Peter Gordon
Peter Gordon
Peter Gordon is editor of the Asian Review of Books. A publisher and entrepreneur, he has been active in technology, culture and international trade and investment. He is the co-author of “The Silver Way: China, Spanish America and the Birth of Globalisation, 1565–1815”. He has been a resident of Hong Kong since 1985.

China’s meteoric rise is restoring the country to a position it considers the normal and proper state of affairs, explains Michael Schuman in Superpower Interrupted, in which he tells Chinese history as the Chinese learn it.

Henry Every, captain of the English pirate ship the Fancy, pulled off one of history’s richest maritime heists when he captured an emperor’s treasure vessel in 1695, prompting a manhunt to the four corners of the earth.

Yingyi Ma’s ‘Ambitious and Anxious: How Chinese College Students Succeed and Struggle in American Higher Education’ uncovers Chinese overseas students’ feelings about their journey and themselves, but is perhaps of most use for those who teach them.

Lavishly illustrated and very well edited, Silk Roads: People, Cultures, Landscapes is a wonderful addition to the literature on what is a huge subject – and rather like an old-fashioned encyclopaedia.


Memoirs ‘Betwixt and Between’ and ‘Shanghai Daisy’ capture China’s turmoil of the 1940s and ’50s and the changing lives of two well-off women, one a Wing On heiress.

In The Great Firewall of China, James Griffiths is as critical of Chinese censors as he is of the profit-driven American tech industry. He sketches a vision of a user-controlled internet true to the technology’s initial promise.

From the Philippines to Hawaii, and Mexico to Puerto Rico, the US’ acquisition of territories comes under the microscope in Daniel Immerwahr’s book. He argues the US’ empire persists today in its overseas bases and dominance of trade.

Tony Joseph’s book Early Indians shows how understanding the human genome is changing ideas about archaeology. It may upset Indians who believe their unique culture began with the Aryans 4,000 years ago.

In Shin Kyung-sook’s latest novel, a French diplomat falls for a Korean court dancer and whisks her off to his native France. She happens to speak French and impresses the literati, but is like a fish out of water and returns to Korea.

Leo Goodstadt points to 20 years of failure on housing, education and ties with mainland China, and says political leaders are incompetent, out of touch, in hock to vested interests and ignore experts ... much like politicians everywhere.

The international accomplishments of local musicians and the success of the inaugural operatic singing competition show the city is hitting the right notes.

Su Tong’s tale of prostitutes in Shanghai sent off for re-education during the birth of the People’s Republic is a non-judgmental and wry look at sex workers and Communist cadres and doesn’t try too hard to be ‘literary’.

Christopher MacDonald’s The Science of War gives a clean, straightforward and readable version of Sun Tzu’s famous work The Art of War and provides a fascinating discussion on its origins and theories

Ashley Galina Dudarenok’s clear, analytical guide to selling on Chinese social media explains in readable detail why not to project Western e-marketing onto the Chinese market and what to do instead

Author Sebastian Heilmann credits ‘guerilla-style policy making’ for China’s rapid economic development, but its successes may not be as unique as he makes out

Graham Earnshaw has republished George Psalmanazar’s fictitious early 18th-century book about Formosa – now Taiwan – called A Description Of Formosa, which duped even the Bishop of London and a tutor at Oxford

UK magazine Wasafiri dedicates an issue to exploring the city’s literature, and asks whether Hongkongers have a distinctive voice, if a local English writing style exists at all and if so, whether it has become mainstream

Yeng Pway Ngon’s 2004 prize-winning book that follows four characters from colonial Malaya to Singapore, Hong Kong and China gets a superb translation by Jeremy Tiang

A John Wayne film in 1942 immortalised their exploits, and it was claimed they shot down almost 300 Japanese aircraft, but the authenticity of the Flying Tigers’ story is shrouded in doubt

Newly translated volume by Kim Tongin describes the struggles of ordinary Koreans in naturalistic style, and is an important addition to Korean classic literature in English

Dung Kai-cheung’s short fictional sketches should resonate with anyone who has experienced the city, but may serve as a better introduction to Hong Kong literature than it does to the place itself

Once a schoolboy in Hong Kong, historian Robert Bickers sheds light on Chinese nationalism and the roots of its ‘rage’ in a work that ranges across politics, classical art and popular culture in a conversational tone

Richard Wong packs a lot into 300 pages, and inevitably stray into politics as they map out solutions to Hong Kong’s multiple challenges; the data they’ve amassed may be book’s biggest selling point

Globalisation is nothing new, say Peter Gordon and Juan José Morales in a book, The Silver Way, an excerpt from which reveals how a Pacific route to and from Spanish America made China an economic powerhouse 400 years ago

Guo was handed at birth to a peasant family who couldn’t look after, then went to stay with her illiterate grandparents in a remote village – so how she ended up a successful filmmaker and English author is an inspiring story of will

Macau was never occupied by the imperial Japanese forces and remained a safe haven in a war-torn region, but information on this period has been hard to come by in English, making this volume all the more appreciated

At a time when Western institutions are adopting gender-neutral language, author considers why Japanese language has gone the other way and contains so many gender-specific words

Paul Murphy’s book reinforces idea that Japan is different, even if he has cherry-picked the trials he covers with empathy and apparent admiration for aspects of nation’s judicial system

Mariposa Gang and Other Stories is a collection of polished and sophisticated short stories replete with human characters whose circumstances are starkly authentic, and deserves to be read widely

Although about China, David Moser’s book also serves as a case study of the way language intersects with policy, society and technology – and much in the Chinese experience finds echoes elsewhere

The Malaysian-Chinese writer covers a lot of ground in Strangers on a Pier, a short and pithy book, part of a series called The Face, which will resonate with multicultural Asians but has a universal appeal

László Krasznahorkai’s Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens is an exploration of the state of Chinese culture that is as much about its writer/narrator as the places he finds himself in

Shovon Chowdhury’s novel follows a familiar template, but with an irrestible conceit; however, it is let down by relentless quips and missed opportunities.

The ongoing breach between Russia and the West shows no sign of ameliorating. The recent elections in eastern Ukraine, which Russia has said it will "respect", are just the latest manifestation of two sides on different trajectories.

While it is still not certain that a substantive discussion will take place between the government and students on Hong Kong's electoral future, the outlines of that discussion, should it take place, have just become clearer.

Public discourse in Hong Kong sometimes has an "Alice Through the Looking-Glass" feel about it. A recent example of topsy-turviness is the announcement that "the elite Malvern College" would, if awarded a school site, set aside 90 per cent of places for foreign passport holders.

A group of some 450 local authors is seeking a HK$3-5 "royalty" every time a library lends out one of its writers' books. The argument has some prima facie logic: no matter how many people read a library book, the author only gets a single royalty.

A recent article on the Education Bureau website read: "Although the Basic Law stipulates that Chinese and English are the two official languages in Hong Kong, nearly 97 per cent of the local population learn Cantonese (a Chinese dialect that is not an official language) as their commonly used daily language."

Eleanor Catton recently won the last Man Booker prize of its kind. The prize will now, after all these years, be open to Americans. Not just to Americans: to anyone writing in English and published in Britain. But it's the Americans that have caused all the excitement and consternation: "Well, that's the end of the Booker prize, then," said Philip Hensher in The Guardian.

A recent Post article noted that Hong Kong universities "rate poorly when it comes to sourcing funds for innovation from business" as if this were a bad thing. Data in the report argues otherwise: local academics receive on average US$20,000 per year from outside commercial sources, just US$6,000 less than in the US and US$6,000 more than in Britain.