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Extended Audio Sample The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom Audiobook, by Simon Winchester Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,621 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Simon Winchester Narrator: Simon Winchester Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2008 ISBN: 9780061688102
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In sumptuous and illuminating detail Simon Winchester chronicles the extraordinary story of Joseph Needham, the brilliant Cambridge scientist who turned his eccentric genius on the study of China.

In 1937 Joseph Needham fell in love with a visiting Chinese student. He soon became fascinated by China, and his mistress persuaded him to travel to her home country. Thus began his undying passion for the world’s most populous nation.

Needham tackled one of the great, unanswered historical questions: Why did a nation that had invented so much and had enjoyed 5,000 years of flourishing civilization, fail to undergo an industrial revolution, and instead spend so many modern years mired in poverty and racked by instability and revolution? By the time he died, Needham had produced seventeen immense volumes on China, marking him as the greatest one-man encyclopaedist ever.

Both epic and intimate, The Man Who Loved China tells the sweeping history of China through Needham's remarkable life. Here is an unforgettable tale by one of the world's inimitable storytellers.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Winchester employs the fluid, breezy writing style that has established him as a bestselling author. And Needham’s story is phenomenal: He was a nudist, a Morris dancer, an ardent Mao supporter, a practicing Christian. The man was fearless in life and love. This is the rare book where you wish the author had included more detail, not less.”

    USA Today

  • “In Winchester’s estimable hands, Needham’s story comes to life straightaway…Winchester plunges the reader into the action with hardly a break. As the author notes in an outstanding epilogue—a swirling 12-page trip through the kaleidoscope of contemporary China—he is at pains to place Needham front and center in our understanding of the nation that now plays such a huge role in American life.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “The capacious life of an academic comes alive in Winchester’s skilled, insightful portrait.”

    Booklist

  • “Needham…is well worth a biography, and Winchester is just the writer to undertake it…An accessible and provocative book. Essential.”

    Library Journal

  • “Another formidable, absorbing reading experience by versatile Winchester…Display[s] the author’s habitual ability to make any subject seem urgently momentous…Makes scholarship positively sexy.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ben | 2/17/2014

    " Fast paced, quirky, and consistently entertaining. Wish it had been longer then the <300 it was. I found more thorough discussion about the "Needham question" on Wikipedia. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrewhocken | 2/14/2014

    " There's no doubt Needham was a genius and a very eccentric character but I think Winchester was stretching to make this a great read. All the same a fascinating introduction to the history of science in China. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Liz Wager | 2/6/2014

    " I thoroughly enjoyed the first half but thought it tailed off a bit towards the end (it is much harder to make the process of writing and enormous book as fascinating as the extraordinary journeys and research that went into its creation) -- but well worth reading nevertheless and Needham comes across as an extraordinary character "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve Strong | 1/16/2014

    " This book was given to me. It was done well enough to make me think, "Why have I never heard of this person?" Its about Joseph Needham who is probably responsible for everything you know about China. Very Interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lynne | 1/9/2014

    " I have enjoyed most of Simon Winchester's books and this was no exception. I would rank it just behind my favorite "The Professor and the Madman." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 1/4/2014

    " Simon Winchester is a great writer--I put this in the second tier of his books. (First tier would include A Crack in the Edge of the World and The River at the Center of the World. This is the story of Joseph Needham, a Cambridge professor of chemistry (and a man of unusual politics and philosophies) who became a British diplomat to China during World War II. He travelled throughout parts of China not occupied by the Japanese at the time, and his studies resulted in a many-volume collection of insights into Chinese history. He was most valuable in chronicling the scientific history of China, recording the many inventions and achievements that were created and applied in China long before their "discovery" in the West, including printed books and gunpowder. At the time he wrote his books, China was considered "backward" and intellectually behind by most Westerners, who had to face facts based on his research. His works are still considered invaluable references and have never been out of print. Needham's personal life and eccentricities are also interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Claudia Callis | 12/27/2013

    " Listen to it on CD. Really enjoyed the history and accomplishments of this amazing man. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heather | 12/11/2013

    " I listened to this book on CD in my car and for the most part enjoyed it. I have lived in China yet I had never heard of this man, Joseph Needham, who did so much in opening up China to the West. There are a few things about the man that are not very likable: he was sexually promiscuous (openly had what amounted to a concubine in addition to and with the approval of his "enlightened" wife, a Chinese woman he married after his wife's death), he was a nudist, and he was a communist sympathizer. I know scientists are supposed to be a little on the strange side, but isn't this a bit much? Winchester tries to make him appear normal and respectable and maybe in some ways he was, but it's a little hard to believe given some of these other facts. However, the work Needham did appears to be by any reckoning a monumental and influential work. If you are interested in China, Joseph Needham's is a story you should know. I don't know if this is the best book to tell you that story, but it is a good book. It was interesting, instructive and only occasionally distasteful. And I don't know if the author can be blamed for the distasteful parts, though he can be blamed for sometimes making them seem so acceptable instead of presenting them as ugly as they are. It also has not escaped my notice that the only other book of his I've read was also about a man (in The Professor and the Madman) who was sexually promiscuous and deviant which has made me wonder whether Winchester likes writing about such things. Still, the history of science is fascinating and Needham is a big part of that history. Reading his biography has made me want to read at least part of his multi-volume work. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Don | 12/10/2013

    " Started out interesting enough, but somewhere along the way I simply lost interest. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary | 12/6/2013

    " Amazing scholar in an interesting time of history. I learned a lot about China. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Charles | 11/10/2013

    " Magnificent history of Joseph Needham and the story of his research into China's long history as a scientific nation. Highly recommended reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tricia Roth | 1/1/2013

    " interesting insights to Chinese invention with the added bonus of well written biography "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda Heaney | 11/11/2012

    " Well written, fascinating biography but I would have given it a 5 if I had liked Joseph Needham better. Needham was an amazing man who began a multi-volume discourse on China and Science. He also had a wife and a mistress; all got along. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robin | 10/21/2012

    " dwindled at the end but loved the rest "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah Ryburn | 3/28/2012

    " really appreciate winchester's ability to write nonfiction/biography with the ease and accessibility of a good story. will definitely look for more of his! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura-nassidesa Eschbaugh | 10/9/2011

    " Interesting man, s good bio of times, culture. I enjoyed thos book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy Halsan | 9/29/2011

    " This is the story of a brilliant British scientist (probably aspergers stndrome))who went to China during WWII. He wrote volumes on the contributions of China to world civilisation. A fascinating look at China. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Duncan | 8/29/2011

    " Really Enjoyed it. Especially enjoyed learning about my dad through it. He was at Caius when Needham was in his prime, and i think was one of my dad's heroes. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kerry Cunningham | 8/3/2011

    " I'd never heard of him. Fascinating renaissance man. There's nothing terribly exciting -- just an interesting life, well written. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Maria | 6/28/2011

    " Cambridge scientist love for China takes him in a fantastic journey to write about the great discoveries made by Chinese. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Judson Mitchell | 6/25/2011

    " A wonderful insight into the life of a rather extraordinary Cambridge don. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve | 5/9/2011

    " This book was given to me. It was done well enough to make me think, "Why have I never heard of this person?" Its about Joseph Needham who is probably responsible for everything you know about China. Very Interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mike | 4/27/2011

    " Not one of his best. The topic is kind of dull. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrewhocken | 4/23/2011

    " There's no doubt Needham was a genius and a very eccentric character but I think Winchester was stretching to make this a great read. All the same a fascinating introduction to the history of science in China. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jalice | 4/2/2011

    " Interesting. Very interesting. But I found myself a bit disturbed by the arrogance and ethnocentricity so frequently characterized by the adventurers of that generation. Needham's accomplishments were truly great, but so was his hubris. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jerry | 3/15/2011

    " An interesting story about Needham, but told in a "Today he did this, tomorrow he will do that." More of a documentary style, not a real story. Great history, not my cup of tea. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Adam | 2/2/2011

    " Remarkable story of a Renaissance man. Someone everyone should really know about. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Threez | 1/31/2011

    " 137th - 2011

    Tuntutlah ilmu sampai ke negeri Cina... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Judson | 1/18/2011

    " A wonderful insight into the life of a rather extraordinary Cambridge don. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janet | 12/16/2010

    " I particularly liked the description of Needham's adventures: his escape by train from Japanese occupation in WW2, the journey to the Danhuang Caves and to Dujiangyan.

    "

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About the Author
Author Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa—all of which were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006 Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire by her Majesty the Queen. He lives in Manhattan and in western Massachusetts.