Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom
What do you know about the Taiping Rebellion, or the Taiping Civil War as Stephen Platt prefers to call it? If the answer is very little, then you are in good company, for the author himself knew nothing about it until he had lived for a year in China. Yet it was more destructive of human life then either World War and 30 times more destructive than the American Civil War, which took place at the same time. And if the Taiping had won, as they nearly did and probably would have done but for British intervention (the same government that refused to intervene in America), China would have entered the Industrial Age a century earlier and the 20th-century might have been China’s century, not America’s.
This book is the best introduction you could get. Narrated around the careers of the four principal participants it reads almost like a novel; a good read as well as a necessary education.