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I LOVE Taiwan. So much. I spent a month there in 2016 and think about going back all the time. It’s not one of the places I have to read every book I see set there, but I also just don’t come across that many which brings me here.
I’ve made up a huge list of fiction books set in Taiwan and non-fiction books about Taiwan to start working through myself, too.
I’ve read one and have another that I just got but after making this list, like always, I’ll probably have a ton more added to my TBR.
The list of books about Taiwan is a good mix of fiction (primarily fiction), history, culture, general life, and even a little travel (just one) so I think no matter what you like, you’ll be able to find something here.
If you’re interested in trying Audible, you can get your first month free which includes a free audiobook! This is a great option if you want to listen to books more. If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd! You can get your first month free there.
Fiction books set in Taiwan
There are tons of great fiction books set in Taiwan and about life in Taiwan. I know I want to read a lot more of these than I thought.
Ever Wong’s parents send her to Taiwan from Ohio to study Mandarin for the summer where she finds herself among over-achieving students.
Little do her parents know they basically sent her to a teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat where clubbing and snake blood sake is higher priority than calligraphy and sacred sights.
This is one I’ll probably read soon since I got it on a Kindle deal not too long ago. This is perfect if you’re looking for a YA book about Taiwan.
I got this at my library book sale after coming back from Taiwan. I didn’t even care what it was about just that I had been there haha. I did read it and it wasn’t my favorite but I still liked it. At least I think I did, I read it years ago now.
A raggedy American reporter and his drunken partner are the last to see three Japanese schoolgirls in Taroko Gorge before they go missing.
The journalists, who are suspects themselves, investigate the disappearance with their homeroom teacher, classmates, and a Taiwanese detective. The conflicts between them raise questions of responsibility, truthfulness, and guarded self-interest.
August is the Ghost Month in Taiwan, a month where they pay respects to the dead and avoid unlucky omens. Jing-nan runs a food stand in a busy Taipei night market and even though he isn’t superstitious, this August will haunt him after he learns his his high school sweetheart has been murdered.
She’s found scantily clad near the highway where she was selling betel nuts, but he’s confused. “Betel Nut Beauties” are usually in desperate circumstances and the last time he talked to Julia, she lived far away and was happily enrolled at NYU’s honor program.
Things don’t add up but the police seem to have closed the case without many questions. Her parents beg Jing-nan to do some investigating where he connects with old classmates but nothing can prepare him for what he is about to learn or how it will change his life.
If you’re looking for another YA book set in Taiwan, this is for you.
An 18-year-old girl works at a restaurant in Taiwan’s international airport, dreaming of escape and becoming the most famous actress in Hollywood.
Then she meets a strange boy working at a bookstore in the airport and as they get closer, her world changes in ways she never imagined.
Her summer starts to come apart and break, but it may the best thing that’s ever happened to her.
Vincent Saunders left his Illinois hometown to be a Christian volunteer in Taiwan. After arriving and opening a ministry house, he meets Mr. Gwa, who met a beautiful woman on his travels to Heaven Lake in China.
He wants to marry her but can’t due to the conflict between Taiwan and China so he asks Vincent to bring her back through a counterfeit marriage so Mr. Gwa can actually marry her. At first he says no and Mr. Gwa is furious but after a complicated friendship with a student he reconsiders the offer.
This is a collection of recollections, folklore, and autobiographical stories from an aboriginal Taiwanese man aiming to reconnect with his lost tribal identity.
If you want a short book about Taiwan, this is perfect for you.
On the night of February 28, 1947, Dr. Tsai delivers his youngest daughter while they’re trapped inside their family home as Taipei is rocked by an uprising and the city is plunged into martial law.
As the weeks pass, Chinese nationals act to crush the opposition and Dr. Tsai is thrown into prison. When he returns after a decade, he is marked with alienation by his family and community while conflict looms over the growing bond between him and his youngest daughter.
Years later, this troubled past follows her to the US where she is forced to decide between what is right and what might save her family.
I’m not 100% sure if this book is set in Taiwan, but it is a Taiwanese author so I’m including it.
A reclusive young boy stumbles on his father’s diary, full of drawings, photos, and anecdotes revealing the alpine world his father lived in as a child.
His father’s world was alive with birdsong and hidden spirits but it all changed when he befriended two bears.
Ko-sa Ong, a Taiwanese millionaire, shows up in Washington with Jade Phoenix at his side. His best friend, Nick, and his lost “Angel” would rather be anywhere else but Taiwan is no ordinary country in the 1970s. Ko-sa has everything he could want, except a son and a nation and Jade Phoenix is left with nothing after her father commits suicide.
Nick is an American reporter peering under the veil that cloaks the Chinese and their women and shares a hatred for Chiang Kai-Shek and the American Secretary of State who would forever deny the Taiwanese a country, with his friend Ko-sa. They risk everything for each other and give up everything for the love of Jade Phoenix.
A man who came from nothing finds himself a beautiful wife and when she vanished without a trace, he sets up a small café in her favorites spot on the edge of the South China Sea hoping she’ll return.
Instead, he’s confronted by Luo Yiming, the prominent businessman and philanthropist he thinks may be responsible for everything he’s suffered. In the few moments the men spend together, Luo is driven mad.
This is a bittersweet romance and vivid portrait of life in a southern Taiwanese coastal town in the 70s. Zhenguan is a young woman influenced by new experiences in the city. It’s her journey of love, suffering, disillusion, and zen-like triumph.
Emerson Chang is a bachelor just shy of forty, a financial analyst, a child if Taiwanese immigrants that doesn’t speak a word of Chinese, and, well, a virgin. His mother’s manipulations have kept him close in the name of preserving family and culture.
When his mother suddenly dies, he goes to Taipei to spread her ashes and to convey an inheritance to his younger brother, Little P. who is now enmeshed in the Taiwanese criminal underworld, running some shady business out of his uncle’s karaoke bar. He’s hiding a crime that ruined his relationship with his family and Emerson isn’t handing over the inheritance until he uncovers the secret.
When a tsunami sends an island of trash into the coast of Taiwan, two very different people are united in unimaginable ways.
Atile’i is a native of Wayo Wayo and has been set adrift as a sacrifice to the sea god when he comes of age. Unlike those before him, though, he is determined to survive. When all hope seems to be lost, he see a sprawling trash vortex floating in the ocean and climbs aboard.
Meanwhile, Alice is a grief stricken college professor on the coast of Taiwan. Her husband and son disappeared while hiking and she is so distraught she decides to end her life. Her plans are interrupted when the trash vortex crashes into land bringing Atile’i with it.
They form an unlikely friendship, helping each other come to terms with what they’ve lost as they trace Alice’s family’s footsteps in the mountains to find answers.
This is another one I’d like to read!
This is a collection of six short stories about different periods of life in Taiwan featuring the trials of a working class seaside town.
There seems to be a TW for rape in some of the reviews.
This is set in a post-martial-law Taiwan in the 1980s Taipei where queer misfits discover love, friendship, and artistic affinity while attending Taiwan’s most prestigious university.
This is a mix of diaries, vignettes, notes, and satire told from the perspective of the lesbian narrator knowns as Lazi, who turns to her circle of friends for support when she’s afflicted by her attraction to Shui Ling, an older woman.
One evening, a mother told her daughter the story of a tiger spirit living in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Go Po and she wanted to eat children, especially their toes. Not long after this, the girl wakes with a tiger tail and more weird things start happening.
Meanwhile, she is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with powers of her own. As they begin to translate her grandmothers letters that were spit up from the hole in her backyard, she begins to understand each woman in her family embodies a myth and she must bring their secrets to life to change their destiny.
This is one I’d like to read someday!
In Taipei, we follow Paul around the literary scene of New York to Taipei where he confronts his family’s roots. One relationship fails while another blooms on the Internet ending in an unexpected Las Vegas wedding.
Two young lovers find out what it means to completely share themselves as they experience the fringe of America together.
Set in Taiwan in the 1940s, Saburo is the least-favored son of a Taiwanese politician. As he runs through the woods during an air raid, he stumbles upon Yoshiko and her description of her family sounds like a dream to him.
He tries to find her again for years and when he finally does, she’s by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival.
Non-Fiction books about Taiwan
Next up we have a ton of non-fiction Taiwanese books. These will give you even more perspective about life in Taiwan from people and their lived experiences.
This is a collection of short stories about life in Taiwan, the history and culture. His stories play with the hazards of miscommunication, malevolence of human will, and the arbitrary nature of fate.
He is one of the few modernists that captured the fallout of events like the February 28th incident and the White Terror.
This is perfect if you want a non-fiction book about Taiwan.
This is a collection of eight short stories about Taiwan written by people who at one point or another called Taiwan home.
This is another collection of seventeen short stories about Taiwan with an entertaining view of modern Taiwan.
Shanghai has been China’s jewel, it’s most modern city, home to sophisticated intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and a thriving middle class when Mao’s revolution emerged victorious from the long civil war.
Seventy years later, members of the last generation to remember the mass exodus of the country tell their stories of fleeing. This is four stories of young Shanghai residents living as refugees in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the United States.
This isn’t all about Taiwan but would still be interesting to read!
Finding letters from her immigrant grandfather takes her to her ancestral homeland, Taiwan, where she uncovers surprising parallels between natural and human stories that shaped her life, family, and their beloved island.
Also, that cover is gorgeous!
The truth is stranger than fiction and this memoir is no different. The missionary was convinced the secret police were going to arrange an “accident” to kill his friend. He feels he has no choice but to help Peng Ming-min escape from Taiwan. The escape was so impressive that President Richard Nixon and Chinese Premier Chou En-lai met in Beijing two years later and wanted to know how he got out.
Part travelogue, part travel guide, this chronicles a young Black woman’s encounters with culture shock and people she meets while living in Taiwan. This reminds us of what it means to explore the history of a place and the journey to self-discovery.
Lu has played a key role in Taiwan’s evolution from dictatorship to democracy though drives for gender equality, human rights, political reform, Taiwan independence, and environmental protection. In 2000, the Democratic Progressive Party took the presidency with Lu as the vice president, ending more than fifty years of rule by the Nationalist Party.
This is the story of her life in politics and growing up where she had no political connections and her impoverished parents even tried to give her up for adoption twice. She survived cancer and imprisonment before becoming the first self-made woman to serve with such prominence in Asia.
This is actually a middle grade book set in Taiwan. Pacy’s family is going to Taiwan this summer for an entire month to visit family and celebrate her grandmother’s 60th birthday. Her parents signed her up for a Chinese painting class and she’s excited but the trip is harder than she thought it would be. She looks like everyone else but doesn’t speak the language and has a hard time understanding the teacher. But at leas the dumplings are delicious! (I agree Pacy, I agree.)
If you’re a fan of film and cinema, this is a must-read for you. This is a groundbreaking study of cinema in Taiwan taking into account the way it is taught and studied taking into account New Taiwan Cinema as well as popular genres before the 1980’s.
Mei-Ling Hopgood was adopted from Taiwan by a loving couple in Michigan in 1974. She had an all-American upbringing and never really identified with her Asian roots and believed she escaped a life of poverty and misery.
When she was in her twenties, her birth family came calling and was the opposite of what she expected. They hound her daily in all communication forms in a language she doesn’t understand until she returns to Taiwan to visit them. As she is pulled into their family, the devastating secrets that still haunt her family begin to emerge.
Have you read any of these books about Taiwan? Which ones? Are there any other books set in Taiwan I should check out?