A woman from a book group I'm in recommended this book about China a few weeks ago. I was a little hesitant about reading it, because it looked like the same old thing about China- a journalist's take on China. I've mentioned before that I often don't like non-fiction books written by journalists.
But China Road was different- and excellent. Rob Gifford is a journalist, yes, but one who has lived in China for years, studied it, and speaks Mandarin. He's not a journalist who breezes into China, knowing what the guidebook he read on the plane says about it. He clearly knows China better than many foreigners and is comfortable there.
Gifford is also obviously fascinated with China. The book is about his final trip in China before moving to NPR's London bureau (and you can listen to his pieces that played on Morning Edition in 2004). I didn't feel like he took the trip because it was assigned, or because he thought it'd make a great book. He travels Route 312 because he wants to, and it felt like he wrote the book because he wanted to share that trip with his readers. How refreshing.
This book isn't at all scholarly, and it's definitely from a Western perspective. Gifford might be fascinated with China, but he sees it clearly. Recommended.