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comment by Herunar
Herunar  ·  1475 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: What are your best reccomendations for history books?

Seeing very little of Asia here, so I'll do what any Sinologist would and throw in my two cents (most of these are pretty general - I think that's the best place to start, personally, but regardless all of these books are very good and very in-depth):

A History of Modern South Asia by Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal is probably one of the better texts about the modern Indian subcontinent. India: A History by John Keay is very good too, though it is far too ambitious. I will give him credit though - the dude tries to sum up about four thousand years of Indian history and does a pretty good job of it.

The Cultural Revolution at the Margins by Yiching Wu is a very different look at the Cultural Revolution - paints it as a much more nuanced, tragic occurrence as opposed to Macfarquhar or Pye and other old school historians who tend to portray it as a struggle amongst the political elites and nothing else.

Osman's Dream by Caroline Finkel rambles on a little but it is one of the few well written, comprehensive histories of the Ottoman Empire from start to finish.

Mao and the 20th Century is a great biography of Mao by Rebecca Karl - he had a pretty interesting early life and it goes into detail there, which is nice.

The Search for Modern China and The Gate of Heavenly Peace by Jonathan Spence basically serve as the core books for any class I've ever taken on Chinese history (and I've taken quite a few). He shatters the myths of an uninventive or stagnant China that we take for granted in the West - he presents the country what it was and is, a robustly dynamic if a bit reactive empire.

Japan in War and Peace and Embracing Defeat by John Dower are fantastic reads, namely because unlike 95% of all academics, Dower can actually write.

Japan at War: An Oral History by the Cooks is interesting in that many of the interviewees are soldiers that fought on the Japanese side during WWII. It really shattered the image in my head of the Japanese forces as consisting of horrible people through and through. Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers by Ohnuki-Tierney and Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies by Samuel Yamashita accomplish similar things. I read these for my dissertation and I cried. A lot.

Women in the Muslim World is a pretty fantastic compilation of essays from leading academics. I only read the essays relevant to the Ottoman Empire (that was my focus at the time) but it had a few pieces on modern Egypt and the Abbasids etc. Definitely worth a read if you're into gender history at all. Paul Bailey's Woman in 20th Century China is the Chinese history equivalent I'd say.

Mao's China and the Cold War and China's Road to the Korean War: The Making of the Sino-American Confrontation by Chen Jian are both great reads for anyone interested in East Asian geopolitics. The main conclusion is that Zhou Enlai was one hell of a charismatic badass.