Saturday, January 13, 2007

Oracle Bones (thoughts)

Oracle Bones was my first non-fiction read of the year. And Peter Hessler has set quite a standard!

As a disclaimer, I knew virtually nothing about China before I read this book, so I can't really comment regarding the truthfulness of Hessler's observations. However, those observations are beautifully worded.

Hessler was a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in China for two years. Then, he returned and became a freelance journalist in Bejing. This book grew out of the people he met and stories he pursued during that phase of his life. Hessler describes the lives of many different 'classes' of Chinese people in Oracle Bones, including some of his former students, members of a persecuted minority, and movie stars. The profiles he offers are loaded with detail, which makes the reader feel like s/he really knows these people. Hessler also provides the larger context of their lives, by giving both a taste of Chinese history (it's pretty surface-based) and a bit of analysis of contemporary Chinese politics and society.

Hessler is one of those people who makes me wish that I was a writer. He makes the book seem effortlessly interesting and informative. Although it was pretty long, about 450 pages, I simply flew through it!

No comments: