Recommendations for novels written in colloquial Chinese

It got 6 upvotes, and two answers so far.

But how can anyone really know the OP's limitations? 'Easy to find in the US' is not an objective measurement. DC, LA, and NYC all have Chinatowns with different bookstores. And the selection in each bookstore is not going to be predicated on anything objective!

It's anyone's guess what random selection of books the OP has access to, and that means the question is inherently vague and subjective.

One answer begins:

I take the opposite view.

OK, if you can 'take the opposite view', in my opinion it's not fit for StackExchange, it's fit for a forum.

I see a lot wrong with this question, though. Not just that.

I find this question interesting, but too localized to be useful to anyone but the OP. The world is a shrinking place, and if you're intelligent you can find any book for sale online. It's much different and much more difficult importing stuff from China in Europe. (People in the US have it so easy that frankly, it's a bit strange to me that anyone would insist on not doing so.)

So I have a very hard time imagining what kind of google search would lead someone to this question. I think it's vague, localized, and subjective. Because of the way it's been asked, it's not even about Chinese.

Also, US-centric questions should not be asked here, in my opinion, unless they are about US-centric properties of Chinese, i.e. as it is spoken in Chinatowns in the US.

What do others think?

  • Please see this more comprehensive question: Recommendation questions: let's make some Wikis for future reference
    – Alenanno
    Jan 18, 2012 at 23:02
  • 1
    When someone (me, in this case) begins an answer with "I take the opposite view", what that means is "I am politely telling you that your answer is not correct." But one doesn't say that on a forum or wiki; it's not collegial nor nice. Just because the OP mentioned the US doesn't make the question invalid. Replace "in the US" with "outside of China", and it seems like quite a useful question to me. Language is NOT about a series of factual questions; it is at best a "soft" science, and there needs to leeway for subjectivity and opinions. They serve learners. Jan 19, 2012 at 4:41

3 Answers 3


To clarify my intentions with that question: my goal was to choose criteria to make the question as useful as possible to the broader community and not fall into "infinite subjective list" trap. Previous questions have asked for movie and book suggestions based on Chinese level; I decided to focus on different (but, I thought, useful) criteria. I don't think what I've written is too broad or too narrow, since I've had discussions with many Chinese students about their desire to find novels of exactly the type I've described.

Perhaps my first point ("exciting") was too subjective, but I think that the latter two were not. (And yes, I am perfectly capable of searching for a buying books online (because, guess what? I know Chinese), and I resent the implication that I'm not intelligent for asking a question about books that are readily available outside of China.)

The truth is that easily available outside of China is a fairly objective standard; I am sure that any person on this forum who lives or has lived in China could easily say which English-language books are easy to find in China (say, Twilight) and which ones are not (say, Ulysses). Likewise with "colloquial": this is an objective criterion of use to language learners.

I agree with the idea of making a wiki for general questions about books and movies suitable for Chinese learners, but I think that this question is precise enough to be useful. Perhaps edits are necessary, but this closure seems like a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Apologies for the patronizing tone of the question above. The problem is your question does fall into the infinite subjective list because any book recommendation question is. We are looking into making some list questions which people can use to find what they are looking for; not to make recommendations. So a question like "Which online sites sell Chinese novels and also ship overseas" is a good example. You can then go the site and browse by categories or ask for recommendations etc. The two questions you linked to are also not good examples and will be reworked.
    – going
    Jan 19, 2012 at 4:55

I agree with you and that's why I posted a meta question "Recommendation questions: let's make some Wikis for future reference", although I haven't received any answers so far.

Questions that don't look for a single answer (or a very narrow range of possibilities), are questions eligible to be closed as subjective, because they solicit discussion, opinions, polls and they might have the opposite effect on the community.

We have 3 ways out:

  1. Close the question.
  2. Edit it in order to remove the subjective component.
  3. Create wikis so that when someone else asks something that is answered by the wikis, we can close in a less "tensed" way. :)

I tend for the third possibility, since it allows us to have important info (what chinese movies can beginners watch, what books can we read, etc) and we don't have the problem of arguing whether we should close those questions or not.

  • There are other, equally valid, answers to MOST of the questions posted here that have anything at all to do with how to learn Chinese. I can't see how you're going to force language into a strictly factual mode here. A wiki can be a collection of knowledge, not necessarily only dry facts. In fact, if it's just facts, why not just have a collection of links? Jan 19, 2012 at 4:44

I think the problem in this case is that this is asking for a recommendation, but it is not a broad recommendation that will help others. The question is "recommend some novels that meet criteria A, B and C".

The questions that we should be making Community Wiki are more like "Which web sites sell a range of Chinese novels" that people can go and make up their own mind.

Subjective questions are off topic, the Community Wiki questions we want are not subjective, they are list type questions. These are two different things. We don't want an infinite list of books which might hit the target we want a finite good quality list of places where people can get books.

  • This question refers to one question on the main site. Can we continue discussing on the other meta question I opened which is more general? If you agree, change the referring links you left in the closed questions. :)
    – Alenanno
    Jan 18, 2012 at 22:21
  • @Alenanno - As per my answer above; I think this question is different from your other suggestion. I think there are quite a few details involved in your suggestion that I am still thinking about how this can be practically implemented.
    – going
    Jan 18, 2012 at 22:23
  • I was thinking of fully re-writing wikis on our own and other people will post there. So we can organize ex-novo (=from scratch)... I'm on the chat by the way, you can meet me there.
    – Alenanno
    Jan 18, 2012 at 22:24

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