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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.

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Great writing and narrative

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.

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  • R
  • 01-12-15

Hilariously bad narrator

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.

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  • Story

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.

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  • Story
  • Bruno
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 12-26-13

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.

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  • Story

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.

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  • Story

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!

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  • Gail
  • Madison, WI, United States
  • 05-13-12

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.

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  • Story

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.

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  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 10-15-11

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.

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  • Story

Great Story and Read Well

Peter Hessler is a good writer. He is a great outside observer of the Chinese culture. Is both understands the culture and still able to keep an outside opinion. I really enjoy how he is able to take situations of panic or normal situations in China and is able to see the historical and culture significance. For example, when he takes the boy to the hospital he describes the tombs of the emperors he drives by. The reader is very good although he does have some difficulties with the Chinese names. Otherwise I would have given him five stars.