"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Monday, September 20, 2010

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

by Peter Hessler

There's a great website called FiveBooks.com where they interview a leading writer in a specific field of study (ranging from Detective Novels to Cold War History) and ask them to recommend 5 books by other authors in their field.  I love this idea, because I believe good writers are some of the best at recognizing other good writers, especially in their own focus.  I got this book recommendation from an interview about "Foreign Memoirs" and liked the idea of it because it was recommended along with Three Cups of Tea, another of my favorite books that I have already written a post about.

Peter Hessler paints a great picture of his time living and teaching in China.  The imagery of location is strong, both in its beauty and in its ugly side.  He deals with much of the politics, but in a way that looks at it from  many angles.  Although Hessler was there to teach and he does discuss that side of it in many chapters, much of the book is simply about his interaction with the Chinese people, and how they interact with him.  Most fascinating to me was his thoughts on the way the Chinese people view politics, dictators, Americans, their land, progress, and their general world view.  Very different from what I am used to, but that's what made it so good.  However, I think my favorite chapters were about teaching his Chinese students Shakespeare and Don Quixote. 

If you want a book that gets you to think outside your own world view for a while and experience a society which is very different from our own, both in good and bad ways, then this will be a good read for you.

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