One of the nice things about publishing reviews is occasionally getting ARCs like Dreaming in Chinese in your mail. It made me go OOoooo, because it is a book about learning about Chinese language and culture, written by a British author-linguist who had the good fortune to live in China for a few years.
I am about to make myself sound impossibly nerdy by announcing that I study Chinese for fun. Look, it takes all sorts, OK? And since I subscribed to ChinesePod I have learned that I'm by no means alone in just wanting to study Chinese because it's there, and because it's incredibly difficult.
And yet you really don't have to be a language buff to enjoy reading this little (188-page) book. If you like to take mental vacations to exotic places; if you want or need to learn more about Chinese culture, perhaps to make it easier to work with Chinese colleagues; or if you simply like well written nonfiction, Dreaming in Chinese will entertain and educate you. It focuses on Mandarin, the main language of China (what we usually mean when we say "Chinese") but touches on the bewildering variety of languages, cultures and dialects in the country.
The language, culture and personal experience topics are arranged into short chapters that each loosely deal with one aspect of Chinese life and language, and are associated with a Chinese word or phrase. The writing is excellent; the style is relaxed and chatty, accompanied by illustrations, Chinese characters and photographs. Pinyin (the romanized version of Chinese, which is much more accessible to English speakers than the characters) is used throughout, and there is a pronunciation guide at the end so if you've never encountered Mandarin before, you won't be overwhelmed.
The whole book was an easy, entertaining read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My one warning is that if you're not already studying Chinese, you will probably want to by the time you reach the end of Dreaming in Chinese.