Once you’ve reached a certain level, listening to Chinese audiobooks helps to get the more advanced language input you need to keep upgrading your Chinese skills. But where do you find Chinese audiobooks that are interesting, high quality and not hidden behind a paywall?
Why listen to Chinese audiobooks?
Once you’ve reached a certain level, making significant progress becomes harder and slower. The good news: you’re finally ready to listen more advanced stuff, especially audiobooks. Listening to Chinese audiobooks can be an attractive option, for instance if:
- You love books, but lack the time to sit down and read
- You’d like to study more actively, but somehow can’t or don’t
- You’re not in a Chinese speaking environment (anymore), but want to get as much Chinese input as possible
- You want to expand your active and passive vocabulary and improve your overall listening comprehension
Tips for listening
- If you’re serious about this, why not set a goal (15 hours a month for example) and share it with people who care about your progress
- Spend some time listening everyday – this can in between activities, while commuting, running, eating, before going to sleep – whatever you like
- If you have some free time during the day opt for listening Chinese
- If the choice is between Netflix (or a non-Chinese podcast) and listening Chinese, opt for listening Chinese
Where can you find Chinese audiobooks?
Well, there’s a number of mostly Mainland Chinese websites where you can find loads of Chinese audiobooks. You should definitely have a look:
- Ximalaya – [free / $$$]
- 得到 (Dedao) – [free / $$$]
- lrts.me – [free]
- Pingshu8 – Star Wars, 1001 Nights, The Old Man and the Sea, Chinese children’s stories [free]
- diantai.ifeng – [free]
- LibriVox – [free]
- Loyalbooks – [free]
- Audible Chinese audiobook collection – [free / $$$]
10 Chinese audiobooks for advanced Mandarin learners
The main challenge is finding something that suits your level and is exciting enough to keep listening to. That’s also the reason for this post: making this process a little easier by giving some suggestions. The Chinese audiobooks I want to share with you are mostly classics or international bestsellers. For each I provided a short introduction with a link (in the picture) to the recording. Enjoy!
The Little Prince (1943) – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The fantasy tale follows a young prince who visits various planets in space, including Earth. Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince is usually seen as a children’s book but that’s somewhat shortsighted. One of the main themes is the narrow-mindedness of adults compared to the curiosity and open world view of children: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly: what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014) – Yuval Noah Harari
This is one of the most popular books in the category of universal (or pop) history. It’s not filled with minor details about rulers and kings, but draws the bigger picture about how we humans started out in this world and which ideas powered human development. Harari’s history of humankind is thought-provoking, but also highly speculative. That being said, Sapiens is a great book that will probably change the way you think about humankind.
The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European (1943) – Stefan Zweig
This autobiography by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig is one of the best books about European history I’ve read. In the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most widely translated and most popular writers in the world. In 1934, seeing the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, Zweig emigrated to England and then, in 1940, moved briefly to New York and eventually ended up in Brazil. There he committed suicide shortly after ending this book. One of the questions Zweig keeps asking himself is how the civilized nation of Germany could fall into the abyss of Nazi barbarism.
To Live (1993) – Yu Hua
The famous movie To Live by Zhang Yimou was based on this novel by Yu Hua who grew up during China’s cultural revolution. To Live is a dramatic story about peasant life and the struggle for daily survival in the days of Mao.
To Live describes the struggles endured by the son of a wealthy land-owner, Fugui, while the Chinese Communist Revolution is deeply changing the nature of Chinese society. Fugui, once a selfish, rich idler, looses everything through gambling. When Mao’s forces takes over, this loss of his family estate proves lifesaving. His troubles are far from over however.
Yu Hua grew up in a small village in Shandong province. What makes his writing stand out is that it’s very close to how the village people described by him actually speak and think. This not only makes the novel very authentic but also more accessible for Chinese learners.
Chronicle of a Blood Merchant (1995) – Yu Hua
Another novel by Yu Hua. This one is about the practice of donating blood in exchange for money which has led to horrible scandals in China. Chronicle of a Blood Merchant is the story of a silk factory worker, Xu Sanguan, who sells his blood to overcome poverty and family crises. The story is set in the late 1940s until the 1980s, from the early years of the People’s Republic of China until after the Cultural Revolution.
Brothers (2005–06) – Yu Hua
Whereas To Live and Chronicle of a Blood Merchant don’t cover present-day China, Brothers by Yu Hua sets out to tell the story of China’s transformation from Maoism to all-out capitalism.
How to Win Friends & Influence People (1936) – Dale Carnegie
How to Win Friends and Influence People is a self-help book written by the American writer Dale Carnegie and what you call a longtime bestseller. Carnegie is best known for developing and teaching business courses in self-improvement, public speaking and interpersonal skills. One his core ideas is that it is possible to change other people’s behavior by changing one’s behavior towards them. Starting point for this particular book is Carnegie’s personal observation that the leading business people in any given industry are not those with the most technical know-how, but rather those with the best people skills.
How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes (2010) – Peter Schiff and Andrew Schiff
How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes (2010) is an international bestseller explaining the basics of (macro)economics in a way that people like me can understand. It addresses such questions as:
- Why can governments spend without ever seeming to run out of money?
- Why are some countries rich while others are poor?
- Is spending or saving the best cure for a bad economy?
- Where does inflation come from?
The Story of Mankind (1921) – Hendrik van Loon
The Story of Mankind tells the history of western civilization in short chapters. It begins with primitive man, and then covers the development of writing, art, and architecture, the rise of major religions, and the formation of the modern nation-state. The Dutch-American journalist, professor, and author Van Loon wrote the book for his grandchildren.
Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist (2008) – Roger Lowenstein
This is a biography about Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most successful investors and number 4 richest person walking this earth. It is said that he first bought stock at age 11 and first filed taxes at age 13. Even if you’re not particularly interested in the stock market, Buffett is a legend and a genius worth studying.
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