If you are interested in going to China, or just enjoy others' stories about going there to live, to find romance, and adventure, the following books, IMO, are must reads.
First is Peking Story: The Last Days of Old China, a book about a Western man who was teaching English in China at the beginning of the Communist Revolution. He finds love, marriage, and an ever changing political climate that is fascinating to read, especially for someone who knows modern China of 2008 and can compare it to the China David Kidd once knew.
Next is Iron & Silk, another great story of an English teacher and now filmmaker named Mark Salzman, who falls in love with China, almost finds romance, and ends up being taught Chinese martial arts from many masters. This story is from a city in HuNan Province that I love, ChangSha, and shows big changes since the 1980's.
Finally we have Matthew Polly's often hilarious American ShaoLin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China, which is an autobiographical book about a young man going to China to learn Kung Fu at the ShaoLin Temple before it became a tourist trap. He finds meaning, strength, romance, and enlightenment and will have you laughing for hours.
I actually read these books in the reverse order and having been to China many times, I found each entertaining and educational. China is ever more open than the most recent book, American ShaoLin, relates to the reader, but the 3 books show how China has changed over the past 60 years. "Iron & Silk" is now a movie and "American ShoLin" will soon be one too, but I think the books are still the way to go. I hope that one day "Peking Story" will be put on the big screen as well.
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