Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux

Riding the Iron Rooster

Paul Theroux invites you to join him on the journey of a lifetime, in the grand romanttic tradition, by train across Euope, through the vast underbelly of Asia and in the heart of Russia, and then up to China. Here is China by rail, as seen and heard through the eyes and ears of one of the most intrepid and insightful travel writers of our time.

Details Riding the Iron Rooster

TitleRiding the Iron Rooster
Release DateMar 28th, 1989
PublisherIvy Books
GenreTravel, Nonfiction, Cultural, China, Asia

Reviews Riding the Iron Rooster

  • mark monday
    3 Things about Riding the Iron Rooster:(1) land sakes, Paul Theroux does not like human beings! he seem like a very disdainful and contemptuous person in general. that disdain and contempt certainly includes the Chinese - which was an off-putting and distancing thing to experience when reading a travelogue concerning China. at times it really got to me and i found myself disdainful and contemptuous of the author in return. he began to drive me up...
  • Jeff
    The nice thing about buying books by the box at a used book sale is that I’ll take a chance on something I normally wouldn’t pick up at full price. In this case it was a travelogue. Paul Theroux’s travels through China took place in the mid ‘80’s, which makes most of the political content somewhat dated (not to mention repetitive to the Nth degree). Everyone in China that he comes across gets questioned about the changes in the politica...
  • Caroline
    For most of us the glass is either half empty or half full. But some take it further. Over there in the corner sits Paul Theroux, sniffing grumpily at the chlorine in his paltry dose of water, and absently scratching at the thick coating of limescale on the side of the glass. In his pocket sits his notebook, which later he shall use to diss both the water and the waitress.Why do we put up with it? We put up with it because the man is brilliant.Th...
  • Lara Messersmith-Glavin
    This book exhausted me. 450 pages of train rides, blurred landscapes, glib conversations, and Paul Theroux's relentlessly consistent authorial voice throughout, cramming in detail after detail from a year-long journey throughout China in 1987; it became a reading challenge more than a pleasure. I wasn't about to get off the train in Heilongjiang, worn out around page 300, not because I was so riveted, but rather because I wanted to know if he wou...
  • Missy J
    "...any travel book revealed more about the traveller than it did about the country."For the 3rd consecutive year, I have made it a point to read one Paul Theroux travel book at the beginning of the year. On Goodreads, there are many unfavorable reviews who criticize that Theroux is judgmental and consistently disparaging his co-travelers and the places he visits. Funny enough, I don't get that impression at all. I find that Theroux writes very h...
  • Daren
    A year in China in the mid 1980's. Pretty much if the train went there, so did Theroux.He is a cynical man, who generally dislikes more than he likes, but he manages to describe fantastically what it is he doesn't like!I enjoyed this more than The Great Railway Bazaar and The Old Patagonian Express, although they are very similar in style.The first chapter was enough to convince me I would enjoy this book. It tells of Theroux joining a group tour...
  • Michelle
    We moved to China this year, largely ignorant of China's history, both recent and ancient. This book was incredibly eye-opening as to what the cultural revolution entailed, what it did to Chinese culture and people, and how much things have changed here since the book was written. Theroux captures the essence of China quite clearly for us. While he seems unlikeable or crabby at times, he is also very real and very clear about what travelers often...
  • Eric_W
    Among the first inventions of the Chinese were such things as toilet paper (they were enamored with paper and in fact invented a paper armor consisting of pleats which were impervious to arrows), the spinning wheel, seismograph, steam engine (as early as 600 A.D.) and parachute hang gliders in 550-559 B.C. which they tested by throwing prisoners off towers. This same country, according to Paul Theroux in Riding the Iron Rooster, is driving many a...
  • Patrick O'Connell
    Want to understand China? Read this along with Peter Hessler's Rivertown and you will get a pretty good picture.Unlike most travel writers, Theroux is cynical, and accordingly perhaps a little more insightful. Anne Tyler may have written "The Accidental Tourist", but Theroux is certainly the reluctant tourist.
  • Erwin Maack
    “Podemos sempre enganar um forasteiro”. Este é o provérbio chinês que o autor pretendeu desmentir ao penetrar nos meandros daquele mundo distante, ancião, com quarenta séculos de história registrada, e cujo tempo tem dimensão própria, diferente da nossa. Perambulou pela China desde Mongólia ao Cantão, de oeste a leste, ele conseguiu vivenciar todo tempo o quanto foi forasteiro. Em cada risada, em cada expressão, ele conseguiu enten...
  • Elaine
    This is an account of over a year Theroux spent exploring China in the 1980s.He writes a very detailed account of every landscape,meal and conversation he had during that time [not quite but it sometimes feels that way!]. Theroux is not afraid to ask intrusive questions of anyone he meets and has a certain lack of tact about what subject to address ie, nothing stops him.He did find,however, that while the Chinese simply didn't answer if they didn...
  • L.J.
    A gem of a book from Theroux. Having read several of his train travel books (and his paddling book in the South Pacific) I have not been disappointed with his travel narratives. Because the book takes place so many years ago it would be interesting to get a follow-up from him, but as for reading it now it is still a grand adventure through China to places most people are not exposed. I enjoyed his description of the South and the coastal area nea...
  • Megs
    I was so excited to pick up this book because it is about a man's journey across Europe into China via rail. The author's travels took place in the 1980's and I was interested in learning more about China and seeing it through a visitor's eye, hopefully with some insight. I got halfway through the book, and just couldn't take it anymore. The author's ego is giant, he complains constantly about food and accommodation, and the worst part is that he...
  • T. Scott
    This isn't a travel book or just a book about China. It's a book about the pain in the ass that travel can be and the annoying, obnoxious, petty and unpleasant people you meet along the way. These are all the things that make the book (and most of his others) interesting. He doesn't leave out the boring parts in between. He's a little bit of a curmudgeon and can sometimes be downright mean. Every road isn't rocky however, and he gives you a real ...
  • Jrobertus
    Theroux is a great American travel writer. This is one of my favorites of the many I have read. The Iron Rooster is a Chinese train that carries him deep into the back waters of China in the mid 80s. His descriptions are both acrid and humane. Go figure.
  • Frank Noe
    This is the book that inspired me to take the Trans-Siberian train, basically traveling from Berlin to Hong Kong by train, in 1990.The core of the book discribes Paul's adventures spending nearly a year on the rails of China. I really enjoy his perceptions of people and local customs.
  • Sorin Hadârcă
    China by train is educational but uninspiring. I got the meaning of a hundred of Chinese Ha-Ha! but still wouldn't jump aboard that train. Except for Tibet. The last chapter outweighed the rest of the book.
  • Stacey
    One of the best travel writers out there. Theroux makes you want to overturn your desk, light your cube on fire and turn in your company ID...so you can get into the world and LIVE!
  • Richard Etzel
    1982, half dozen years after the death of Mao, I hooked up with a farmers group Kansas on a cultural exchange to China. What an experience that I shall never forget. Theroux's Riding the Iron Rooster brought back vivid memories of what I saw. We traveled from Shanghai to Beijing in 17 days by bus, train and air. He reminded me of the communes we visited, the schools, Freedom Stores (set up for tourists as a way to import foreign currencies used i...
  • Adam
    If Rick Steves is your type of guide than this is not your book. Paul Theroux is the UN-romantic travel guide. Well he isn't really a guide. He is a man on a long vacation through Mongolia, China and Tibet. He is wonderful at telling stories within his book without making the book seem a collections of short stories. He suffers no fools and readily critques aspects of culture that he thinks are worthy of it. He does not hesistate to point out tha...
  • James
    This book fits right in between Theroux's first travel book and his last. It's sarcastic and caustic, but not to the extent of The Great Railway Bazaar (fortunately). It's also informative and provides fascinating insight into China, but not to the extent of Dark Star Safari regarding Africa (unfortunately). Ultimately, though, it's a unique, geographically comprehensive account of China that is highly entertaining, very descriptive, and generall...
  • Joel
    Made me want to take a long trip on a train. Theroux makes a lot of comments about China that may have been true at the time, but which don't seem to be that true now -- what a difference 20 years makes. This book was written right before the events of 1989 (published in 1988), so the political stuff is really fascinating -- to see people's thoughts and attitudes about government just prior to that horriffic time.
  • John
    I had thought somehow I'd missed reading this one of Theroux's, but the final chapter of visiting Tibet (by car, there was no train a generation ago as there is now) was familiar enough that I realized I had. Still, though a bit dated, it proved interesting in his observations about the Chinese; he was a bit less ... snide than I recall him from other books.
  • Justianna Birzin
    I loved the way that China became geographically real to me while reading this book, and the fact that Paul Theroux refused to toe the party line during this trip in the early 80's. Anyone interested in what's happening to Tibetans can get a good sense of the problem in this book.
  • Alan
    Theroux in China. As always, sprinkled with his reflections, more than travel.
  • Rafa
    Básicamente, treinta años después, uno puede tener una idea muy clara de lo que es China,
  • Hanneke Römelingh
    Ik ben dik over de helft met dit boek. Heb nu al wel behoefte er wat over te schrijven. Kocht het voor een Euro in de kringloop. Ik vind het een ervaring om zo aan de hand van de schrijver deze reis te maken. Ik zou het zelf nooit en te nimmer hebben kunnen volbrengen. Ben dan ook blij dat ik me daar nooit aan gewaagd heb. Het zou een grote teleurstelling zijn geweest. Het boek is gedateerd. Speelt in de 80-er jaren. Mao is weg. De culturele revo...
  • magdalena dyjas
    it could've been a brilliant book, but unfortunately I've found it extremely patronising...
  • Patrick McCoy
    Once when I was telling a friend about all the troubles I had encountered during a visit to Myranmar in 2006, he responding by saying: "That sounds like a pain in the ass-my favorite kind of travel story." And I think I can agree with him, which is one of the biggest reasons I love to read Paul Theroux. My most recent voyage with Theroux was his 1983 visit to the middle kingdom, China in Riding The Iron Rooster. It has changed so much since then,...
  • Evelyn Morgan
    I read this book a few years ago. My brother reads only non-fiction and loaned it to me. I love to read about trains and train travel. I found if fascinating and informative. Great descriptions.