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Publisher's Summary

A century ago, outsiders saw China as a place where nothing ever changes. Today, the country has become one of the most dynamic regions on earth. In Oracle Bones, Peter Hessler explores the human side of China's transformation, viewing modern-day China and its growing links to the Western world through the lives of a handful of ordinary people. In a narrative that gracefully moves between the ancient and the present, the East and the West, Hessler captures the soul of a country that is undergoing a momentous change before our eyes.

©2007 Peter Hessler (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“A brilliant observer with a novelist’s ear for character and dialogue, Hessler is both fascinating and funny.” ( Entertainment Weekly)
“A remarkable travelogue documenting aspects of a country still little understood.” ( Kirkus)
“Engaging.... Acutely observed, moving, frequently funny and a perspicacious X-ray of China’s zeitgeist.” ( South China Morning Post)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Another Excellent Work

Oracle Bones is another excellent book from Peter Hessler. He writes from a unique and insightful perspective. He has lived in China for many years; beginning as an English teacher at a Chinese college. He has remained in close touch with his former students, whose own experiences in working after graduation in the ???New China??? form an important part of the book. Mr. Hessler has also been accredited as a foreign correspondent in China for the New Yorker magazine. As a writer of magazine articles, he has been free to develop stories and themes at much greater length and depth than would have been possible as a reporter for a daily newspaper. In my view that is a big plus for his readers.

His books reflect first hand experiences and conversations with Chinese residents (not all of them native Chinese, by the way) from various walks of life, many of whom he can consider good friends. They also reflect extensive interview notes, some scholarly research, and a whimsical eye for things comic and ironic in everyday life. Mr. Hessler also shares poignant conversations with Chinese who experienced the trials and terrors of the 1960???s ???Cultural Revolution??? and the earlier ???Anti-Rightist??? campaign of the late 1950???s.

As readers we are fortunate that Mr. Hessler has developed considerable literary talent. The writing is clear, suited to the humor or poignancy of the events or conversations he is describing, and has a personal tone that allows us to share his fascination and feelings in what he is seeing and hearing.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great look at China

I loved this book. The scope of it surprised me with its look at history, culture and day-to-day life. You certainly can't understand everything about China by reading a couple of books, but this book and Hessler's River Town have made China a little more accessible for me. The narrator, I believe, did a great job. He sounds like a native english speaker reading for other native english speakers.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Bruno
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 10-24-13

Great book

Where does Oracle Bones rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is my most favorite book so far. I do not speak chinese, so I would not know how the pronunciation is on certain words, but the performance and the storyline was amazing for me.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The struggles of each of the main roles. Its hard to find one moment.

Any additional comments?

I enjoyed this book so much, that I have bought the hardcopy as well. Having audio is nice for me since I am not able to allocate much time for reading, but this book was such a good story, that I was happy to buy the hard copy as well. (Make sure I did not miss anything)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Pure pleasure, Joy, escapism!

I don't even recall why I bought this book. I found it on my IPAD as something half lost in titles and just thought since I had paid for it I would get it out of the way. I spent the next five days in wonderland! What an amazing writer. The best performance EVER for a reading. I traveled the world into universes I never knew existed! China now became a reality for me. I had an agenda to read a group of other books after this as my attention had been swayed in another direction, but once I finished this, that was all forgotten. I had to go back and buy every book this writer has written and the reader has performed. I feel bridged into a country and a culture thousands of miles away from me. I feel I have traveled although I never left my home. I feel I skipped all over the universe although I have been sitting in one neighborhood. THIS is why I read!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Roger
  • Orlando, Florida United States
  • 03-14-11

Personal History in China

The author was a reporter of sorts in China and this is the account of his life there over 10 years. Very interesting view of culture and history. I enjoyed all of it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Believe the other reviewers - bad pronunciation!

Is there anything you would change about this book?

This book was recommended to me by another China-lover, who had also spent a decent amount of time there. It was dry, and that was tough for me, but the narrator also butchers many pronunciations of Chinese words, and even to my American ear, it was painful. I bought this book ignoring the warnings, thinking those must be people who are very fluent. (I have taken about 2.5 years of Mandarin Chinese courses and spent a few months there years back.) But no, if you've ever studied Chinese, his narration will drive you INSANE. If you haven't, well then, you might enjoy this saga of new and old China.

Would you recommend Oracle Bones to your friends? Why or why not?

See above as well; I recommend it for the history and present-day juxtaposition of China. That's why I was interested. I found it too dull for my liking. If you've spent time studying the language, beware of this narration.

Would you be willing to try another one of Peter Berkrot’s performances?

Yes, so long as it's not a book heavily based in an Asian nation.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

helpful narrator, unhelpful biased author

What made the experience of listening to Oracle Bones the most enjoyable?

I purchased this book to listen for a class and I most appreciated having the narrator's pronunciation of people and place names. I also had the hard copy of the book, but did little reading from it as it tripped me up when I would run into the foreign place names. The narrator made it flow nicely with (what I hope is) accurate pronunciation.
Also, I appreciated the subtle variances in tone used when reading speech versus Hessler's writing. This made it easy to understand. Hessler had his own voice and the different characters had their own other voices which were easily distinguishable as the book went on, which could potentially be very confusing after 18 hours.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

I appreciated being presented with a view of China that most Americans like myself do not have the chance to see, as Hessler did. He often seemed to take on a very authoritative approach that was borderline arrogant, because he is definitely not a native of the country and can never get that same experience, although he seems like he is trying to present the material as if he did live as a Chinese-born person.
Also, his writing is heavily bias against the Chinese government. This would go along with his desire to come off as a Chinese native, but as a reader we are clearly hearing about his experience as a travel writer. It seems as though he is trying to take on contradictory identities. As a travel writer, I expected a little bit more objectivity.
I appreciate extending sympathy to people who are struggling. The way he communicates with his students during and after his teaching in China is very wonderful and was my favorite part of the book. It seemed, however, that he was trying to do more with this book than just relay his experience. It seemed like he was trying to make some big statement about China, and this did not seem to be quite the right outlet, or something seemed to be off in the delivery--maybe I just cannot put my finger on it. It just seemed that there was a tone of arrogance, as I said, as if he were trying to be more political than necessary about the book. Just hearing about a person's humble experience is what I prefer.
There was a lot of information about archaeology and history which was admirable in this book as well, but some of it got so intertwined with Hessler's opinions that it was difficult to separate out the facts.
At the end of the 18 hours I am glad to have made the time investment in the book. It was not something I would have chosen on my own, but hearing the stories about the different people have stuck with me. For the most part, the facts and information did not really grab (for reasons I already mentioned). The people, however, were outstanding and it was fascinating to hear their stories.

Which character – as performed by Peter Berkrot – was your favorite?

I was the most fascinated by the way the narrator could subtly communicate a female Chinese character's voice--of which there are several. Even among the different ones, variances in age and academia were performed well in the delivery.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joshua
  • Piedmont, CA, United States
  • 10-26-11

Amazing Book, subpar narration

Hessler writes a wide ranging and incisive account of China at the turn of the 21st century. He is able to present much of the dystopian craziness of China while still humanizing individuals that he encounters. The narrator, however brings the book down. His reading of Hessler's narration and thoughts is fine, and his mispronunciation of Chinese (i.e. Mao Zhidong) is forgivable, but his "Chinese" voice is truly awful and distracting from the narrative.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Daniel
  • United States
  • 11-09-10

Great Book, except for the narration.

If you are interested in Chinese/China, this book is really good. The only problem is the narrator thoroughly an completely butchers the Chinese words in this otherwise terrific audio book.
To be fair to the narrator, his voice is interesting and expressive. It's just the Chinese language parts that do him in. Maybe if I did not speak Chinese I would not care so much.
However, as a Chinese Language and Lit graduate who lived in Asia for a few years, I was taken away with this book. The author is great. I will look for other books from Peter Hessler.

13 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Another performer who cannot speak the language

Would you consider the audio edition of Oracle Bones to be better than the print version?

No. I'm going to return the audio book and buy the print version.

What did you like best about this story?

Peter Hessler has don a great job of researching this book, and he's a skilled writer.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Peter Berkrot?

I wish someone who can actually pronounce Chinese would read the text. It's actually quite important to be able to understand what the performer is talking about, to follow the story.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. I couldn't get through chapter one; the reader's Chinese was so horrendous.

Any additional comments?

Please stop hiring people who don't speak Chinese to read books about China! And stop making the performers read quotes by Chinese people in a thick Chinese accent. It's so unnecessary.

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joanne
  • 09-30-11

brilliant! great read, interesting and enjoyable

Really good book - have listened to it at least 5 times and it still keeps me interested. Have also listened to his other 2 books on here, both just as good - wish there was more! You really learn about China and it's people, from history to day to day living of ordinary people - would definately recommend it to all

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Customer
  • 09-24-15

*** for the reader

Great book, the reader is generally quite good but his Chinese pronunciation is pretty bad.