There's a really good book that discusses some of the major events of China's history during the mid 1900's. It gets into Mao's life in great detail, while interweaving some of the major twentieth century events in Chinese history. If this time period interests you, I highly recommend it. If you're interested in getting a good background history on Chinese historical events over the past eighty years, induding some dicey stuff about Mao's penchant for young women (even when he was dying from congestive heart failure), this is the book. You'll definitely develop an understanding for why the Chinese think the way they do. You'll get a good idea as to why China is the way it is now. Just great background material.

"Mao, A life", by Phillip Short. I thoroughly enjoyed it.