Part travelogue, part guidebook, and part pictorial, A Geek in China: Discovering the Land of Alibaba, Bullet Trains, and Dimsum is Matthew B. Christensen's love letter to this vast Asian nation.
While I love travel guides of all kinds (what's not to love about the winning combo of books + travel?!), there are some that really capture my imagination: ones with stunning pictures, personal anecdotes, and actionable advice for delving into the culture. As soon as I pulled A Geek in China out of the box, I was stunned--the full color cover is eye-catching and covered in pictures. It's completely different than the covers of Fodor's, Rick Steves, and Lonely Planet, and it pops out of my collection of travel guides with its vibrant colors.
Lest we judge a book by its cover, let's look inside!
As someone who loves to read, I was delighted to find that there's so much to devour inside the book. A Geek in China isn't set up like a traditional travel guide: there aren't any suggested itineraries or lists of hotels here. Instead, you can delve into the culture, arts, and history of this rich country so that you'll feel comfortable with all things China before you even step off the plane.
Perhaps travel writing has caused me to approach my travel guides differently than I did pre-blogging career, but I tend to trust (for better or for worse) guides that have personal, tested advice and experiences rather than dry lists of suggested sites and accommodations. Not only does A Geek in China's Christensen offer up his thoughts and advice on Chinese culture, food, and museums, but he includes text boxes with personal pictures and memories.
If you could take a travel blog, edit it, and then publish it in a traditional print format, A Geek in China would be the result. It's readable and interesting even if you're not ready to board a plane for Asia immediately: it finds a nice balance between researched pieces on history, culture, and the arts, and fun, funky personal recollections of Christensen's time in China.
While you would definitely need to purchase a more traditional guidebook to fill the logistical gaps in this book (such as hotel recommendations, ranked activities, etc.), A Geek in China is a fun, easy way to delve into the culture of this potential destination. I like to get excited about the food, culture, and feel of a place before I get down to the nitty-gritty of my itinerary, so, if I were planning a trip to China, I would grab this book to read before I began to research accommodations and flights.
With all of the changes that have been occurring in both the print and travel industries, I believe that there's a market for these types of guides. I love getting recommendations from travel bloggers when traveling, but I also like getting researched and edited suggestions in printed travel guides: A Geek in China provides an excellent product at the intersection of these two.
(If you're interested in A Geek in China, but aren't headed to that country any time soon, there are other titles in this series, including A Geek in Thailand, A Geek in Japan, and A Geek in Korea.)
I was provided a complimentary copy for the purpose of this review. As always, all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.
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