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In Manchuria: Journeys Across China's Northeast Frontier

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  373 ratings  ·  60 reviews
In the tradition of In Patagonia and Great Plains, Michael Meyer’s In Manchuria is a scintillating combination of memoir, contemporary reporting, and historical research, presenting a unique profile of China’s legendary northeast territory. For three years, Meyer rented a home in the rice-farming community of Wasteland, hometown to his wife’s family, and their personal sag ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Bloomsbury Press
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3.99  · 
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 ·  373 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a charming book which talks about a part of China which is not often discussed. Many popular China books recently published discuss China's economic transformation or its political power. Here is something removed from all of that. This is rural life. But it's not anywhere near the central plains nor along any of the major rivers.

This is in the area now called the Northeast (东北). But it was not always called that. It was once Manchuria(满洲), where the Manchu tribes who comprised the Qing
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Twelve years ago when I was planning a trip to China, I used a guidebook which issued a warning to the effect that “no matter how up to date this book is at the time of its printing, it will be out of date by the time you read it.”

Michael Meyer tries to grab hold of that slippery country and to give a sense of its past and present by living in a remote Manchurian village called Wasteland and digging through the layers of history. All the while, the village is hurtling into the twenty-first centu
Beth Cato
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it

I read this with the hopes of data I could use in my novel research, and I ended up delighted with the book overall. This is one of several great travelogues/historical explorations I have read in recent years (Children of Kali by Kevin Rushby is worthy of note here). Meyer approaches the book with an American perspective, but as an American who is quite happy to immerse himself in other cultures. He lived for a year in his wife's native Manchurian village of Wasteland, while his wife is elsewhe
Mar 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Would be good for those who are interested in Chinese history. Former Peace Corps member Michael Meyer takes us through a journey of rural China, from it's time under the emperors to the modern day and the changes and shifts it has gone through. When people think of China they may think of the Forbidden City or the Great Wall or Communism or any other number of things, but Meyer takes the reader on a very different journey through a place where probably a lot of people may have never heard of, u ...more
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, travel
I thoroughly enjoyed this description of Northeastern China, centered on the village (named Wasteland) where the author's wife spent her childhood. Largely a memoir of the author's experiences and travels to sites of interest, it gives quite a lot of the history of Manchuria, as this part of the country was traditionally called, from the imperial period through the Japanese occupation, the Mao years, and into the present. This history is both from research and from the point of view of people wh ...more
Ethan Cramer-Flood
Michael Meyer is such an exquisite writer on China that I almost couldn't finish this book, both because nearly every sentence generated additional thoughts -- forcing me into perpetual distraction -- and because my sense of inadequacy in the face of his ridiculous skill was constantly in the back of my head. Damn you Meyer, for being this good! :)
Feb 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I adored Meyer's previous book about the fall of the hutongs in Beijing, China but I felt this piece to be more disjointed. In attempting to show what has happened to the small farmer and advent of big agribusiness into the Manchurian way of life, he mixes three narratives. One is his personal life and the time spent living among the Manchurian natives in a small village, another is the vast history of Manchuria, the conquests, and its peculiar place in the thinking of the rest of China, and ano ...more
Dave Eisenstark
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the world.
Terrific book. The characters in it are wonderful, including the author. I would have enjoyed an even larger cast and more day-to-day action. Certainly you have to think of Great Plains by Ian Frazier and the Peter Hessler books on China when you read this. A great tradition the author follows nicely. I'm anxious to go back and read Meyer's book on the hutongs as well.
Shannon Reed
Mar 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love this book. I learned so much about a region of the world I barely knew existed. Honesty compels me to admit that I know the author, which is why I picked up this book. But instead of being a slog of oblagation, it was truly a joy to read
victor harris
May 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
I really enjoyed his other books, not this one. As another reviewer noted, it was "plodding." The writing was flat and it never got anywhere. There was nothing tying the story line together.
Claudia Callis
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book about the changing countryside of China.
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kuang Ting
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Author Mr. Meyer was a reporter in China before. He first came to China in 1990s with Peace Corps. It's very interesting to note that he was a classmate of Peter Hessler. They learned Chinese in a college in Sichuan, then sent to different schools to teach English. It's said that Hessler was the best Chinese learner in class, and Meyer was the second. After teachers days, they both went to Beijing and became journalists. This is Meyer's second book about China. The first one is about old alleys ...more
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Meyer has provided an approach to travel writing with which I was previously less acquainted. While my travel writer of choice, was, and is, Robert D Kaplan, Meyer provides a style and narrative in contrast, in the sense that a greater portion of the novel is personal recollection of interactions with people, but not just any people, people who form the human and personal accounts of China's transformation.
Having previously lived in Jilin Province, and having personally explored the citi
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
The more I read about China, the more eager I am to learn about this nation, rich in history and culture.  Michael Meyer, becomes an expat living in rural China after a stint in Peace Corps, and enjoys teaching there.  He meets his Chinese wife and decides to rent some land in a small village called Wasteland - the home of his wife's family.

What follows is a charming and interesting story of Meyer's personal experiences in an area of China rarely written about, the people, and it's history.  I e
Pan Hu
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-audible
As a native Manchurian (people from Manchuria), I find this book really fun to read. There are a lot of interesting subtle observations of Manchuria people from a foreigner's perspective and some even made me homesick. This is a book I would recommend if someone wants to know the roots of modern Manchuria people and culture.

One thing I do not like about this book is the lengthy details of historical backstory. Though they are crucial to introducing the historical background to people unfamiliar
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china
Fantastic and insightful look into the history and places of cities, peoples, politics, and changes shaping China's lesser known 'dongbei' northeast. Heard of Manchuria, but always wondered what it was and is--now you can know.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
A fun piece that is occasionally difficult to follow. The local history and environment of Manchuria is fascinating, and is described with rich and vivid language. The author's personal experiences are also fascinating, yet at times repetitive or lengthy.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's a good book when I wish it was longer.
Hao Zhang
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a Manchurian myself, I found this book very compelling, worth to read!
Jenny Knowles
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating account of living in today's Manchuria with thoughtful sections about the history of this part of north west China over the last century. It is part travelogue, part social science, part philosophy and is written in an absorbing way with some lovely language.
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very enjoyable. just didn't hold my interest as much as I like. it seemed to be more about the author then it was about Manchuria or those who live there
Zeb Kantrowitz
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-read
The subtitle of the book is a good summary of what the book is all about: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China. Meyer who first spent time in southern China as part of the Peace Corp, married a woman from northeastern China (Manchuria). After being married for thirteen years, his wife (now a lawyer) took a job in Hong Kong. Meyer (a travel writer and author) decided it would be a great time to visit her family in Manchuria and travel around the area.

His wife’s family
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
While I sometimes labored through In Manchuria, it was more often due to a busy summer and a distracted mind. Make no mistake, writer Michael Meyer is gifted in making history engaging without being intellectually insulting – no easy task.

Obviously, in a project as all-encompassing as telling the “transformation of rural China,” some chapters are more interesting than others. Meyer not only tells the history of the region, but also describes his sojourn. I found the chapters dealing with the Ja
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this - it is part memoir, part history, though most dominantly perhaps, it is travelogue - Meyer's style gives the sensation of an intelligent, educated fellow traveler taking you into new places, though perhaps this is a misnomer as he takes you into stories and relationships and memories as well. Hessler and Osnos, I think, are better at - or perhaps aimed more at - sketching and drawing together the epic and the anecdotal, and are more literary writers (imo, which isn't authoritative) ...more
Caleb Tankersley
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I won this book through a Goodreads Giveaway, and I’m so glad I did.

I’m in a Creative Writing PhD program. I tend to read and have strong opinions about a lot of high literary fiction. (You can read my reviews on Newpages and Necessary Fiction. I also have plenty here on Goodreads as well.) So it was refreshing to open a book of non-fiction. Michael Meyer’s In Manchuria is a travel journal in the vein of New Journalism, though peppered with a fair amount of in-depth research. Meyers guides read
Amelia Laughlan
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Part travel-writing, part history text, part memoir, In Manchuria shines with all the best bits of these three genres, which it steps in and out of at a startlingly pace. For the most part this blending works well. However, there are occasional jumps which are tricky to follow.

In Manchuria paints a densely historical portrait of Meyer's life in rural Manchuria. While likely most accurately described as travel writing, In Manchuria feels far more historical than most titles of the genre - a bypro
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'd heard a snippet from this book read by the author on a podcast -- I can't remember which one, but I'm thinking maybe "This American Life."

Meyer, who married a woman from northeast China, spends a year in her hometown, known as Wasteland, living with her relatives. In between teaching English at the local school, he sets out to visit sites related to Manchurian history. Among them are the Willow Pallisade, a more northern and maybe not-so-Great Wall made of trees and meant to outline settleme
Isaac Babel's Ghost
Mar 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the past decade and a half or so most books written about China by non-Chinese Westerners have included not just their experiences living and working in China, but also long, obnoxious screeds about Chinese politics (Peter Hessler and Nicholas Kristof are prime examples of this). This book, thankfully, is almost totally free of that. Meyer's book is actually two stories in one: His travelogue of and musings on the history of northeastern China, and an examination of the apprehension that resi ...more
Debbie Payne
Sep 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: firstreads
I received In Manchuria from a Goodreads giveaway and although it has taken a long time to finish this book, I thoroughly enjoyed its contents.

I know little about China but have become very interested in a country that is steeped in history, culture and tradition. China has exerted itself as a dominant presence in our political world and we should learn about this country, both it's politics and its people.

This book had the right blend of history and the culture of the people living in Manchuria
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Michael Meyer is an American travel writer and the author of In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China and The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed. He graduated from University of Wisconsin–Madison. He first went to China in 1995 with the Peace Corps. Following Peace Corps, he graduated from the University of Califo ...more