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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, 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:
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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.”


  • “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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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