Country Driving: Book summary and reviews of Country Driving by Peter Hessler

Country Driving

A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory

By Peter Hessler

Country Driving
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2010,
    448 pages.

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Book Summary

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 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Hessler offers Western readers an intimate story of a much-analyzed but often misunderstood world; both lay readers and scholars will appreciate." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. The result is a remarkably detailed, engrossing account of China today. The human side of China's great transformation, told with humor, affection and great insight." - Kirkus Reviews

"Starred Review. The result is a fascinating portrait of a society tearing off into the future with only the sketchiest of maps." - Publishers Weekly

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by exie harrington
Superb
This is the best book I've read this year. It's not only enjoyable, but I learned more about China than I had in 50 years of reading.
This author knows how to write. If you've read John McPhee, you'll know what I mean, as he took McPhee's seminar at Princeton and best of all, applied it.

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Author Information

Peter Hessler Author Biography

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.

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  • River Town jacket
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