinese American in China, family stories, and his quest for buried porcelain. Learn more through my interview with Huan.

#13: “A Field Guide to Happiness” by Linda Leaming

Linda Leaming’s new book “A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up” reads like a love letter to Bhutan. Learn more through my interview with Linda.

Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz#14: “Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras” by Leza Lowitz

Leza Lowitz shares her emotional journey towards marriage and motherhood in Japan (as well as opening a yoga studio in Tokyo) in “Here Comes the Sun”. Learn more through my interview with Leza.

#15: “My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy” & #16: “My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy” by Grace Mineta

If you’re a fan of graphic novels and you’re curious about Japan, you don’t want to miss these charming comics by Grace Mineta. Learn more through my interviews (here and here) with Grace.

#17: “Parsley & Coriander” by Antonella Moretti

“Parsley & Coriander” is a delightful novel that captures the spirit of finding your own path in China, especially as an expat woman. Learn more through my interview with Antonella.

#18: “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng

“Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng is a dark, powerful tale of an AMWF family in America facing a tragedy. Learn more through my interview with Celeste.

#19: “The Empress of Bright Moon” by Weina Dai Randel

Weina Randel has crafted a beautifully written, engaging and suspenseful tale of how one of the greatest rulers in China came to rise. You can learn more about this second chapter of the duology by reading Weina’s guest post on sex education during Tang Dynasty China.

The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel#20: “The Moon in the Palace” by Weina Dai Randel

“The Moon in the Palace” by Weina Dai Randel, about the rise of China’s young Empress Wu, truly reads like a Tang Dynasty-era Cinderella story. Learn more through my interview with Weina.

#21: “The Secret of the Nightingale Palace” by Dana Sachs

The romance at the heart of this novel — which relates to its intriguing title — just stole my heart away. Plus, the book explores a side of World War II that we all too often forget — the US internment of Japanese Americans. Learn more through my interview with Dana.

The Good Shufu#22: “The Good Shufu” by Tracy Slater

“The Good Shufu” by Tracy Slater is a heartfelt story about love & life abroad that proves sometimes those unexpected detours lead us to incredible joy. Learn more through my interview with Tracy.


#23: “Empire of Glass” by Kaitlin Solimine

“Empire of Glass” is stunning for its lyrical prose and unique in that it’s presented as a “translation” of the story of Li-Ming and her husband Wang. Learn more through my interview with Kaitlin.

Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self#24: “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” by Alex Tizon

Alex Tizon’s memoir “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” offers a personal view on Asian masculinity in the West — and is a book you must read. Learn more through my interview with Alex.

Atom Yang Red Envelope#25: “Red Envelope” by Atom Yang

Thanks to Atom Yang’s exceptional writing and sense of humor, Red Envelope is a fun, romantic romp through the most wonderful time of the year for Chinese. Learn more through my interview with Atom.

#26: “Ferry Tale: A Hong Kong Love Story” by Shannon Young

It’s as enchanting as any big-screen rom com – but better, thanks to the Hong Kong setting and charming AMWF couple. Learn more through this post on Ferry Tale.

#27: “How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia” edited by Shannon Young

For me, this is the rarest of all anthologies. I actually devoured it from cover to cover in record time, and found something to love in all the essays — regardless of the story. You’ll also find my essay “Huangshan Honeymoon” featured in this collection. Learn more about my essay and 12 other essays you’ll want to read.

Year of Fire Dragons#28: “Year of Fire Dragons” by Shannon Young

“Year of Fire Dragons” details the life-changing year Shannon Young spent in Hong Kong while in a long-distance relationship with her Eurasian boyfriend. Learn more through my interview with Shannon.

Guest Post: On Sex Education in China’s Tang Dynasty Era

What was sexuality and sex education really like during China’s Tang Dynasty Era? Weina Dai Randel researched this topic while writing her duology about China’s Empress Wu (The Moon in the Palace and the forthcoming The Empress of Bright Moon). I’ve asked her to share her insights (as well as a few blush-worthy moments!) in this lovely guest post.

Do you have something you’d like to see published here on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn more about how to get your writing featured on the blog.

P.S.: If you’re new to Weina’s writing, don’t miss my interview with her from last month about the first book in her duology, The Moon in the Palace. I’ve called it a Tang Dynasty Cinderella story and highly recommend it to anyone reading this blog. 

P.P.S: The Empress of Bright Moon, the second book in Weina’s duology, will be officially released April 5, 2016 on, where your purchase helps support this site.Empress of Bright Moon —–

Chinese people have a reputation of being reserved, and talking about coupling was not recommended or encouraged even in the family, even today. But on the other hand, Confucian scholars believed it was vital to have as many progenies as possible, and it was common to see a man with ten or fifteen children. So that tells us, they were doing it, definitely doing it, behind the screen or the closed doors.

When I researched this topic, what I found astounded me. Ancient Chinese people were not shy or reserved at all, they were very passionate and open about sex.

To have sex was a beautiful thing, and they believed that the intimate encounter could promote mental and physical health and that it was important for the peace of the household. When you think about it, it has to be so since ancient Chinese men usually had five or six wives, so not every wife could spend the night with the husband every week. So it was possible the wives would need to fight to share a night with the husband, and of course, that also meant there would be many nights without the husband.

Ancient Chinese were very creative about educating the women, by the way. You would find explicit sex scenes playing out in sequence on fans, bamboo slats, silk handkerchiefs, ceramic statues or ceramic statues shaped as men and women coupling, and even on the walls, vases, and shoes. The scenes often described vivid lovemaking that demonstrated excellent painting skills and detailed descriptions of positions.

Viewing the erotic paintings on silk was a more decent way of sex education, believe it or not. It was a secret tradition among palace women and the nobles as well. Often, such paintings were shared within a closed circle and with discretion.

During research I found the book titled 春梦遗叶, literally, it means Spring Dreams, Forgotten Leaves, but the English title is named Dreams of Spring. It’s actually a collection of Erotic Art in China. I requested it through Interlibrary Loan since I was still at school, and when I received it, the librarian took a look at the cover and her face turned red. Later, I bought the book and studied it. Let me tell you the scenes on those paintings were not simply showing two beautiful women having a bath. It was more than that, and I was so shocked to see the content and the details.

This is the cover of the book, which inspired me to put it in The Moon in the Palace. What the book contained is similar to a scene I depicted in The Moon in the Palace, but instead of lovemaking, I intended that scene to be a moment of self discovery and Mei’s sexual awakening. Here’s the cover of the book, which is only a modest, yes, very modest erotic picture that the book has:Dreams of Spring Cover (1)

What else is in the book? Many pictures. I’m afraid I can’t describe them without giggling, but I can tell you the relationship between the Crown Prince and the flutist was inspired by the paintings.

Since having male heir was very important, it also devoted abundant attention on how to conceive, not just children, but sons. I was shocked again – there are so many conventional wisdoms and secret recipes for conceiving a son! If you want to hear more about this, it has to do with the way of coupling, the time of coupling, the food you eat before coupling, the moon’s phase on the night of coupling, etc. It was so fascinating. Unfortunately I couldn’t use any of them since this was not the focus, but the information did prove to be useful for the second book The Empress of Bright Moon.

You can find these examples of ancient erotic art in many places in China nowadays, and they would pop up at some shopping places that you would never expect.

Two months ago when I was strolling with my family in the shopping district near Yu Garden in Shanghai, we passed a stall selling many paintings, fans, statues. My daughter, a nine-year-old, picked up a fan and asked me, “What’s this, mom?” I leaned over. Oh lord, the fan contained nine scenes which revealed the famous sex styles – the Nine Ways.

My husband and I were so embarrassed. We dropped the fan and quickly fled.

Weina Dai Randel is the author of The Moon in The Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon, a duology about Empress Wu, the only woman in Chinese history who reigned as emperor.The Empress of Bright Moon will be officially released April 5, 2016 on, where your purchase helps support this site.

Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.