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Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory | [Peter Hessler]

Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory

In the summer of 2001, Peter Hessler, the longtime Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, acquired his Chinese driver's license. For the next seven years, he traveled the country, tracking how the automobile and improved roads were transforming China.
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Publisher's Summary

From the best-selling author of Oracle Bones and River Town comes the final book in his award-winning trilogy, on the human side of the economic revolution in China.

In the summer of 2001, Peter Hessler, the longtime Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, acquired his Chinese driver's license. For the next seven years, he traveled the country, tracking how the automobile and improved roads were transforming China. Hessler writes movingly of the average people - farmers, migrant workers, entrepreneurs - who have reshaped the nation during one of the most critical periods in its modern history.

Country Driving begins with Hessler's 7,000-mile trip across northern China, following the Great Wall, from the East China Sea to the Tibetan plateau. He investigates a historically important rural region being abandoned, as young people migrate to jobs in the southeast.

Next, Hessler spends six years in Sancha, a small farming village in the mountains north of Beijing, which changes dramatically after the local road is paved and the capital's auto boom brings new tourism.

Finally, he turns his attention to urban China, researching development over a period of more than two years in Lishui, a small southeastern city where officials hope that a new government-built expressway will transform a farm region into a major industrial center.

Peter Hessler, whom The Wall Street Journal calls "one of the Western world's most thoughtful writers on modern China", deftly illuminates the vast, shifting landscape of a traditionally rural nation that, having once built walls against foreigners, is now building roads and factory towns that look to the outside world.

©2010 Peter Hessler (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"The best yet from Peter Hessler, whose two earlier books, River Town and Oracle Bones, were exemplary forays into the genre. . . . Told with his characteristic blend of empathy, insight, and self-deprecating humor." (Time)

"[A]n utterly enjoyable guide, with a humane and empathetic eye for the ambitions, the failures, and the comedy of a country in which everybody, it seems, is on the move, and no one is quite sure of the rules." (Amazon.com review)

"Peter Hessler is a fine tour guide for the new China, a writer who is capable of tossing aside the country’s (deplorable) maps and admitting: 'In China, it’s not such a terrible thing to be lost, because nobody else knows exactly where they’re going, either.'....It’s not merely that Mr. Hessler convinces us that the Chinese, being new to driving, are simply awful at it. He makes the additional, and delightful, case that perhaps no other people 'take such joy in driving badly.'" (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (288 )
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  •  
    James SEATTLE, WA, United States 11-13-11
    James SEATTLE, WA, United States 11-13-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Just Got Back From China - This Book Was Right On!"

    I read Country Driving just weeks before going to China recently and I am so glad that I did. The author, Peter Hessler, does an excellent job in describing China, especially "off the beaten path".

    The book helped me to have an "open mind" and "put down some of my own stereotypes" about China, and go there to just enjoy the experience and take it all in.

    Thanks Peter Hessler for writing such a great book and helping me to thoroughly enjoy the great land and people of China!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph San Diego, CA, United States 03-27-11
    Joseph San Diego, CA, United States 03-27-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Author clearly loves China and you will too"

    Peter Hessler weaves a perfect tale of the aspirations of ordinary Chinese in a sympathetic way. In many ways, China's people have not changed from Pearl Buck's rural peasants of a century ago in "The Good Earth". The author gives a seamless sequel from the dynasties to today's modern China. The book gives countless insights into how the world's most-populated nation operates.

    The reader finds himself drawn to the numerous personal stories of how rural China is changing. While American politicians may attempt to scare their countryman by the rise of China, you find after reading it yourself less fearful of China's ascent on the world stage. The author clearly loves the rural Chinese people and you will too after listening to this excellent book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gene Bowker Duluth, GA 08-02-14
    Gene Bowker Duluth, GA 08-02-14 Member Since 2010

    Rusted Rail Images

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    "discover China through the eyes of an insider"
    What made the experience of listening to Country Driving the most enjoyable?

    The tidbits of daily life in a completely different culture. Learning more about what has happened to the author since his first book


    What other book might you compare Country Driving to and why?

    Any of Hessler's other books on his China experience


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I found it gave me a new appreciation for what life in China must be like.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bruno Houston, TX, United States 12-26-13
    Bruno Houston, TX, United States 12-26-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Interesting!"
    What did you love best about Country Driving?

    I love the naration, and the short stories found within. This was a wonderful book.


    What about Peter Berkrot’s performance did you like?

    Clear speaking skills, easy to understand, and changed his voice to go along with the characters. Loved the naration.


    Any additional comments?

    I have listened to 3 of Peter Hesslers books so far, and this one is enjoyable as well. Peter makes you learn of how the people of China are, and understand a different culture much better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Raleigh greensboro, NC, United States 07-11-13
    Raleigh greensboro, NC, United States 07-11-13 Member Since 2009
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    "people of china > nation of china"

    i recently completed an 18 mo. term at a university
    the large home i lived in housed other doctors and teachers
    while there, i met a young business law professor from china

    as the time came for me to leave, he recommended a book
    he said it was " a truthful introduction " to the people of china
    peter hessler's book more than lives up to that assessment

    hessler's fearless life in china gives him a unique authority
    he drives their roads, eats their food and lives in their villages
    his rugged resilience is rewarded with their kindness and insight

    at this point, even the chinese don't believe in communism
    they will, in time, throw off the corrupt shell of party bureaucracy
    at that point, we'll see the true character of the chinese people

    peter hessler's book is an honest preview to that moment







    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jollypenno Perth 04-26-13
    Jollypenno Perth 04-26-13 Listener Since 2010
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    "I'll never look at my bras in the same way again"

    Peter Hessler's a great storyteller and he draws you into his experiences with intelligence, respect, charm and good humor.

    He also gave me an understanding and appreciation of the people who made the stuff in my life that came from exactly the sort of places he describes so well. I've gained a whole new perspective about things I always took for granted (bra rings being just one example!)

    I didn't expect to enjoy this book so much, but found myself thoroughly absorbed in it and sad when this journey to China ended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-27-12
    Catherine LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-27-12 Member Since 2011

    I love to read!

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    "Great book! Need More!"

    Just like the other two, a book that will take you on a journey through China. Great read! We need more Peter! MORE!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail Madison, WI, United States 05-13-12
    Gail Madison, WI, United States 05-13-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Outstanding"

    Peter Hessler provides a fascinating window into the experiences, thoughts and motivations of ordinary people in China. He has spent many years in China and speaks fluent Mandarin--so he is able to get to know people and interact in people's lives in a way that goes far beyond what is typically found in "travel" literature.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Brown Emeryville, CA 10-21-11
    L. Brown Emeryville, CA 10-21-11 Member Since 2009

    Editor of the coffee table book for 25 years, from Disney Song Book to history of America as seen in on-the-spot drawings--before Ken Burns.

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    "A gem of a book"

    What a wonderful way to experience the culture of Chinese country folk who were catapulted into the modern day. How resourceful they were and so sorry to see these
    country people go modern. But they want TVs and useless goods just like the rest of us.
    Nicely written and characters interesting. This is a good read and a great introduction to the unsophisticated Chinese people.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-15-11
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-15-11 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "A fascinating journey"

    I admit that I tend to overuse "fascinating" in my book reviews, but this is one case where it's warranted. For anyone interested in modern China, Hessler's account of the seven years he spent in the country between 2001 and 2008 is a pleasure to read, providing a real sense of connection between the past and today. From his account of driving along the Great Wall in a rental car, to his experiences living with a rural Chinese family, to his explorations of the life of a new factory town and its inhabitants, I think it's hard for Americans to get a better street-level overview of a nation in transition. Hessler does a fine job of capturing all the little quirks of daily life that outsiders might miss, and touching on the many differences, large and subtle, between Chinese and Western culture. He writes fairly objectively, but doesn't keep himself (and his sense of humor) out of the narrative. The last third of the book, which covers the life and times of a brassiere ring factory in a boom town, is especially fascinating, as it echoes the story of many parts of the United States circa 1900, but in an entirely 21st century, Chinese way.

    I'm glad I picked this one up at an Audible sale. Some reviews have complained about the narrator's pronunciation of Chinese names, but I don't speak the language, so that aspect went straight over my head.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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