Peter Hessler, turning 47 this year, is ridiculously and thoroughly impressive.
Just skimming the surface: He graduated from Princeton, got a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford, worked for the Peace Corps, wrote for renowned publications worldwide, was named a 2011 MacArthur Fellow, published award-winning books, and is learning Arabic (in addition to being fluent in Chinese) while living in Cairo with his Harvard-educated wife.
It’s no wonder that the first book that I’ve read of his makes me feel so inadequate. Here’s someone who had had no connection to China, and yet he had managed not only to make such thrilling Chinese road trips at what seemed like the perfect time—just as the nation’s highways were being built, yet right before many people actually used to them explore China—but also to record them with such incredible detail and humor. HOW BASIC ARE WE?!
And with my recent 1.5-hour drive to the outskirts of Guangzhou, I couldn’t help but think of this book—then wondered how many other people who have read this book did the same whenever they drove out of Chinese cities and started seeing such amazingly lush sceneries that remind me of home. Turns out, China isn’t all factories and choking pollution 😛 Only now it strengthens my desire to go deeper into China, especially to Guangxi, about which I’ve only heard great things (“best province in China”—technically it’s an “Autonomous Region”).
So with that, I’ll leave some links to more about himself, his works, and Country Driving reviews that actually do the book justice.
— For the lazy
— For those interested in Country Driving
— For those interested in his wife
— For more about Hessler
— For video of Hessler himself discussing the book
— For a NYT review
— For Hessler on my favorite podcast Sinica