The Twisted Library — March 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Taking a New Look at China in “The Age Of Ambition”



The Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China is an audio book written and narrated by author Evan Osnos. This “work of nonfiction based on eight years of conversation,” though slightly daunting in length (the whole audio book, consisting of two parts, is a whopping 17 hours long), is rich in information with fascinating facts and stories about China most Americans likely do not know.

Osnos, who moved to Beijing in 2005, begins the book by defining the term “fever”- a word the Chinese people use to describe a new idea or movement that sweeps quickly across the nation. A word correlating most accurately with the American term “trend” or “trending.” This is an appropriate way to introduce the reader (or listener) to the main content of the book- China has become the nation it is today because of these national “fevers.”

When thinking of China, many Americans associate it with a “boom”- a boom in economy, in industry, in population, and so on. Osnos states that, in reality, for most people in China there hasn’t been any boom at all, but only “a step out of poverty.” Living in China, he is less fascinated by the number of people being born on a daily basis or how many new businesses have emerged, and more interested in the leaps and bounds the Chinese people have taken in education, creative ideas, and, well, ambition. Osnos even addresses the fact that the word “ambition” directly translates to “wild heart”…and this is what the Chinese people now want. A heart that is wild, free, and ready for anything.

The most unique and interesting aspect of this book is that it addresses the changing ways of thinking in China, and the needs of the people here. The Chinese Communist Party promises the nation “prosperity, pride, and strength” but, according to Osnos, the Chinese people want information above all of those things. The nation is demanding an unfiltered life, one void of government secrets and extreme censorship. It is obvious to the reader that Osnos has a great amount of genuine respect and love for the country. He even compares the Chinese skyline by using the F. Scott Fizgerald quote from The Great Gatsby: “…the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” It’s clear that Osnos is proud of China’s progress through the decades, and the country it is becoming.

After I was finished listening to this audio book, I truly felt how small I was in such a large world. I never knew even half of the facts mentioned about China’s history, nor was I aware of what a huge transformation the country has gone through and is continuing to go through. This book is like a history textbook made into a story, told by someone who has been there and feels passionate about what he is saying.

Twisted Talk: What’s the last audiobook you listened to? What do you think of China’s history and future? Discuss below!

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