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.
"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)
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
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!
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.
The narrator was fantastic! The story was very interesting but got a little long.
I am glad for my new insights into the Chinese culture.
The wall - captured the sense of loss that people are feeling in such remote regions as Inner Mongolia.
The village - I was most engrossed in this part and almost on the edge of my seat as the drama unfolded surrounding health problems of Wei Ziqi's son.
The factory - a little dry with facts and figures, but the report on the professional arts producing village was enlightening.
Peter Hessler has an amazingly keen eye for detail and commendable skills of building rapport with his subjects. Several occasions he became more than simply an observer - aided by his high-level of Chinese. He has a gifted, lucid style of writing, that is both highly accessible and humourous.
As with several other audiobooks on China, the narrator's pronunciation of Chinese was awful, and left me in confusion at several points. Audible should remedy this problem to do this genre justice.
I like intellectual fiction with ideas, knowledge, technology, art, crafts, history, politics, & mystery, not violence or insipid romance
I really enjoyed listening to this book. Though he is not Chinese, Peter Hessler spent several years in China and learned enough of the language to get around on his own and become friends with ordinary Chinese people. He rented a house in a small village north of Beijing close to the Great Wall and got to know one family really well. He learned about their elementary school, the health care system at the time, relations between married couples with children. He described how a husband and wife each pursued paths in business and local political leadership, and how some of them cooperate in traditional agricultural practices. He described how a man he knew mainly as an entrepreneur demonstrated traditional skills when joining other villagers in the fall walnut harvest. He made a special effort to understand what life was like for certain individuals in factory boom towns, and remote Western villages. He rented a car and drove thousands of miles to see what the country was like. I was impressed with how big and varied the country is and how Chinese people follow some of their own laws and rules only partially. The description of what the government tried to do to encourage economic opportunity was not unlike ours in some ways. Some things were changing rapidly when he was there. For example, the number of cars and drivers was increasing. It is an in depth look you can't get by just going there and visiting tourist sites.
Some reviewers have said the narrator did not pronounce the Chinese language properly. That didn't bother me because I don't speak Mandarin. However I found myself wanting to understand the geographical locations better by researching them on the internet. I bought a hard copy of the book so I could know how the place names are spelled, but there are many different ways to spell the same Chinese word using our script. A couple of times it was hard to tell who was speaking in dialogue, but overall it is a wonderful book and I will read his others.
This is such a well written book with vivid stories through personal experience. The writer covers many aspects of China, from the village to the factory. As a Chinese, I learn a lot from this book about my own country.
The narrative is great and the narrator has a great voice as well as great pronunciation of Chinese. I really enjoyed this book.
This seems to be a typical Peter Hessler book; it's a meandering, well-researched and well-written examination of a quickly transforming nation. Sometimes I wish the trajectory the book travels was a bit straighter, but overall, I respect the author's design and intentions.
However, the narrator was ridiculous! I can't tell if he enhances the book by adding unintentional humor, or if he completely derails it. All of his renderings of the Chinese people quoted in the book make it sound like they are born-and-bred New Yorkers, and possibly chain-smoking New Yorkers. (I suppose born-and-bred New Yorkers might disagree with me — this is an opinion of someone not from there.) Still, I wish the publisher had hired someone who is more familiar with Chinese accents, and who could have reproduced subtle and diverse voices for the many different people featured in this book.
The tidbits of daily life in a completely different culture. Learning more about what has happened to the author since his first book
Any of Hessler's other books on his China experience
I found it gave me a new appreciation for what life in China must be like.
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