Books are a great way to support Chinese language learning, whether you’re a beginner or at a more advanced level. But where to start? There are just so many books from which to choose! To help you out, we’ve compiled the following list. We think these are the most useful and accessible books to help your Chinese learning. All of our suggested titles are available for purchase on Amazon.
Fundamentals of Chinese Characters (published by Yale Press)
All beginners and intermediate-level learnings should own this book. Chinese characters are the most interesting part of the Chinese language but also the most daunting, with tens of thousands of individual characters! However, the average, well-educated Chinese native speaker will only use roughly 8,000 characters. To read a Chinese newspaper, for example, you’ll need to know 2000-3000 characters. The book starts with how Chinese characters have evolved by giving their historical and cultural meaning. This helps learners to form associations between the characters and objects or ideas. Also, this book covers grammar, pronunciation, phonetics and Chinese radicals (the base components of each character).
New Practical Chinese Reader (Volumes 1-6) by Liu Xun
This series of books are one of the most popular among students learning Chinese for increasing reading ability. This superb collection, which has been revised many times, leads you through various phases of Chinese language learning from beginner through to intermediary level. It contains excellent layout and explanations. These are great aids to understanding grammar structures and basic to more advanced everyday vocabulary.
Chinese Short Stories for Beginners: 20 Captivating Short Stories to Learn Chinese and Grow your Vocabulary the Fun Way!
Although the title suggests this hugely entertaining book is for beginners, intermediate-level Chinese language students are the real audience for this book. The stories are genuinely entertaining. At the end of each one, there’s a summary of the plot, a list of vocabulary used, and a short quiz to test your understanding of what you’ve read. The stories are presented in simplified Chinese characters and English translation. Inexpensive and a lot less ‘dry’ than other specialist Chinese learning books, this collection of short stories comes highly recommended.
Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide
If you’re serious about learning Chinese, you’ll inevitably need a reference book for Chinese grammar, and there are none better than this one. As a textbook, it stands out for its clarity. It’s split into two parts. The first part breaks down grammatical structure in an easy to follow manner. The second part uses real-life scenarios to examine how grammar functions in the use of language in simple everyday events, such as meeting and greeting people.
Oxford Beginner’s Chinese Dictionary
The single most important reference book is a Chinese-English dictionary. There are a huge number to choose from, but this one is especially good for beginning and intermediate-level Chinese learners. Unlike traditional dictionaries, each word is accompanied by example phrases, which can prove quite invaluable. You can easily search a character that you’re unfamiliar with by using the short radical index. As your mastery of Chinese grows, you’ll want to upgrade to a more complete dictionary, but until then, this will prove a more than useful companion.
Want more useful tools for learning Chinese?
If you prefer to use apps rather than books, check out what we think are the best apps for learning Chinese.