A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory
By Peter Hessler
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061804090, 448pp.)
Publication Date: February 2010
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From the bestselling 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 peoplefarmers, migrant workers, entrepreneurswho 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.
Peter Hessler is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where he served as the Beijing correspondent from 2000 to 2007, and is also a contributing writer for National Geographic. He is the author of River Town, which won the Kiriyama Book Prize, and Oracle Bones, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He won the 2008 National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting.
In summer 2001, New Yorker Beijing correspondent Peter Hessler got his Chinese driver's license. For the next seven years, he traveled thousands of miles through China, reporting on how the car is transforming the country. More at NPR.org
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“A fascinating road trip through a land in transition. . . . Hessler’s description of China’s new drivers is hilarious. . . . Country Driving tells us as much about contemporary China even when Hessler is not on the road.”
-The Christian Science Monitor
“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.”
“Peter Hessler, a modern Marco Polo crossing China in a rented Jeep Cherokee, has witnessed signs and wonders worthy of a Coen brothers film. . . . Every so often, I read a book that upends my perceptions about a place. This is one of them.”
“Hessler has made a career of interpreting contemporary China and, for my money, nobody does it better. . . . Hessler is a magnificent guide to this largely uncharted territory, witty, insightful, keenly aware of the ironies of this communist-capitalist society.”
-The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“If you want to understand today’s China, and the forces changing it, you need to read Country Driving.”
-The Huffington Post
“Hessler is a keen observer of mind-catching details and an engaging storyteller. . . . Full of exotic detail, solid reporting, and ironic observation, Country Driving offers a personal snapshot of the world’s second superpower hurtling through the 21st century.”
-The Boston Globe
“Lively. . . . Engaging. . . . Hessler sets out with some suspect maps and a great deal of bravado. . . . He shows the effects China’s ever expanding network of roads exerts on individual lives. . . . Hessler [has an] irresistible urge to follow a story.”
-The New York Times Book Review
“Delightful. . . . Epic. . . . The reporting in Country Driving is impressive in its scope. . . . Hessler delivers eloquent disquisitions on everything from how to buy a used car in China to the history of the Mongol conquest.”
-Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Hessler’s genius has always been in his wry commentary and ability to transcribe the rhythms of his environment onto the page. . . . From this cast of thousands emerges a picture of great hopes tinged with sadness at what is being cast aside without second thought.”
-The Wall Street Journal
“Extraordinary. . . . Country Driving, like Hessler’s previous works, tells the story of China’s transformation powerfully and poetically.”
“Exceptionally moving. . . . Hilarious. . . . An absolutely terrific book, at once highly entertaining and deeply instructive. . . . Country Driving is a wonderful book about China that also happens to be a terrific book about the human race.
-Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post