Strange Stones

Dispatches from East and West

During the past decade, Peter Hessler has persistently illuminated worlds both foreign and familiar—ranging from China, where he served as The New Yorker’s correspondent from 2000 to 2007, to southwestern Colorado, where he lived for four years. Strange Stones is an engaging, thought-provoking collection of Hessler’s best pieces, showcasing his range as a storyteller and his gift for writing as both native and knowledgeable outsider. From a taste test between two rat restaurants in South China to a profile of Yao Ming to the moving story of a small-town pharmacist, these pieces are bound by subtle but meaningful ideas: the strength of local traditions, the surprising overlap between cultures, and the powerful lessons drawn from individuals who straddle different worlds.

Full of unforgettable figures and an unrelenting spirit of adventure, Strange Stones is a dazzling display of the powerful storytelling, shrewd cultural insight, and warm sense of humor that are the trademarks of Peter Hessler’s work. —Harper Collins

Read an excerpt from “Strange Stones”

Little Lu, Little Zhang, and Little Liu waited for me at the end of the bridge. They were ten, twelve, and fourteen years old, respectively, and they had come from the same village in northern Sichuan Province. They said that they had dropped out of school and migrated to the south because their families were too poor to afford the school fees. I had met them three days earlier in downtown Shenzhen, where they had tried to sell me pornographic video disks.They told me that at first they had worked for a man who hired children to sell pornography because they were too young to be sent to jail. He paid each child three hundred yuan a month, about thirty-six dollars. But the boys said that after a while they had gone freelance. Initially I had trouble believing this—it seemed impossible that children so young would be capable of handling an illegal business on their own. But during the...

Read more


Peter Hessler
May 2013

Peter Hessler is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where he served as Beijing correspondent from 2000 to 2007. He is also a contributing writer for National Geographic. He is the author of River Town (HarperCollins, 2001), which won the Kiriyama Book Prize; Oracle Bones (HarperCollins, 2006), which was a finalist for the National Book Award; and Country Driving (HarperCollins, 2010).

Hessler won the 2008 National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting, and he was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011. He lives in Cairo, Egypt.