A Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Peter Hessler studied English literature at Princeton and Oxford before heading to China as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1996 -- and his experience teaching English there has so far inspired two critically acclaimed books.
Read the interview
Date of Birth:
June 14, 1968
Place of Birth:
Princeton University, Creative Writing and English, 1992; Oxford University, English Language and Literature, 1994
|2006 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction|
|Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present|
A century ago, outsiders saw China as a place where nothing ever changes. Today the country has become one of the most dynamic regions on earth. That sense of time -- the contrast between past and present, and the rhythms that emerge in a vast, ever-evolving country -- is brilliantly illuminated by Hessler in this exploration of the human side of China's transformation.
Read a chapter
|In our interview, we asked Hessler to tell us about how his career as a writer got off the ground. "The two years I spent in the Peace Corps made all the difference in the world to me as a writer," he explained. "I was isolated from editors and magazines and publishers, and all I thought about was teaching, learning Chinese, and writing in English. I couldn't worry about rejection slips; I was concerned with making myself understood and learning to function in a place that could be hard on outsiders."|
|An Acclaimed Debut||Hessler's Reading List|
|River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze|
Hessler's River Town (2001) won the Kiriyama Prize for outstanding nonfiction book about the Pacific Rim and South Asia. It was also a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover award, and in the U.K. it was shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. The New York Times called it "a window into a part of China -- the province of Sichuan -- that has rarely been explored in depth."
|Encounters with the Archdruid|
John A. McPhee
We asked Hessler to tell us about some his all-time favorite books, and John Mc Phee's Encounters with the Archdruid made his list. "I read it in 1991, when I was a student in McPhee's writing seminar in college. That was the first time I read a book and heard a writer talk in detail about it, explaining some of the challenges and decisions involved in the project," he recalls. Read on to learn about more of Hessler's favorite reads, including:
|Photo by Melissa Hamburg||