The Critics: ‘China Road’
Travel Books: A new book by NPR's Rob Gifford chronicles a trip along the "Route 66 of China." Michael Yessis distills what reviewers -- and Jon Stewart -- are saying about it.
08.01.07 | 7:23 AM ET
It’s not often that travel book authors get TV time, let alone a sales-inducing spot on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Rob Gifford is one of the lucky ones. Gifford, who was National Public Radio’s China correspondent from 1999 to 2005—he’s currently its London bureau chief—sat with Stewart last week for a discussion about his new book, China Road: A Journey Into the Future of a Rising Power. It chronicles a trip along China’s Route 312, the “Route 66 of China.”
Stewart called the book “wonderful” and a “very enjoyable read.” He joked with Gifford that China “just seems very gay.” Translation: The stories in the book reveal an “awakening” China, which, according to Stewart’s metaphor, makes the country like a 40-year-old who comes out of the closet and realizes all of the possibilities ahead.
Gifford gets more straight-forward praise from fellow writer and China expert Peter Hessler, who blurbed: “Rob Gifford has found the perfect road trip. His years in China have given him a keen eye and a deep understanding of the country’s contradictions; he’s the perfect guide to this magnificent road from Shanghai to the Kazakhstan border.”
The former editor of Time Asia, Karl Taro Greenfeld, who reviewed the book for the Los Angeles Times, praises Gifford just for making the trip, given the tedium and danger of travel in China. He calls Gifford “the sort of travel partner who grows on you,” and concludes that the “book deserves praise as a fine vehicle for exploring important and worthy ideas on today’s China—even if it does overheat every few hundred miles.”
The Economist also offers a tepid thumbs up: “Those who know China well, and those who don’t, will find Mr Gifford an amiable companion.”
NPR’s Web site also features an excerpt from China Road.