build chinese vocabulary
14 Jan 2019

Recommendations for Chinese Reading


Books form an essential component of learning a new language. They are paperback recordings of how people think in that language, it is a glimpse of their stories in their own words. Hence reading is one of the best ways to learn Chinese. Books are very useful for people learning the Chinese language from their home, especially for people who do not have many opportunities to interact with Chinese people.

Initiate your Chinese language course by reading books about China. One good example is Good Earth by Pearl S Buck. This novel describes life in Chinese villages. It is useful to have an introductory idea about the Chinese culture.

Moving on to the books written in the Chinese language, there are many options available. You can purchase paperbacks or store e-books on your phone.

Points to be kept in mind while reading

Reading shouldn’t be passive especially when it is being done to learn a new language. To effectively learn Chinese language by reading you can follow the following tips.

  • Use a highlighter to mark new words. Look them up later and write down their meaning in a separate pocket notebook. This will greatly enhance your Chinese language vocabulary. Also take note of the way the word used.
  • If you feel that a book is boring to read, you can always listen to an audiobook.
  • Read in groups or read aloud to a group a people.
  • Make notes in the margins.

Students learning mandarin language should select a books of appropriate difficulty based on their level of comprehension of the Chinese language.

Books for beginners.

1. My first book of Chinese Words: an ABC Rhyming Book

Author: Faye Lynn Wu

This book gives an introduction to simple words spoken in the Chinese language. It is a colorfully illustrated book. A must have for any Chinese language student.

2. Slangman’s Fairy tales: Cinderella

Author: David Burke

This book is the Chinese language translation of the classic fairytale. Since you must already be familiar with the story, while reading this book you can focus on how the same fairytale is told using words in Mandarin language. This book is also available as an audio file.

3. Chinese learning- The Story of Mulan (Bilingual English/Chinese version)

Author: Sela Gu

This book is a Chinese folk story though most of us are familiar with the Disney version of this tale. This book is also available in the e book format for your Kindle.

4. The Apple tree (Bilingual English and Mandarin Chinese book)

Author: Jain Thai

This is a storybook in both English and Mandarin Chinese written in Pinyin. It is a delightfully simple read available both as an audio file and in the Kindle format.

5. Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Curly Haired Company: Mandarin Companion Graded Readers Level 1

Original Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

6. Chinese language adaptation by Renjun Yang

This is a perfect book for those mystery lovers out there. The Chinese may be slightly harder to grasp in this book as a beginner but you can take it up as a challenge to master the new Mandarin Chinese words in this book.

Books for Advanced learners

Once you have mastered the bilingual versions and Chinese language translations, you can start reading more difficult Chinese. Keep a dictionary handy to look up new words.

1. Wild Grass (Bilingual Series in Modern Chinese literature)

Author: Lu Xun

This is a collection of short poems by the revered Chinese author Lu Xun. This book is one of the treasures of Chinese language literature. The poems beautifully describe nature, betrayal, friendship and loss.

2. The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain (Mandarin Chinese and English Edition)

Author: Han Shan

Translated by Red Pine

Another beautiful read for the poetry lovers penned by a Buddhist monk. This is a collection of about 300 poems. A must have Zen Taoist poetry classic on one’s bookshelf.

3. The Birdy Lady

Authors: Pu Guo, Tingjia Liang and Fa Chang

This is an interesting Chinese folktale which is must read for Mandarin Chinese language learns to help them improve their reading and vocabulary. Also available in the e book format.

4. First Love (Bilingual English – Chinese Edition)

Author: Ivan Turgenev

This book is a light romantic read perfect for a winter afternoon.

5. The Metamorphosis (English – Chinese Bilingual Edition)

Author: Franz Kafka

A science fiction novel. Do give it a try to include even more variety on your bookshelf.

A few other Chinese novels for you to check out. These are not the bilingual versions, so start reading this once you have learnt enough Chinese characters and are more fluent with the language.

  • Tiny Times 1.0 by Jing M
  • Wolf Totem
  • Under the Hawthorn Tree
  • A Story of Lala’s Promotion
  • Tongwan City

Novels are an interesting and informative way to learn Chinese language especially for bookworms. Classic literature is a true delight to read a collect. To find more book suggestions you can check out other works by your favorite Chinese authors, join a Mandarin Chinese reading club or borrow books from Chinese friends.

Happy Reading!

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