Best Books for Learning Chinese & Mandarin

by Tim Blue on Apr 02, 2023

Best Books for Learning Chinese & Mandarin

With the COVID 19 situation getting worse with every passing day, we have a lot of time to spare. If there ever was time to learn a new skill or a language, it is now. Learning a new skill set or a language is becoming the need of the hour as many of us are losing jobs and adding a new skill or language to our resumes might help our careers when all this is over or at least controlled. 

I am fascinated by the Chinese language and always wanted to learn it. Unfortunately, I did not have the time or the means to do it. I do now and have found many books that can help you and me learn Chinese. The best part is most of them are available on Amazon. 

I have curated a list of the top books for beginners to learn Chinese for you below. Read on!

What is the Best Way to Learn Chinese?

One of the most effective ways to learn Chinese is via textbooks. You can choose from a wide range of different textbooks focusing on various topics, and they can be highly beneficial for beginners. Textbooks provide a comprehensive overview of the language’s core elements, as well as comprehensive explanations and practice exercises. By taking on board the information laid out in textbooks, you can gain an excellent foothold in the language, and pave the way for more advanced studies.

Audio lessons are also a beneficial choice for many learners. Audio lessons offer a more relaxed way to learn, and are an ideal choice for those who prefer an auditory approach. The key is to find audio lessons that are tailored to the individual’s level, as well as lessons that focus on the subject matter that appeals to the student. The right audio lesson can offer a conversational approach, and allow you to improve your pronunciation and fluency.

Finally, the very best way to learn Chinese is to immerse yourself in it. The only way you can truly absorb the language is by spending time speaking and living it. If you have the opportunity to move to an area with native speakers, then this would be a great way to immerse yourself in the language, However, if relocating isn’t feasible, then try to find other ways to live in the language. Look for local conversations and classes, and find people to practice with.

Best Chinese Books to Learn Mandarin

The reasons for learning Chinese maybe myriad. You might want to start your own wholesale business or you just want to pickup a language that is spoken by more than 500 million people. Here are the best books to learn Chinese.

All these books listed below help with Chinese grammar and communication. Pick out a Pinyin based book if you want to learn Chinese with Roman numbers!

Top Chinese Books for Beginners Why buy this book? Link
Fundamentals of Chinese Characters Connections between the shapes and meanings of basic Chinese characters, Illustrations for all the basic characters, this book makes learning Chinese easy and fun.   $31 on Amazon
Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide An innovative reference guide to Mandarin Chinese, Clear explanations and accessible descriptions, Examples given in simplified characters, traditional characters, and romanization (pinyin) $61 on Amazon
500 Common Chinese Idioms: An Annotated Frequency Dictionary Idiom in both simplified and traditional characters, English translation and English equivalents, Suitable example sentences, plus explanations and usage notes $54 on Amazon
Niubi!: The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School Illustrated guide is packed with irreverent anecdotes, mini cultural lessons, and contextual explanations, Learn vernacular phrases used by Chinese people of all ages. $11 on Amazon
Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook & Dictionary Most relevant mandarin phrases for everyday use, A full-color book consists of essential tips on culture, idioms, meanings, 3500-word two-way quick reference dictionary $6 on Amazon
Newspaper Reading Course in Chinese The best way to pickup colloquial Chinese is by reading Chinese newspapers. This is what this book offers. $20 on Amazon
Abridged Chinese Classic Series Chinese stories meant for people who's second language is Chinese $8 on Amazon

Fundamentals of Chinese Characters

The book Fundamentals of Chinese Characters is the first on my list as it focuses on the shapes and meaning of fundamental Chinese characters. By connecting the meaning and shape, the book enables students to learn, recognize, and write Chinese before they learn to speak Chinese. 

fundamentals of chinese characters

Authored by John Jing–hua Yin, the book presents basic knowledge of Chinese characters with regard to the regularity of usage rather than the sequence as taught in spoken Chinese books. This provides an opportunity to students to learn Chinese characters along with the language at an elementary level. 

The book has multiple interactive exercises, illustrations, and rhymes for all characters covered and makes learning easy and fun.

Check it out on Amazon

Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide

Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar provides a reference to Mandarin Chinese while combining function-based and traditional grammar in one single book.  

modern mandarin Chinese grammar

The book has been divided into Part A, which covers traditional grammar like nouns, verbs etc., and Part B, which covers language functions and notions. The books bring together both aspects and links cross-references making it a must-buy for beginners. 

All aspects are richly illustrated and there are plenty of examples to learn from with a focus on contemporary usage. The book is available on Kindle, hardcover and paperback versions. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can read these books on a tablet and access the Amazon Kindle app.

Check it out on Amazon

Times: Newspaper Reading Course of Advanced Chinese vol.1

This book is a series of newspaper reading material compiled for beginners and students who want to learn Chinese. Times: Newspaper Reading Course of Advanced Chinese vol.1 helps you read Chinese newspapers and periodicals by promoting general capability of the Chinese language. 

time newspaper reading course

The series contains two books that contain 12 lessons each and split into three units each with a part for reviewing. The book contains interesting topics like environment (which includes climate change, biodiversity, green life, environment-friendly industry), cultural heritage (which includes museum culture, intangible cultural heritage, world heritage, traditional Chinese medicine), and the new life which includes traveling, the internet and workplace.

Each lesson contains five newspaper articles along with a guiding map of keywords and exercises.

Check it out here

Abridged Chinese Classic Series: The Besieged City

The Besieged City is a book intended for beginners who want to learn Chinese as their second language. Authored by Qian Zhongshu, a renowned writer, scholar, and classical Chinese expert, this is an abridged version of the novel. 

Abdridged chinese classic series

The book takes us through Fang Hongjian, the protagonist’s experiences. The novel depicts the life of intellectuals in a morbid society during China’s War of Resistance against Japan. How they deal with wanting to be free with a lack of motive and ideal make it an interesting read.

The abridged version includes all major plots true to the original.

Check it out on Amazon

500 Common Chinese Idioms: An Annotated Frequency Dictionary

500 Common Chinese Idioms: An Annotated Frequency Dictionary is an excellent tool for beginners as well as intermediate and advanced learners of the Chinese Language. You can also

500 common chinese idioms

The book is based on authentic language data and presents 500 of the most used Chinese idioms knows as Chengyu in Chinese. The book also consists of synonyms, antonyms, and common structures to make you familiar with the meaning of hundreds of unfamiliar idioms.

This book presents idioms in both simplified and traditional characters with an English translation and equivalents. The Authors have also added examples and usage notes along with a Pinyin index and stroke order index. 

This practical book is well-suited for both independent studies as well as a classroom teaching tool. So when are you getting yours?

Check it out on Amazon

Niubi!: The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School

If you want to speak Chinese as a native does, this is the book for you. Niubi! is a book that will lets you learn vernacular phrases used by Chinese native speakers of all ages. 

Niubi! lets you learn Chinese the fun way as it includes phrases in a wide variety of situations that include parties, dating, flirting, and even fighting. I kid you not. Eveline Chao, the author has even included swear words you’ll ever need in Chinese. 

colloquial chinese learning

Meant for beginners and intermediary students alike, this illustrated guide is packed with contextual explanations, anecdotes, and cultural lessons of Mandarin Chinese.

Niubi! Or Newbies is a book full of code words to internet censorship, names of body parts that most of the Chinese textbooks have skipped, and the art of insults and abuses. 

If you are planning to trip to Beijing or planning to make an online acquaintance with someone in China, Nuibi! Is surely your best bet.

Check it out on Amazon

Integrated Chinese: Simplified Characters Textbook

The latest edition of Cheng & Tsui’s best-loved Chinese textbook series is better than ever. This book is a leading Chinese textbook for beginners at colleges and universities across the globe. 

integrated chinese- simplified characters

This third edition is updated with the latest in communicative and interactive lessons, full-color design, and an up-to-date vocabulary. It is designed to suit the learning needs of today with enhanced cultural coverage, a list of characters, and a storyline that captures dialogues and readings. 

The latest edition of the Integrated Chinese: Simplified Characters Textbook consists of 20 lessons and is split into two volumes. It is centered around students and has reviews at the end of each chapter. Compared to the second edition, this version has a task-based, communicative application with revised grammar notes. 

Get your all-new Integrated Chinese Textbook with a full-color design with new pictures and illustrations today. You can also choose to rent or buy used versions too!

Check it out on Amazon

Easy Peasy Chinese: Mandarin Chinese for Beginners

Fancy learning the world’s most spoken language, this book is a comprehensive guide to learn Chinese in one package. 

Mandarin chinese for beginners

Easy Peasy Chinese: Mandarin Chinese for Beginners is a practical book to speak, write, and understand Chinese in no time. Curated for beginners from Adults to Children, this Pinyin based book uses a system to spell out Chinese characters using Roman letters. 

You get to learn phrases for everyday use to introduce yourself, read and write numbers and make small chat about food, weather, and other common interests. This easy to learn guide helps you name yourself in Chinese, bargain for products, and master Chinese characters and culture.

The book also consists of an audio CD to help speak Chinese and get your pronunciation spot-on. With this book, learning Chinese is literally easy-peasy.

Check it out on Amazon

Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook & Dictionary

Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook & Dictionary is your travel companion for enriching your journey to China. The book includes the most relevant mandarin phrases for everyday use and your stay in China.

mandarin dictionary

This full-color book consists of essential tips on culture, idioms, multiple-meanings, and daily used words so you can order food, or bargain at a local thrift shop with ease. The book also has a 3500-word two-way quick reference dictionary to learn basics like time, date, numbers, grammar rules, etc.

With a user-friendly layout and a travel category, it is a must-have if you are planning to travel to China. You also get an at-a-glance on-the-fly cues on the front cover so you are covered at all times.

Learning a new language is an interesting journey and to make it less challenging, I have listed a table of the Top Chinese Books for Beginners to Learn Chinese available on Amazon. Don’t waste any more time and get cracking. Let’s go!

Check it out on Amazon

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