Share Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

Raised in London, Elizabeth graduated with a degree in English from Smith College in 2013. When not reading six different novels at once she can be found Instagramming artisanal pastries and working in the marketing department of Simon & Schuster. Follow her on Instagram: @eliz_bree.  

Eighty percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February, but luckily February offers an opportunity to reset: the Lunar New Year! Also known as Chinese New Year, or in China, as the Spring Festival, this celebration marks the start of the new lunar calendar and its transition to the next zodiac year. The traditional Chinese zodiac follows a cycle that repeats every twelve years and is ordered according to twelve zoological signs. This year, will celebrate the Year of the Pig, and to mark the festivities (and give you a nudge to get back on track with your reading resolutions!) we’ve put together a list of novels featuring each of the twelve zodiac animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.


Year of Wonders
by Geraldine Brooks
The Year of the Rat
Traditionally in Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and abundance, and married couples, inspired by their rate of reproduction, used them to pray for fertility. Unfortunately, the rodents’ fruitfulness also led to their prevalence across Europe—the disease they carried, which would eventually become known as the Bubonic Plague. Geraldine Brooks, a master of historical fiction, captures this moment in time through the eyes of a young woman confronting the disease in eighteenth-century England.
Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brooks

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

A Former Bookseller Reminisces on Her 12 Favorite Works of Fiction

By Nancy Quinn | September 25, 2018

A Novel About Finding Strength Amidst Tragedy

By Erin Flaaen | November 18, 2015

Close

The Good Earth
by Pearl S. Buck
The Year of the Ox
Oxen have always been valued in farming history; their tough and hardworking nature lend these positive characteristics to those born in the Year of the Ox. In THE GOOD EARTH, Pearl S. Buck’s classic tale of 1920s rural China, honest and diligent farmers Wang Lung and O-Lan struggle to care for their family and land (cue ox appearance!) amid the turbulence of agricultural life.
The Good Earth
Pearl S. Buck

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

Close

The Tiger's Wife
by Téa Obreht
The Year of the Tiger
Tigers are symbols of courage and adventure and the tigers in the zodiac are also seen as guardians; children often wear tiger designs to protect against evil spirits. The tiger in Téa Obreht’s debut novel escapes from the zoo he is in during a wartime bombing. The tiger befriends a mysterious deaf-mute woman and the two become mythic figures in the village and for generations after.
The Tiger's Wife
Téa Obreht

In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with “the deathless man.” But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger’s wife.

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

12 Authors I Desperately Need New Books From

By Taylor Noel | April 16, 2018

18 Striking First Lines to Start 2018

By Kerry Fiallo | January 1, 2018

Out of the Mouths of Babes: Debut Novelists Under 30

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 27, 2015

Close

Chocolat
by Joanne Harris
The Year of the Rabbit
There are a few explanations for why rabbits in the Chinese zodiac represent the moon. One is that the moon is home to the goddess of immortality, Chang’e, whose companion is the Jade Rabbit. Others say the shadows on the moon can reveal themselves to be a rabbit to those who look close enough. Another illusory bunny can be found in CHOCOLAT, the story of a woman whose arrival in a small French village with daughter Anouk and Anouk’s imaginary best friend, Pantoufle the rabbit, reveals both intolerance and passion among the locals.
Chocolat
Joanne Harris

The trials and triumphs of chocolatier Vianne Rocher unfold in prose as sweet as the described French confections. It doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that the main love interest is played by the swoon-worthy Johnny Depp in the eponymous movie adaption.

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

11 Delicious Food Novels to Savor

By Emma Volk | October 15, 2015

15 Delicious Books For Fans of Eating and Reading

By Off the Shelf Staff | October 30, 2014

Close

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
by C. S. Lewis
The Year of the Dragon
Unlike its Western counterpart, which shows dragons to be cruel, greedy, and detached, the Chinese dragon is revered. Those born in the Year of the Dragon are considered great leaders who use their natural strengths to help others. One oft-forgotten fictional dragon seems to bridge these two characterizations: Eustace Scrubb, annoying cousin to the Pevensie children (the four siblings you might remember from THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE). In VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, third in the Chronicles of Narnia series, young Eustace starts off sulky and mean only to have a change of heart when he’s literally transformed into a dragon and realizes the value in assisting his crew.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
C. S. Lewis

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

Close

The Jungle Book
by Rudyard Kipling
The Year of the Snake
Snakes may be cunning and self-serving, but the Chinese zodiac also depicts them as a symbol of wisdom. Rudyard Kipling captured this essence in his slithering character Kaa, a hundred-year-old creature whose friendship mentors Mowgli through the Jungle. Starkly different from the various film portrayals, this serpent’s guidance actually keeps Mowgli from harm.
The Jungle Book
Rudyard Kipling

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

The Best Designer Classics for Your Bookshelf

By Julianna Haubner | November 5, 2018

Bestselling Novelist Lisa See’s 13 Favorite Books

By Lisa See | March 28, 2017

While the Cat’s Away: 13 Books About Our Favorite Felines

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 28, 2016

Close

Winter's Tale
by Mark Helprin
The Year of the Horse
Lively, active, and partial to galloping, the horse in the Chinese calendar is the symbol of freedom and independence. Freedom is exactly what Peter Lake needs in WINTER’S TALE; cornered by a criminal gang who want him dead, an angelic white horse mysteriously appears and saves Peter before leading him through the streets of turn-of-the-century New York City toward his true love.
Winter's Tale
Mark Helprin

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

14 Long Novels for Long Winter Nights

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 19, 2018

Close

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
by Joanna Cannon
The Year of the Goat
Goats are typified by a mild nature, and are often shy and sympathetic. Those born in the Year of the Goat are described as enjoying company, but also preferring the sidelines of big groups. This portrait aligns with the psychological phenomenon which inspired Joanna Cannon’s novel, a lovely coming of age story where a close-knit neighborhood reevaluates what it means to belong. Goats, in Cannon’s interpretation, are individuals who “unbelong,” living on the periphery of life and trying to fit in among the “sheep” of their community. It’s only when circumstances call attention to their differences that the “goats and sheep” truly consider who and where they’d really like to be.

Read the full review of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Joanna Cannon

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

Readers’ Choice: The Top 25 Shelved Books of 2017

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 29, 2017

The 10 Most Popular Reviews on Off the Shelf in 2017

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 18, 2017

Readers’ Choice: September’s 10 Most Shelved Books on Off the Shelf

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 29, 2017

Join Our Book Club and You Could Win 14 of Our Favorite Reads

By Something to Read About | September 5, 2017

The One Book I Keep Rereading

By Taylor Noel | August 7, 2017

Close

Bad Monkey
by Carl Hiaasen
The Year of the Monkey
Unsurpirsingly, monkeys are characterized as playful pranksters who use their sly intelligence for mischief. The titular character in Carl Hiaasen’s novel also channels cleverness into bad behavior, although among a cast of colorful characters including a failed police officer, Bahamian voodoo queen, and hot blooded Midwestern fugitives, can you really blame him for acting out?
Bad Monkey
Carl Hiaasen

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

Close

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly
by Sun-mi Hwang
The Year of the Rooster
I know, I know—hens are not the same as roosters. But a comprehsnive search of many, many bookshelves failed to turn up any rooster-driven stories and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to showcase another charming piece of fowl fiction. This allegorical tale, hailed as the Korean CHARLOTTE’S WEB, follows a frustrated hen who decides she’s no longer content on the farm and decides to break with tradition and escape into the wild.
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly
Sun-mi Hwang

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

Close

His Royal Dogness, Guy the Beagle
by Camille March and Michael Brumm, with illustrations by EG Keller
The Year of the Dog
To be fair, many loyal hounds are portrayed on the page with the same attributes of those born in the Year of the Dog: honesty, faithfulness, smarts, and a strong sense of responsibility. One of my favorites, however, was captured in the “re-bark-able” story of rescue-turned-royal Guy, a beagle whose owner unexpectedly married into royalty and turns him into a beloved puppy prince.
His Royal Dogness, Guy the Beagle
Camille March and Michael Brumm, with illustrations by EG Keller

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

Close

Animal Farm
by George Orwell
The Year of the Pig
By far one of the most famous, if detested, fictional porkers is the main antagonist of George Orwell’s political allegory: Napoleon the Pig. Although the Chinese zodiac associates the Year of the Pig with good fortune and accommodating personalities, nothing could be further from Napoleon’s Stalin-inspired nature. Revist this classic in the Year of the Pig to find the animal you most relate to, regardless of what year you were born!
Animal Farm
George Orwell

MENTIONED IN:

Happy Chinese New Year: 12 Books to Kick Off the Year of the Pig

By Elizabeth Breeden | February 5, 2019

9 Books That Completely Blew Our Minds

By Off the Shelf Staff | June 19, 2018

8 Really Great Books We’ve Lied About Reading (Sorry)

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 17, 2017

Close

Thank you for joining our email list!

If you create an Off the Shelf account, you'll be able to save books to your personal bookshelf, and be eligible for free books and other good stuff.

Click here to create your free account.

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.