Crystal Z Lee’s debut novel, Love and Other Moods, begins—as one does—with a lavish wedding à la Crazy Rich Asians. Chinese-American Joss Kong is marrying ultra-wealthy Tay Kai Tang at a swanky Shanghai hotel with an audience of friends and family that speak a variety of Chinese dialects and English with a variety of accents. There’s a Who’s Who of designer and luxury goods on everyone in the wedding party and on every guest.

Amid the plethora of China memoirs by Western writers over the years, this new one set in Shanghai from 1978 to 1979 stands out a little because it takes place during a time of transition in China. But Anne E McLaren’s Slow Train to Democracy is more than just a record of her time in China or the transition; it’s an account of a little-known democracy movement in Shanghai —around the time the government coined the term “socialism with Chinese characteristics”—that was eclipsed by Tiananmen a decade later.

November 12, 1941 was in Shanghai a day like another. Except that this was the day of the Champions Day horse races at the Shanghai Race Club. And that within a month the Japanese would put an end to the Shanghai that everyone knew.  In Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai, James Carter uses this one day to paint a “kaleidoscopic portrait” of a dynamic city on the brink of war. On that day thousands of people across Shanghai gathered at one of three places around the city: a celebration of Sun Yat-sen’s birthday; the funeral of Liza Hardoon, Asia’s wealthiest woman; and the Champions Day horse races at the Shanghai Race Club.