Another one about China, this time from an American journalist. Peter Hessler has written several other books which I haven't read, although I enjoyed this one enough that I might try them again.
I have a couple of rules for what makes a book about China interesting. The best thing is if it's written by someone from China, especially if they still live there or recently left. Foreign authors can be okay if they speak Chinese or if they write about China instead of themselves (although my next book doesn't follow this rule, but we'll see if I survive it).
There are topics that I always prefer. Anything about minorities is always a bonus since there's so little written about them except scholarly stuff, and anything about rural life is good because most books are about people living in cities or by Chinese who are not poor (which is why they can get their books published in English for me to read).
This book has three sections. The first had the author rent a car and do quite a bit of driving around northern China. Loved this part. I've changed my plan for taking trains around China someday. We're going to drive instead because now I think it's possible. I'll say it again- I loved this section. There was a lot that was familiar from driving around Kyrgyzstan, down to the way hitchhikers flag down rides (we've been on both ends of that).
The second part was where the author rented a house in a village a couple hours outside Beijing. This is one of the first books I've read about China where a foreign author actually spends a significant amount of time in a village (I should read his Peace Corps book) and it was completely fascinating to see how the village changed so much in the 6 years the author wrote about. Again, there was a lot that was familiar from Kyrgyzstan.
The last part was good too, but Chinese factories aren't a major interest for me, and I recently read Factory Girls anyway.
I kept pestering my husband with interesting things I read in here, especially parts that were interesting because I live in Kyrgyzstan. I've rarely read a book about Kyrgyzstan that made me feel like the author had been in the Kyrgyzstan I'd been in, but even though this book is about China, I felt like the author "got it," it being what I think of as this part of the world, and I loved that feeling.