River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler
I probably should have written this book reivew after I finished the book and before I wrote a review for Peter Hessler's second book, Oracle Bones, but here it is–only a year late!
Selected as one of my only English reading options in a Buenos Aires bookstore, I snagged this gem and never looked back. Peter Hessler writes beautifully about his time spent in China with the Peace Corps, teaching English at a teachers college in a "small" Chinese city called Fuling. Along the Yangtze (hence the title), he experiences asepcts of Chinese life as a foreigner, learns to speak Mandarin, and develops relationships with his students and with the local people in his daily life that lead to meaningful stories and anecdotes throughout the book.
I'm a big Peter Hessler fan after reading this as well as Oracle Bones, and I can't wait to read his subsequent work on China, titled Country Driving. The way that he tells stories by weaving in an out of memories, revisiting individuals, and narrating Chinese history in a way that relates directly to the story are enthralling. I feel like I've learned so much about China, a place I've never been, just by reading his books. I would be lying if I said this one didn't inspire me to become an English teacher abroad in China myself! I also loved reading along with Hessler's journey to learn Mandarin, which is no small feat.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about China, a place so complex, confusing, and exciting. Peter Hessler does a fantastic job of explaining why China may be the way that it is, and translates it into a story that I couldn't put down.