Rounding out my series of posts on books that have shaped my understanding and love for China, here are the ones that were key in the past decade:
Country Driving, by Peter Hessler. In this book Hessler explores the social changes that have come to China with the rise of a car culture. In Part 1 he writes about his adventures renting a jeep and driving across China, trying to stay as close to the Great Wall as possible. In Part 2, he tells the story of a small village in the mountains outside of Beijing as it adapts to the new road. And in Part 3 he travles the roads linking factory towns in SE China. It's classic Hessler — guaranteed to make you chuckle and learn.
Dreaming in Chinese, by Deborah Fallows. Sigh. Another one I wish I'd written. In the run-up to the Olympics, Deborah and her husband James (writer for the Atlantic) spent a couple of years in Beijing. While her husband was reporting for the Atlantic, she took on the task of learning Chinese. This is a great book about the joys and pitfalls of language learning and fun lessons along the way.
Snowflower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See. Set against the backdrop of the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century, the story is about the 'inner' life of women in Jiangyong County, in southern Hunan Province. This book explores many the values that are deeply embedded in Chinese culture, and even though we are 150 years out from the era in which this story is set, they remain strong today. WARNING: THERE IS A MOVIE VERSION OF THIS BOOK. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, WATCH IT. It has very very little to do with the original book.
God is Red, by Liao Yiwu. Dissident writer Liao travels to SW China to explore the growth and impact of Christianity. Not a believer himself, he is nontheless drawn to the stories of faith and pereverence amidst hardship.