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

china road coverIt’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.”

How amiable? Check out the aforementioned appearance on “The Daily Show” or his recent interviews with Diane Rehm, Tavis Smiley or, of course, on National Public Radio.

NPR’s Web site also features an excerpt from China Road.

2 Comments for The Critics: ‘China Road’

Julia Ross 08.01.07 | 10:50 AM ET

I thought Gifford’s original “China Road” series for NPR (on which the book is based) was one of the best things I’ve heard on public radio, but somehow found his voice a little flat in the book. Still, definitely worth a read for his encounters with the likes of newly-minted Amway salesmen in China’s version of the outback. I salute him for making much of the trip by bus and hitched rides - not for the faint of heart.

Greg Elms 12.10.07 | 3:16 AM ET

I’m a newcomer to, though not new to travel, having worked as a travel photographer for Lonely Planet for 15years.
I’ve just self-published a travel book, Snake Fang Salad.  It’s the story of my mad job as a travel photographer.  I’d like to think I’ve produced a professional result.
Is there someone at Worldhum I can send the book for a possible review?
In the meantime, you can read extracts of the book by clicking on the SNAKE FANG SALAD link on my web site,
If you’re reading this and know anything about publishing, you’ll know it’s a very fraught business.  I’d really appreciate the publicity.
Thanks for your consideration.
Greg Elms

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