Top 10 fiction books about Taiwan

Fiction can give a fascinating insight into a country and its culture, so we have taken a look at the best fiction books about Taiwan.

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Last week, we compiled a rundown of our top 7 non-fiction books about Taiwan, its people, and its culture. The response to this article from readers has been fantastic with many people commenting on the books recommended and making their own suggestions.

While non-fiction books can give a terrific insight into Taiwanese culture, the same is also true of fiction books. And there are no shortage of fiction books which are set in Taiwan or about Taiwanese themes on the market.

As with our previous list, this one is also restricted to books published in English. Some of these are written by ex-pats or overseas writers, while others are translated works by native Taiwanese writers, or those living in the Taiwanese diaspora around the world.

Also as before, there are plenty of good books which we have had to leave out, so if your favorite is not on here, why not tell us all about it by commenting on our Facebook or Twitter pages:

10. Ghost Month - Ed Lin

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Ghost Month is the first book in Ed Lin's acclaimed Taipei Night Market series. It tells the tale of Jing-nan, a young man who runs a night market food stall and suddenly learns that his high school sweetheart, who had been selling betel nuts by the road has been found murdered. He is shocked but also confused as she was supposed to be studying in New York. The police closed the case, but her parents are not satisfied and ask Jing-nan to investigate. He reluctantly sets out to discover the truth behind her death but what he discovers will change his life forever!

9. Taroko Gorge - Jacob Rittari

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This classic thriller, set in Taiwan, sees an American reporter and his photographer partner head to see the wonders of Taroko Gorge at the end of an assignment. There, they unwittingly become the last people to see three Japanese schoolgirls who subsequently go missing. As prime suspects, they set about investigating the disappearance along with the girls classmates, their headteacher and a Taiwanese detective. Cue plenty of action, excitement, and conflict between them as well as plenty of reflections on the culture differences that exist too. As well as offering an insight into being in Taiwan as an outsider, Taroko Gorge is a real page-turner too.

8. Green Island - Shawna Yang Ryan

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Green Island is a hugely ambitious novel by Taiwanese-American author Shawna Yang Ryan focusing on topics like love, betrayal, and family conflict. It is set across more than six decades of Taiwanese history, starting with the White Terror, when the narrator's father, a doctor, is dragged away and imprisoned shortly after delivering her. He is returned more than a decade later but finds himself alienated from family and community, with the exception of his daughter, with whom he develops a close bond. Many years later, the narrator then finds herself in the USA, facing a similar predicament over doing what is right and what is best to save her family. The author is based in Hawaii but researched the historical background to this novel in great detail in Taiwan, which adds a degree of authenticity to a hugely powerful tale.

7. Running Mother and Other Stories - Songfen Guo

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Running Mother and Other Stories is a fantastic collection of short stories by Songfen Guo, masterfully translated by John Balcom. The tales offer a powerful insight into many of the cultural and political events of Taiwan's past, such as the White Terror and the February 28 Incident, and explore how they continued to resonate in Taiwanese society into modern times. The author, who died in 2006, was born in 1938 and lived in Taiwan until moving to the USA in 1966. It was here where he did most of his writing, but it was Taiwan which provided his inspiration for this selection of emotionally challenging but fascinating stories.

6. The Foreigner – Francie Lin

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The Foreigner is an ambitious debut novel by Taiwanese-American author Francie Lin. It tells the tale of Emerson Chang, a Taiwanese-American financial analyst who returns to Taiwan to spread his mother's ashes and pass an inheritance onto his younger brother who still lives there. But he finds his brother is ensconced in Taipei's criminal fraternity and hiding a dark secret which threatens to rip the family apart unless Emerson can uncover what it is and save him. The Foreigner was awarded the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author and provides a dark comic perspective on Taiwan's organized crime gangs.

5. The Butchers Wife – Li Ang

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The Butchers Wife by Li Ang is widely viewed as a modern classic. It tells the hugely powerful and harrowing story of Lin Shin, the wife of the butcher in a small coastal Taiwanese town who is subjected to horrific domestic abuse. Faced with scorn from her local community, who believe her troubles are of her own making, she is driven to madness and takes revenge on her tormentor. The Butchers Wife was inspired by a true story from 1930's Shanghai and tackles themes that remain extremely relevant in Taiwan to this day.

4. Taiwan Tales – One Country, Eight Stories: a Multicultural Perspective - Various Authors

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If you want to pick up one book which offers a variety of different insights into life in Taiwan, then Taiwan Tales is definitely the one for you. It contains eight short stories by eight different authors, all of whom have spent time living in Taiwan and many of whom are Taiwanese themselves, either by birth or descent. This brings a sense of authenticity to every story, especially for others who have lived in Taiwan, too. They also provide unique insights into local culture and traditions that outsiders simply would not pick up on. Put together, they make truly compelling reading.

3. Wild Kids (My Kid Sister & Wild Child) - Chang Ta-chun

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Wild Kids brings together two novels by acclaimed Taiwanese novelist Chang Ta-chun. Both are focused on the lives of Taiwanese teenagers rebelling against the conservative society of 1980's Taiwan. The first, My Kid Sister, tells the life story of the narrator's younger sister from birth to the age of nineteen when she has an abortion. The second focuses on Hou Shichun, who drops out of school at fourteen and slips into Taiwan's underworld where he encounters other adolescents as lost as he is. Both stories are darkly comic, but deeply powerful and a testament to the author's enduring popularity in Taiwan.

2. A Pail of Oysters – Vern Sneider

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A Pail of Oysters was published back in 1953 and is set against the backdrop of what was then the all-too-recent backdrop of the White Terror. It is a dark and powerful novel telling the simple tale of a nineteen-year-old from rural Taiwan who sets off to try and recover his families stolen kitchen god. He finds himself mixed up with an American journalist who is trying to get behind the KMT's propaganda and reveal the truth about Taiwan under martial law. This book was banned for a long time in Taiwan and even denounced by the Americans. But today, it is gradually regaining its rightful place as one of the most important English-language Taiwanese novels ever written.

1. A Thousand Moons on a Thousand Rivers - Hsiao Li-Hung

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A Thousand Moons on a Thousand Rivers was a massive bestseller when first published in Taiwan in the 1980's. It provides a detailed insight into life in Taiwan in the 1970's through the story of Zhenguan, a young Taiwanese girl who was raised in the traditional way in a small coastal town in the south of the country. As she comes of age, she is drawn to the big city and finds herself on a journey of love and suffering. The story is strong enough to carry itself, but the author delves even deeper, adding a liberal sprinkling of Taiwanese folk songs, poetry, Buddhist maxims, and even jokes to the narrative. It is a truly unique book and offers a real insight into Taiwanese traditions and family values.