Where's the Duck in Peking? Glimpses of China - Cliff Schimmels

(Recommended by my parents)
Cliff and his wife spent a year in China teaching English, and this book is basically a collection of observations they made about Chinese culture while they were there. Having just spent a few weeks in China myself, a lot of his stories were familiar, from the vast number of building cranes in Shanghai to the sheer number of people to the strange juxtapositions of the old and the new. It's a very easy-to-read book, each "chapter" is usually two pages, if that. For an American's perspective of China (or what to expect on a visit), this book is a good start.

My only objection is that he doesn't explain why things are the way they are, or even make much effort to find out for himself. To be fair, he does state in the Introduction that this book is not meant to analyze, but he only sees two possibilities: a thoroughly researched, heavily footnoted "scholarly tome" or the book he actually wrote. But he could have done a little more research. For instance, when remarking that China is the second largest cell phone user in the world, he adds that he has "no idea" who the largest is. Or in his remarks about Chinese chess, he claims that he's curious which came first, international chess or Chinese chess—and concludes that he'll probably never know. Or the worst offense, in "Right-Handed Southpaws":

"Why?" you ask.
I'll tell you why. I don't know why.
Oh, the frustration! That aside, it's a great collection of little anecdotes about China.

Fed to jonathan's brain | January 16, 2004