Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid
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Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  6,728 ratings  ·  760 reviews
The bestselling author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals returns with a sharply observed, hilarious account of his adventures in China—a complex, fascinating country with enough dangers and delicacies to keep him, and readers, endlessly entertained.

Maarten Troost has charmed legions of readers with his laugh-out-loud tales of wandering the remote islands of the South Pacific....more
Kindle Edition, 402 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2008)
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Michael Kneeland
In his first two books, 'Sex Lives of Cannibals' and 'Getting Stoned with Savages', J. Maarten Troost wrote about his life living with his diplomat wife in the far reaches of the Equatorial Pacific. Strangely, these books earned Troost the moniker, “travel writer,” despite the fact they are more memoir than guidebook to traveling through those places. After all, it’s hard to imagine someone actually planning a vacation to remote islands where the U.S. government tested loads of A-bombs during th...more
Ethan Cramer-Flood
Had I read this book immediately after arriving in China, I probably would have given it 3 stars or possibly even 4. Maarten Troost's humorous observations, snarky jokes, semi-informed opinions, and sarcastic ranting exactly match what any reasonably educated foreigner thinks if he or she spends a month or two here. Thus, had I picked up his book in the fall of 2009, I would have probably been doubled over in laughter on a regular basis, saying things like "It's so true!"

However, I'm no longer t...more
Clif Hostetler
Have you ever noticed that after returning from a trip that it's the miserable experiences that make the best stories? There's not much to say about the times when things were pleasant. This book is sort of a travelogue about the author's experiences traveling in China, and as told by the author, it's a journey filled with good stories. Let's just say that the experiences he recounts are much more enjoyable read about than experienced first hand.

This book is indeed entertaining to read, but the...more
Sep 26, 2009 Ed rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in Modern China
Recommended to Ed by: Tom Duff
This book was a joy to read. I've lived in Hong Kong for 17 years and have spent a lot of time in China. Even though he was there for a relatively short time, he nailed a lot of the peculiarities of Chinese culture and the Chinese people.

A good part of his writing is tongue-in-cheek, much in the style of Bill Bryson. He also is humble about his own peculiarities and frank about how they get in the way of his total enjoyment of what he is experiencing. The result creates innumerable chuckles and...more
Dec 06, 2013 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Grumpus
Shelves: travel, audiobook
This is a marvelous book about one man's travels across China. I was immensely entertained by Maarten Troost's dry humor, subtle sarcasm, and understated observations. The book sort of reminds me of the travel books by Bill Bryson, but I enjoyed this one more. I listened to it as an audiobook; Simon Vance captivated me with his reading style.

Troost ostensibly visited China in order to scout out the county, to determine where he could bring his family to live for a few years. After all, China is...more
Wish I had read this before visiting China but enjoyed revisiting the land and people through Troost's book. Many have compared this to Bill Bryson's travel narratives and I'd agree that if you like Bryson Lost On Planet China might be for you.

Balancing his laugh out funny tales with a history of a place and people that defies time, Troost gives us an armchair picture of this country.

My kind of book. I loved it all the way home. If you're planning a trip to China or if you wish you could add th...more
I had to re-review this book. After reading numerous other works by writers far more talented and introspective than Troost, I have to say that this book is racist, ethnocentrist, and incredibly privileged. I think I called him a "patronizing prick" in my last review and I stand by it.

Here is my disclaimer before I move onto being angry: I'm Chinese. I was born in China. Much of my extended family still resides there. I visit fairly regularly every few years and I enjoy it (MUST BE A SHOCK TO YO...more
Troy Parfitt
A few weeks ago, I got a hankering for a good China read, but all related volumes on my shelf had been covered. In one of those Who-cares-about-the-cost? moments, I raced off to the bookstore thinking I'd buy either The Party by Richard McGregor or one of Peter Hessler's offerings: Oracle Bones or Country Driving. But the bookstore didn't have those books, and they couldn't be ordered, so, dejectedly, after surveying the sparse China offering, bottom-shelved in politics/history, I made my way to...more
Bonnie Gayle
I made it to page 150, but I kept finding myself thinking about the book that was next on my to read stack, WHILE I was reading this book. Never a good sign.

There's a lot of good information contained in this book, which I was looking for, since I don't know much at all about China. A couple examples: 1/3 of the air polution in California has actually drifted over 6,000 miles across the ocean from China. Also, the Great Wall of China is actually several shorter walls, which will all eventually...more
Absolute RIOT!!!! After authors grueling description of Beijing's pollution, you have to ask yourself, how in the Hell did they pull off the Olympics in that cesspool?!?
This book was not at all what I expected. Having read reviews of Troost's work I had expected something funny, uplifting and definitely a great description of the areas he visited. What I got was something funny, somewhat depressing and a biased view of the areas he visited.

Having lived in the tropics for awhile Troost had already wrote books about those areas. Now, living in California, he decided a trip to China would be interesting. Packing his bags he left his kids and wife in Sacramento and...more
Disclaimer: The reason I gave this 3 stars instead of 4 is because of the author's use of a certain R-rated word, sometimes for humorous effect and sometimes not.

Other than that quibble, I really liked Lost on Planet China. Troost wanted to understand modern China and what better way to do that than to tromp through the country for a few months, alone (for the most part) and not speaking the language? Gutsy, yes. Hilarious, yes. Thought-provoking, surprisingly yes. Troost's writing style is bre...more
I've known about this book for awhile after reading The Sex Lives of Cannibals on the recommendation of a friend. This copy of LOPC was left in the apartment of another teacher here (I'm in Shijiazhuang, south of Beijing) so I decided to read it. Having lived in China for almost 7 months now I can appreciate just about everything Troost describes. Most of it is spot on. He has some experiences I have not had (nor wish to have) but his reactions to and attempts at situations are similar to my own...more
I picked this up at the airport bookstore, and I was really excited because I really enjoyed Sex Lives of Cannibals. However, I was greatly disappointed in this writing. I traveled to China for a month in 2008, and while yes, there a number of things that are culturally different, the way the author continuously 'others' the Chinese, and belittles the way of life that is more of necessity in a capitalistic authoritarian country of 1.3 (or more) billion people, than a choice. I will be surprised...more
I am still hoping that Troost recovers the form he showed in his first work, The Sex Lives of Cannibals, but I must wait longer. He does show some of the same comic, insightful flashes I have come to expect -- but he does not sustain it throughout the book. In any case, this disjointed travelogue of China does entertain enough to be recommended even if it does disappoint those who know the author is capable of better work.
Okay. I finished this one yesterday. I don't like Troost as much as I did in Sex Lives of Cannibals. First off, I don't like that he left his family, including two small children, to go travel China for months. Book deal or no, he's likely to regret that choice. He didn't like China from the beginning, with its overcrowding and pollution - which he mentions exactly fourteen million times (I counted). I also didn't like his historical references. He gave history, but I had no idea how much was tr...more
Since traveling to China last June, I have been obsessed with all things Chinese; learning more about what I saw, as well as what I didn't. It was obvious to me from the moment my plane touched down, that here was an enormous country/people/culture that Americans know very little about. Troost's writes in an honest, gutsy narrative of his extensive travels and the cultural shock he encountered at almost every turn. My experiences were much shorter, and more positive than the author's--which may...more
While not as humorous as his previous Pacific islander books, Troost’s bravery in tackling the massive undertaking that is China is commendable. Since the country is so large, so old and so densely populated, he had to address many more topics than his own astute observations: history, economy, politics, culture, and pollution. And he hardly scratched the surface. He reported on many of the obligatory locations and major cities, stopping in [pre-Olympic:] Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and seeing...more
Todd Martin
This is the first book I’ve read by J. Maartin Troost. Although he states early on that he is not a travel writer Lost on Planet China is indeed a travelogue of a few weeks he spent traveling through China and Tibet in 2006.

Having recently returned from 2 weeks to some of the same places the author visited, I can say that his descriptions of traffic, driving habits, lines, crowding, spitting, food, pollution, cell phone use, beggars, street markets, vendors, cityscapes and other such things all...more
Maree  ♫ Light's Shadow ♪
I thought this was an exceptionally true book about a visitor's take on China, having just gone last year myself and finding many of the same things as the author, even in my much shorter stay. The tone is chatty and informative, and I really wish I would have read this book before I had gone. Then maybe I wouldn't have been so hesitant to haggle even in the nicer shops (where I did at least catch their incorrect math in giving discount percentages). And the knowledge of the history of various e...more
If you're planning on going to China, don't read this book. This cynical bitch has very little constructive to say about the place, and paints it pretty negatively. Sure, some of it is due. In the spare two weeks i spent (in only one city, i add), i can confirm that traffic is crazy, people hawk huge loogies on the street, and the pollution is pretty impressive. I'm certainly not as well traveled in the country as the author, but i don't find it anywhere as nasty as he did.

I think he read a bun...more
Elizabeth Dixon
DEPRESSING but very very funny! China apparently is enclosed in a shroud of pollution that occasionally blows across the Pacific and adds to the smog in L.A. The Chinese people, according to Troost, "invented a lot of things, but the handkerchief is not one of them". They don't know how to stand in line, but Troost experiences little flashes of comraderie here & there. Doesn't really make me want to visit! That said, I love the way he writes -- he cracks me up.
Like a tired and depressed stand up comedian not really expecting the meager audience to laugh at the oft repeated and worn zingers. Troost seriously dislikes everything and everybody he meets and experience in China. A shame as his itinerary offers the opportunity for a very varied and rich picture of both horror, hilarity and hope. He might be comfortable eating live squid, but the reader never gets comfortable with his lame western xenophobia.
I have read two other books by Maarten and enjoyed them a lot, but avoided this one because of its subject. I had formed a negative opinion of China after reading another traveler's book about it. Then one day, I just happened across this at the library and, well...

Well, it's worse than I thought. Maarten gives his honest opinions (for this and his sense of humor, 4 stars) about his experiences and they too often involve aspects of China that I, and no doubt many Westerners, find either annoying...more
I thought this was a really interesting book with lots of great information about China. I find China to be a sort of mystifying country - there are few modern nations that I understand less than China. I felt somewhat vindicated in knowing that the author felt the same way, even after traveling in the country for months. The author's descriptions of his travel are very interesting - and most of all, very funny. I laughed out loud throughout my reading of this book. I've heard his books in the P...more
Susan Roy
Troost is posing as a travel writer writes a diary of his observations and his encounters which were funny and entertaining. However, I am not sure where his research information came from. He was lacking the discipline of meticulous research including fact checking and verification. Had he avoided his sidetracking into describing “facts and statistic” he would have been better off. (Or if he actually did his homework and got this information right it would have added to the book.) During the ti...more
Oh, Troost. I knew eventually you would have to get a real job and settle down. Not because you didn't want to be a lifelong bohemian traveler but because one day, as a lot of us endless wanderers do, you found yourself with offspring. It's not that children don't benefit from seeing the world, they do- but it's the pure and simple truth that once you care more about the welfare of babies than you do the glorious (self-gratifying) life on the road... well, you kind of end up putting things like...more
I admit I skimmed the last five pages because I got into the office and I just wanted to be done. But that isn't a comment on the quality of the book, though I enjoyed this one less than Troost's two other books (Sex Lives of Cannibals is really, really great.) The problem with this one wasn't Troost's problem (or, wasn't only his problem). The problem is that he makes China sound so awful that by the end I not only didn't want to go there, I wanted to stop reading about it. Other readers may fe...more
Ann Littlewood
OK, now I'm really depressed. A tip of the hat to Maarten Troost for embarking alone on his China travels and another one for the ground he covered. (The inside covers have maps.) The book is a few years out of date, but I expect that much of what he described is still true: a ruthless economic expansion at the expense of clean air, historic neighborhoods, and civic amenities. The big cities (sorry, ENORMOUS cities) are filthy from air pollution and the inhabitants' lack of hygiene.

Troost write...more
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J. Maarten Troost is the author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific. His essays have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, and the Prague Post. He spent two years in Kiribati in the equatorial Pacific and upon his return was hired as a consultant by the World Bank. After several years in Fiji, he recently relocated to the U.S. and now lives with his wif...more
More about J. Maarten Troost...
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“Don't get me wrong. Sacramento is a lovely place, particularly for those with a fondness for methamphetamines. For the meth-addled, Sacramento had conveniently placed a Greyhound bus station just yards from the statehouse where Austria's finest was sworn in as governor of the great state of California.” 3 likes
“I had, of course, witnessed hundreds of people in a casino before, mindlessly dropping coins into slot machines. They don't play for money in America. It's true. The big payout is incidental to most gamblers. It's the numbness they're after. Not so in China. No one had that look of glazed stupor often found in American casinos.” 2 likes
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