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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
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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

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  10,301 ratings  ·  944 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.
Hardcover, 382 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by Broadway (first published 2008)
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3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,301 ratings  ·  944 reviews

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Jul 30, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Ethan Cramer-Flood
Jul 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Petra Eggs
On this day of mourning for Charlie Hebdo's people, I was especially sad to read in this book of how the Japanese had treated the Chinese during WWII. Not just the terrible Rape of Nanking which I knew about, but worse, much worse. A world ruled by Hitler and Japan would have insupportable for almost everyone else.

"It may be pointless to try to establish which World War Two Axis aggressor, Germany or Japan, was the more brutal to the peoples it victimised. The Germans killed six million Jews and
Michael Kneeland
Aug 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Clif Hostetler
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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
May 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
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
Dec 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Troy Parfitt
Oct 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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
The title suggests a mad-cap travelogue. The publisher's description promises rolicking hilarity. That was what I was primed for when I approached this book. From this mindset, the book was a disappointment. There are amusing sections. There's the inception of Troost's idea of moving his family to China when speaking to an old college chum. Troost explains: “Of course, lots of ideas look good after a few beers.” (Location 191) There's the shock of being served red wine chilled with ice cubes in ...more
Aug 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer (the_pumpkin_reads)
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
Finished this on my walk today. Troost never fails to amuse me.
Josh Fish
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
There is no purpose to this guy going to China except that he wanted to write a book about the most "exotic" place he could think of. He then proceeded to jokingly denigrate China for four hundred pages. He was almost thoughtful at times but mostly just complained about the pollution and population density of this country. Most of the chapters which are ostensibly about various locations around China end up devolving into character studies of his hostel-mates or become travel anecdotes about "cr ...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
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
Jan 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, china, non-fiction
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
May 03, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Todd Martin
Jan 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
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
Mark Brown
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
I did enjoy the first half of the book. However, by the second half I was getting tired of reading about all the pee and phlegm and smog that the author found. Towards the end, he makes reference to the "rivers of piss and phlegm that flowed down Chinese streets." It reminded me of that part in Harry Potter where Ron wakes up to Sirius Black (a supposed murderer) standing over him in the night and every time he tells the story it becomes more and more dramatic.

Having spent time in China teaching
Maarten Troost is a specialist in tickling the funny bone. His books tell the truth about traveling around the world. It's not always roses, sometimes it's trying to eat something that every nerve in your body is telling you not to....but you don't want to be rude to whomever is feeding you. Not many travelers regale you with tales of trying to eat yak in Tibet. That's not the normal "stuff" of bedtime stories either, but it is just a day in the life of Troost. Personally, there's not enough mon ...more
Jul 10, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Having lived in China and been a 'China Hand' and 'Foreign Expert,' this book provides a rather on-point description of the enigma that is China; and more importantly, the more time you spend there, you realize how little you really know about the ever-changing country. An excellent read if you need some China nostalgia having lived there, or just want to scratch the surface of what it is like to be a foreigner in THE oldest continuous civilization on Earth. Truly excellent.
Oct 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
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.
Elizabeth Evans
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
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.
Jim Fonseca
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An idiosyncratic and humorous downside tour of several corners of the country. While we see some of the natural and the urban wonders of China, most of the focus is on the spitting, the urinating, the begging, the pollution, harassment by prostitutes, disturbing food and its preparation. If you want to go to China, DON'T read this book because you will probably change your mind!
Feb 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
It wasn't until I finished the book that I realized it was supposed to be funny, so.... it failed on that point. That said, it was an interesting read, though the end was abrupt.
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, bio-memoir
A delightful travel account of the author's journey through China and Tibet.
Feb 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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Jan Maarten Troost (known professionally as J. Maarten Troost) (born 1969 in The Netherlands) is a Dutch-American travel writer and essayist.

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
“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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