Series # of Books Formats Audio Difficult Words Footnoted Glossary Features and Formatting
Chinese Breeze 21 books, 4 levels (300, 500, 750, 1100 words) Paperback, Kindle CDs (older editions), mp3s (newer editions) Yes Difficult words only The stories are fun, and they don’t introduce too many new words or names at once. They also tend to pick names composed of characters that are likely to be familiar to the reader.
Graded Chinese Reader (Edmund Chua) 9 books, 6 levels (HSK 1-6) Paperback, Kindle No No Difficult words only These books first present the story sentence-by-sentence, with pinyin and English below each Chinese sentence, then presents it paragraph-by-paragraph. It’s a good way of making it easy to find the meaning or pronunciation of words you don’t know, while the paragraph-by-paragraph presentation allows the more advanced reader not to be bothered with pinyin above every word. And this approach works well with the Kindle version too.
HSK Academy 4 books, 4 levels (HSK 1, 2, 4, 6) Paperback, Kindle No No No Similar to Edmund Chua’s books, this series solves the problem of unfamiliar vocabulary by including a paragraph-by-paragraph version with accompanying pinyin and English, as well as a full-story version in characters.
HSK Storybooks 9 books, 3 levels (HSK 1-3) Paperback, Kindle mp3s No Difficult words only Includes full story with characters as well as a paragraph-by-paragraph version with accompanying pinyin and English. These books provide very targeted practice for the HSK exam, covering all of the words for the specified level without requiring many additional words.
Jeff Pepper 12 books, 3 levels (240, 600, 1200 words) Paperback, Kindle YouTube Yes All words Paperback version has pinyin on the opposite page from the characters, which works well for seeing how to pronounce a character without being distracted by the pinyin. The Kindle version presents the whole story first in characters, then in pinyin, then in English.
Mandarin Companion 14 books, 3 levels (150, 300, 450 characters) Paperback, Kindle No Yes Difficult words only IMO, the best, most interesting stories of all the series. These books are some of the very few to be available in both simplified and traditional characters.
Rainbow Bridge ~40 books, 7 levels (150, 300, 500, 750, 1000, 1500, 2500 words) Paperback, Kindle, Pleco mp3s Yes Difficult words only The stories are fun, but these books tend to introduce a lot of difficult words and names right at the beginning, which makes them frustrating to read sometimes. Also, the Kindle versions consist of images of the print pages, so there’s no added functionality.
Sinolingua Graded Chinese Readers 6 books, 6 levels (500-3000 words) Paperback, Kindle, Pleco mp3s on CD Yes Not all words, but pretty extensive The stories are really interesting, as they are abridged versions of works by contemporary Chinese authors, and many of them present personalized accounts of challenges in modern Chinese society. These books have pinyin above the Chinese characters, which I find distracting. The paper versions come with a card to be used for covering the pinyin, which is a nice option, even if slightly unwieldy. The Kindle versions are images of the print pages, so there’s no way to cover the pinyin. With the Pleco versions, there’s no such issue (characters only, tap to look them up).
SK Mishra’s Chinese Short Stories 11 books, all “Level 1” Paperback, Kindle No No No Despite being billed as “Level 1”, these are pretty advanced (i.e. above HSK 5 level). The books first present the story in characters, then in pinyin.