Reading List: Peter Hessler

The New Yorker’s former China correspondent Peter Hessler is among the 2011 MacArthur Fellows, whose awards were announced on Tuesday. To mark this, The New Yorker has collected links to all of Hessler’s contributions, which cover topics from Guangdong restaurants to a Uigur black-marketeer and the North Korean border. His award was also noted on the magazine’s Book Bench blog:

The MacArthur Fellows Program announced the winners of the 2011 “Genius” Grants today, twelve men and ten women who will each receive five hundred thousand dollars with “no strings attached.” The award is given annually to individuals who have “shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction,” as the foundation puts it. The Geniuses always form a fascinating group, and this year’s includes two very familiar names: Peter Hessler and Kay Ryan. Hessler has been a staff writer at this magazine since 2000, and was for the first seven years of his tenure our China Correspondent. In one of his first pieces, “Hamlet Meets Mao,” he wrote about teaching Shakespeare in China as a Peace Corps volunteer. In 2003, he detailed the aftermath of the flooding of the Three Gorges Dam in “Underwater.” And in 2007, he took a trip along the Great Wall and wrote about its history and construction in “Walking the Wall.” (You can find more of Hessler’s writing for the magazine in our archive.)

Four years ago, Hessler and his wife moved to rural Colorado, where he’s since been writing about local issues with the same fine-grained attention to custom and folkways he brought to his writing about China. In his piece in this week’s magazine, he writes about a small-town pharmacist, the only one in four thousand square miles, whom Hessler slowly reveals to be the lifeblood of a struggling community. Hessler’s interest in the intricacies of communities and unglamorous personal relations shines through all of his work. Next month, he and his family will move to Cairo to cover the Middle East for the magazine.

Also among this year’s Fellows is UBC evolutionary geneticist Sarah Otto, who almost deleted the foundation’s email thinking it was spam.