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carrom Mar 7th, 2008 10:36 AM

Good books on Hong Kong?
Any ideas for good novels/travel books set in Hong Kong or by Hong Kongese(?) writers?
Historical or contemporary (but not James Clavell). Thank-you very much for any suggestions.

Craig Mar 7th, 2008 10:48 AM

Ray Sharp's "Living Room of the Dead" and "Grave Imports" are good thrillers with a message...

"Living Room" is set in Hong Kong and Macao. "Grave Imports" is set in Hong Kong, Thailand and Cambodia.

PeterN_H Mar 7th, 2008 11:23 AM

An Insular Possession by Timothy Mo.

None of your Clavells here; this, like two other Mo novels, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It's an historical novel set at the time of Hong Kong's annexation by the UK; well-written but with pace.

And the same author's darkly funny 'The Monkey King', set in corrupt colonial Hong Kong, whose story takes place on a more intimate scale. Mo was born in Hong Kong in the 50s, of a Chinese father and British mother, and his narrative here of Cantonese family life and business dealings is well-informed, entertaining, and very readable.

Peter N-H

ekscrunchy Mar 7th, 2008 11:44 AM

Timothy Mo is a wonderful read!

carrom Mar 7th, 2008 12:01 PM

I read Sour Sweet some years ago and really enjoyed it. I'll be happy to read some more.

carrom Mar 10th, 2008 03:09 AM

Any more?

ekscrunchy Mar 10th, 2008 05:51 AM

Kowloon Tong: A Novel of Hong Kong by Paul Theroux.

ekscrunchy Mar 10th, 2008 06:57 AM

Another one that was well reviewed when it came out a few years ago is:

"Golden Boy: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood" by Martin Booth. But I have not (yet) read this one.

And the Jan Morris Hong Kong book is a travel classic.

carrom Mar 10th, 2008 08:54 AM

Thanks, have ordered all your suggestions from Amazon. Hope they make it to Rome on time!

Cicerone Mar 10th, 2008 07:20 PM

There is a good bit of decent fiction and non-fiction by Hong Kong authors. If you can’t find them on Amazon, the best place to find many of these may be a Hong Kong bookshop, so that portion may need to wait until you get to Hong Kong; where you can browse the “local author/local interest” shelves. Try the following chains: Dymocks (go to or Bookazine ( ) or the wonderful Kelly and Walsh or Hong Kong Book Centre (see I think that Dymocks may have the best local author selection. For fiction, Jess Ross, Liu Yichang and Stewart Sloan are suggestions for living authors (on the latter, I have only read his last book about the Hong Kong police, he writes mystery/horror books as well). While I am not a huge fan of the genre, you might like the novels of Jin Yong (there are others writing in the martial arts genre).

For non-local authors, I am a huge fan of Jan Morris, both her travel writing and her history writing. She wrote “Hong Kong” many years ago, but IMO it is such a well-written book that you will love it in any event, and I still recognize much of the Hong Kong she first wrote about. I would read this book first. (She has written a trilogy of the British colonial experience in Asia, which you may find interesting background. It's just excellent writing and interesting history generally, IMO. Look for the "Pax Brittana" series. She wrote a short piece called "The Traveling Craft" which may change the way you travel as well.)

Some other reccos:

Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth, edited by Barbara Sue-White. This is a collection of letters and stories by others (Queen Victoria, Rudyard Kipling, WH Auden) which tells the history of the Hong Kong over several hundred years. Also has some interesting photos of old Hong Kong.

History of Hong Kong by Frank Welsh. A little dry, but a very comprehensive history of the place.

Myself a Mandarin, by A Coates. Amusing tales of a British magistrate working in Hong Kong.

David Tang, of Shanghai Tang and the China Club, wrote a series of columns for a paper here which have been collected into a book called An Apple a Week. I think most are interesting for his viewpoint, although not all relate to Hong Kong.

Nury Vitachy is a local humorist here who has written several books that might give you a funny insight into relations between “East” and “West”.

Jason Wordie, a local Hong Kong historian and writer, has written a very good book about walks in various neighborhoods in Hong Kong, you might want to get this, it is called "Streets, Exploring Hong Kong Island".

Hong Kong Temples by Ken Raby is an excellent little guidebook to 100 of the 400 or so active temples in Hong Kong. There are diagrams and descriptions of the attributes of the various gods. This is one of the most useful and interesting books I have bought in years, and it has been great fun to find some very unusual and little-visited temples here; I wish I had known about it 10 years ago when I first moved here.

Christopher Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, has written a number of books, one about his term as governor called like “East and West” which is somewhat interesting.

On a Chinese Screen; The Painted Veil, both by Somerset Maugham. The first is a collection of short stories about life as he encountered it in China in the 1930s. The other book opens in Hong Kong in the 1920s, the balance of the story takes place in a small Chinese village. Somerset Maugham has written extensively about SE Asia, you can find collections of his short stories in most bookshops. He focuses more on Malaysia, Singapore and the Indonesian islands. He is such just a fantastic writer however, that again, even if it is not about Hong Kong specifically, you can’t help but be enraptured.

Sterling Seagrave has written a number of non-fiction books about China and Asia which make very interesting reading. The Soong Dynasty and Dragon Lady are two very good ones.

FormAsia, a local publisher here, has a very large number of picture and other unusual books on Hong Kong, including furniture, architecture, walking, etc. These are sometimes in gift box sets and make nice mementos, they also have the larger coffer table books that make nice souvenirs as well. Kelly and Walsh in particular have a very nice selection of the larger books. See for a list of titles.

Finally, I would also recommend the Culture Shock! books. There is one for Hong Kong. They give a fairly comprehensive and in my view accurate picture of culture and customs in each place. The books are part of the Culture Shock series of books published by Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company. You can buy them on line from Amazon or your local bookstore can order it for you.

carrom Mar 11th, 2008 06:55 AM

Thank-you Cicerone, as always so useful. I read the Somerset Maughams a very long time ago. Must go and search for them. Glad to hear the Culture Shock Series is good as I just oredered the one on the Philippines. I will certainly browse the book shops you mention once there. Thanks again.

SophiaMaple Mar 12th, 2008 12:37 AM

A bit dated but a good one is Han Suyin's A Many-Splendoured Thing written in 1952.


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