“Best Books of 2014” — The Financial Times
“Best China Books of 2014” — TimeOut Shanghai
Strikingly original … Gripping … This is a tale of modern China.
The Wall Street Journal
Excellent … [A] colorful account of the rise of golf in China.
The Financial Times
Gripping … Revealing … Brings China to life in a way that outlandish-but-true statistics cannot.
Marvelous and subtle … Engrossing … A book about money, power and whim that tells you everything you need to know about modern China.
The Forbidden Game uses golf – a game that most in the country probably still know nothing about – to gain a rare insight into ordinary Chinese lives … An illuminating portrait of modern China.
The New Statesman
I know of no narrative that surpasses The Forbidden Game [on the subject of Chinese corruption] … Vivid [and] revealing.
Compelling … Fascinating and complicated … Washburn uses the sport with surprising effectiveness as a lens into the country’s development over the past two decades.
Los Angeles Review of Books
Washburn focuses on the stories of three especially intriguing characters associated with the rise of golf in China, and in telling their stories he provides his readers with a sense of what the country was, is, and may become.
An intriguing study … An absorbing read.
Rigorously reported … Washburn captures China’s shift from its agrarian roots toward more Western pursuits in this engaging story.
Washburn’s extensive research and his breezy, reporter’s style make this insightful book both educational and delightful.
A wake up call … Written with a wry sense of humour about the contradictions of modern China … The book shows how the opening up of China has unleashed a fierce determination among the people.
Charming and accessible.
A highly interesting tale … The book stands proudly on the shelf (or in the Kindle folder) next to [Carl] Crow’s 1937 work and others that foster greater understanding of China … Washburn’s evocation of his visits to Zhou [Xunshu]’s hometown, Qixin, are alone worth the price of his book.
Asian Review of Books
Energetic, poignant and revealing … FOUR STARS.
Washburn has a rich topic, and he does it justice. This is a China book, not a golf book, and it’s a very good one.
Golfers will love reading about the game’s evolution in China, and even China hands who have no interest in golf will chuckle … A delightful read.
A compelling read, well-researched and full of anecdotes that are times entertaining and at times heart breaking.
These stories have heart … The Forbidden Game is China writing at its most thoughtful.
If it sounds like a dour subject, Washburn has managed to turn it into a ripping good yarn by spotlighting three main characters … The three stories are expertly intertwined.
I’m not a golfer or a Sinophile, but The Forbidden Game spoke to me. At its core, it is classic storytelling – underdog tales of struggle, perseverance and overcoming adversity. The men in this book may not be perfect, but they are real people you can root for. It’s like the quintessential American Dream story, only it’s set in China.
Brian Grazer, Oscar-winning producer of A Beautiful Mind
From a bourgeois pastime denounced by the Communist Party of China as “green opium,” golf became the embodiment of the new Chinese dream. The Forbidden Game speaks volumes about how much this country has changed. You can learn more from this engaging, well-written book about golf than from weightier tomes that have tried to tackle China’s transformation. A hole in one from Dan Washburn.
Barbara Demick, bestselling author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and Logavina Street: Life and Death on a Sarajevo Street
The Forbidden Game offers a thoroughly new window onto the “Chinese Dream.” As veteran “China watcher” Dan Washburn engrossingly reveals, it transpires that the game of golf is a barometer for all China’s current concerns – economic growth, “social harmony,” corruption, the growing wealth gap and, most absorbing, the hopes and aspirations of at least one Chinese man who’s daring to dream of a better future.
Paul French, bestselling author of Midnight in Peking
In his revealing and witty new book, Dan Washburn unearths a story that nobody knows: how the game that Chairman Mao denounced as the “sport for millionaires” stirred the dreams of farmers and soldiers, tantalized foreign pioneers, and provoked a Chinese crackdown. This is a tale about golf no more than Seabiscuit is a story about horse racing. This is twenty-first-century China in all its vivid, surprising, and human contradictions.
Evan Osnos, former China correspondent for The New Yorker and author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
The Forbidden Game is an important and fascinating work. By taking us deep into China’s secret golf culture, Dan Washburn brings to life the contradictions and complications of this unique nation’s struggles with modernity – as well as an inspiring group of home-grown players who paved the way for the rising generation of Chinese pros.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer at Sports Illustrated and author of Blood, Sweat, and Tees
When I picked up The Forbidden Game, I had absolutely no interest in golf or any of its ramifications – or so I thought. Once I began reading, I became genuinely engrossed by the dreams, disappointments, and achievements of the colorful cast of characters here. … It is a rich and fascinating drama on its own terms, and a wonderful portrait of China at this stage of its growth and confusion. It even made me care, a little, about golf.
James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic and author of China Airborne
The Forbidden Game is a propulsive chronicle of an old pursuit thrust into a country undergoing colossal change. But more than that, it’s a richly drawn, deeply felt portrait of human striving — a great story.
Tom Vanderbilt, bestselling author of Traffic and Survival City
Every bit as energetic and ambitious as the burgeoning China it so evocatively portrays, The Forbidden Game is a truly memorable feat of reporting and storytelling. By chronicling the ascent of golf in a nation whose newfound affluence has brought it as much turmoil as joy, Dan Washburn gets to the heart of what makes China’s messy rise one of the century’s most compelling tales. A book this richly observed and deeply humane is an all-too-rare beast these days; read it, and then cherish it.
Brendan I. Koerner, author of The Skies Belong to Us and Now the Hell Will Start
The stunning rise of China is usually told through upheaval in the country’s politics and the economy. Dan Washburn has been smart enough to spot a much underestimated way to tell the tale – the phenomenon of golf, a sport which has thrived even as it has been repressed. The story of golf (“green opium” in the words of some government officials) has it all in China, from the wild west developments of courses to inspiring stories of success to dark politics.
Richard McGregor, author of The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers and Washington Bureau Chief for the Financial Times
Sometimes the best way into the heart of an enigma is through a backdoor. With The Forbidden Game, Dan Washburn has opened just such a portal for anyone finding the People’s Republic of China’s unexpected progress perplexing to understand, much less to explain. By giving us a grand tour of the surprising boom in the game of golf in China, he not only illuminates a very concrete slice of life, but gives us a graphic and readable sense of both the energy and inertia that lay at the center of the contradictory phenomena that has come to be known as “China’s rise.”
Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations and author of Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century