Jung Chang's new biography, Mao [written with Jon Halliday], is fascinating. Her last book was the memoir Wild Swans, about how three generations of her family fared in the turmoil of the 20th century in China, and how she got caught up in the Maoist movement. But this new book [coming from Knopf in October] is strictly a biography of Mao. It's largely a denunciation of him and a deconstruction of the myths he tried so hard to promulgate about China's power and its place in the world. For a lot of people, it could be the first book to go behind the scenes of Chinese life and reveal Mao's overriding influence. He's someone who has remained hidden to many people, though he was on the world stage for many years. It could make a refreshing Christmas gift—it's not just another bio of a U.S. president!

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