Country Driving by Peter Hessler
If there is any book about China today that you read, make it this one. In fact, you might as well pick up all three of Hessler’s books on China, which are elegantly written, hilariously funny, and deeply insightful.The third, Country Driving, provides an on-the-ground account of the rapid industrialization in China that foreigners often read about but rarely see. (A bra-parts factory producing thin-steel rings for straps—and only those rings—is one of the memorable businesses.)
Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos
The characters in this book represent the spectrum of what a citizen of modern China faces: overnight success, optimism, insecurity, fear, and hope. Osnos, another former New Yorker correspondent, includes known figures like artist and activist Ai Weiwei, whom he befriended in Beijing, and former World Bank chief economist Justin Lin, who defected to mainland China from Taiwan in 1979, as well a striving Chinese English student named Michael Zhang. He pulls back to describe the historical events that inspired characters living in what he calls China’s Gilded Age.
China will be a country that builds things for a long time. Chang’s intimate portrait of life on the factory floor (and the factory dorm, and eatery, and hospital, and karaoke hall) depicts what tens of millions of Chinese are going through to reach the middle class.
Written by one of China’s most famous novelists, this nonfiction book is a fascinating primer on the big themes in today’s China—the propensity to copy ideas and products, screaming economic disparity—woven together with the writer’s personal experiences during the Cultural Revolution that ripped China’s society apart during the 1960s and ’70s.
For those who follow Chinese affairs, Han Han is as controversial as they come—an irreverent singer, sports celebrity, and satirist whose brilliant blogs and books have made him a huge celebrity. Now, with this collection of his essays, Americans can appreciate the range of this rising literary star and get a fascinating trip through Chinese culture. This Generation gathers his essays and blogs dating from 2006 to 2012, telling the story of modern China through Han Han’s unique perspective. Writing on topics as diverse as racing, relationships, the Beijing Olympics, and how to be a patriot, he offers a brief, funny, and illuminating trip through a complex nation that most Westerners view as marching in lockstep.