Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
This novel about a certain area of 19th century China is fascinating. For one thing, I learned about the secret women's writing called nu shu that has been passed down from mother to daughter in one rural Hunan province for about a thousand years. Also, the book has a vivid but fairly unemotional description of foot binding that made me feel physically ill. That's just evidence of my ignorance rather than a recommendation not to read the book. I knew about foot binding before, but only in the vaguest way. Then there's the heavy stuff about the friendship between the main character and her "old same," a friend bound to her by contract when they were young. Anyway, it wasn't a light read, but it was fascinating and important.