Summer Reading



Whether sitting on the beach or spending your summer days in balconville, the next two months are a perfect time to catch up on reading and to feed your Tibet obsession at the same time.


Below, you will find a list of Tibet-related books, both fiction and non-fiction, compiled from suggestions of the CTC staff. We hope you will provide your comments/reviews and also that you will add your own suggestions of Tibet-related reads that you have recently enjoyed!



Inspector Shan Series:  Book one – Mandarin Gate

By Eliot Pattison, Minotaur Books, 2012


In an earlier time, Shan Tao Yun was an Inspector stationed in Beijing. But he lost his position, his family and his freedom when he ran afoul of a powerful figure high in the Chinese government. Released unofficially from the work camp to which he'd been sentenced, Shan has been living in remote mountains of Tibet with a group of outlawed Buddhist monks. Shan has just begun to settle into his menial job as an inspector of irrigation and sewer ditches in a remote Tibetan township when he encounters a wrenching crime scene. When he discovers that a nearby village has been converted into a new internment camp for Tibetan dissidents arrested in Beijing's latest pacification campaign, Shan recognizes the dangerous landscape he has entered.


The Mandarin Gate is the first of six books in the Inspector Shan Series.


The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver
By Chan Koonchung; translation by Nicky Harman, Doubleday, 2014

Champa, a young Tibetan, is a simple chap. He has a stable job in Lhasa as chauffeur to a successful Chinese art dealer, Plum. Champa doesn't have a gripe against the Chinese. He's not the sort of guy to get caught up in politics either: he just wants to get on in life. For Champa, a sure sign that he's made it would be to move to the Chinese capital and live there like a young Beijinger. But then he begins a romantic affair with Plum and life gets complicated. Shifting balances of power, deliberate manipulations, the force of sexual desire, and the ache of longing are par for the course. And relationships are even more complex when there are vast differences in wealth, culture and power between the man and the woman, between Tibet and China.


NON-FICTION (updated)


The Friendship Highway:  Two journeys in Tibet

Charlie Carroll, Summersdale 2014

Hoping to reach Tibet after a 20 year obsession, Charlie Carroll plans a trip to China.  Contending with chinese bureaucracy, unforgiving terrain and sickness-inducing altitude, Charlie experiences twenty-first-century Tibet in all its heart-stopping beauty. Tibetan-born Lobsang fled the volatile region over the Himalayas, on foot, as a child in 1989. An exile in Nepal, then a student in India, he was called back to Tibet by love. At the end of the road known as the Friendship Highway, he met Charlie and recounted his extraordinary life story, exemplifying the hardship, resilience and hope of modern Tibetan life."

Escape from Tibet (revised edition)

Nick Gray with Laura Scandiffio, Annick Press, 2014

A true story first told in an acclaimed documentary, Escape from Tibet, this is a riveting tale of courage, adventure, and triumph.  It tells the story of two young brothers who escape an oppressive existence by fleeing to India alone and on foot over the Himalayas. On the forbidden journey they face challenges, including unimaginable cruelty of border police, and the unforgiving severity of Mother Nature. In this updated edition, the Dalai Lama provides a forward and the authors tell how the brothers fared in exile and what they are doing now.

The Disempowered Development of Tibet in China: A Study in the Economics of Marginalization

By Andrew Martin Fischer, Lexington Books, 2013


In March 2008, a wave of large scale demonstrations quickly fanned out from Lhasa to the Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu over the course of about three weeks.  Despite mounting tensions and brewing discontent that had been evident for years, the usual developmental alibis were nonetheless presented through various state organs in China even as the demonstrations were still on-going. The government argued that the “riots” were due to political meddling and manipulation from abroad, particularly from the Tibetan exile community and their western supporters and that Tibetans had no valid cause for grievance given the growing prosperity in Tibetan areas.  Andrew Fischer takes a deeper look at the characteristics of subordination, discrimination and disadvantage that led to the 2008 demonstrations and that have inspired more than 130 self-immolations since 2009.  He concludes that without efforts to resolve the asymmetrical power relations in Tibet, economic development will not produce lasting benefits for the Tibetan people.

A Hundred Thousand White Stones

By Kunsang Dolma, Wisdom Publications, 2013


A Hundred Thousand White Stones is one young Tibetan woman's fearlessly told story of longing and change. Kunsang Dolma writes with unvarnished candor of the hardships she experienced as a girl in Tibet, violations as a refugee nun in India, and struggles as an immigrant and new mother in America. Yet even in tribulation, she finds levity and never descends to self-pity. We watch in wonder as her unlikely choices and remarkable persistence bring her into ever-widening circles, finding love and a family in the process, and finally bringing her back to her childhood home. A Hundred Thousand White Stones offers an honest assessment of what is gained in pursuing life in the developed world and what is lost.


Tibet Wild: A Naturalist's Journeys on the Roof of the World Hardcover

by George Schaller, Island Press, 2012


Tibet Wild is Schaller’s account of three decades of exploration in the most remote stretches of Tibet: the wide, sweeping rangelands of the Chang Tang and the hidden canyons and plunging ravines of the southeastern forests. As engaging as he is enlightening, Schaller illustrates the daily struggles of a field biologist trying to traverse the impenetrable Chang Tang, discover the calving grounds of the chiru or Tibetan antelope, and understand the movements of the enigmatic snow leopard. What begins as a purely scientific endeavor becomes a mission: to work with local communities and regional leaders to protect the unique ecological richness and culture of the Tibetan Plateau. Critics have said that Schaller lacks respect for the Tibetan people – what do you think?

Spoiling Tibet: China and Resource Nationalism on the Roof of the World By Gabriel Lafitte, Zed Books, 2013

The mineral-rich mountains of Tibet so far have been largely untouched by China’s growing economy. Nor has Beijing been able to settle Tibet with politically reliable peasant Chinese. That is all about to change as China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, from 2011 to 2015, calls for massive investment in copper, gold, silver, chromium and lithium mining in the region, with devastating environmental and social outcomes. Despite great interest in Tibet worldwide, Spoiling Tibet is the first book that investigates mining at the roof of the world. A unique, authoritative guide through the torrent of online posts, official propaganda and exile speculation.

TIBET: An Unfinished Story
Lezlee Brown Halper & Stefan Halper
, C Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2013


An Unfinished Story is a tale of Tibet seen through the Cold War blinkers. It traces the origins and manifestations of the Tibetan myth and discusses how, in the post war world when so many nations emerged out of colonial yoke, Tibet failed to gain freedom.  The authors Lezlee Brown Halper and Stefan Halper argue that Tibet became an unintended casualty of Cold War and how a small elite, unfamiliar with real politik, misread the intentions of the giant neighbours India and China. They hoped against hope that Washington might intervene. Based on personal interviews with key players across continents and archival materials, the Halpers have ferreted out new secrets and fascinating accounts like the difficulties that CIA faced in training Tibetan operatives.  


With the Tibetans in Tent and Temple

By Susie Carson Rijnhart, Foreign Christian Missionary Society, 1904


Often cited as the first Canadian in Tibet, Susie Carson Rijnhart (1868 - 1908) offers her personal account of the years she spent in Tibet as a missionary with her husband, Petrus Rijnhart, in the late 1800s.  In the book, Susie Rijnhart documents their experiences with Tibetan officials, lamas and lay people as they attempted to travel overland from China to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.  Often providing medical services to the locals, the Rijnhart’s experiences ended in tragedy when Petrus was killed by bandits and the Rijnhart’s small baby died of illness.  Still, the account provides an interesting insight to the Tibetan culture and polity in the years before China’s occupation.


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