James Fallows

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

James Fallows: Drinking

  • More Thankfulness (Asian Beer Dept)

    It is a season for counting our blessings

    As attentive readers have noticed, I have complained a few million times about the crappiness of beer in Asia, where a whole lot of the world's beer is brewed and consumed. Previous essays on this theme here and here; full "beer" archives here.

    But now from a reader in Beijing who is a beer-loving amateur pilot (and therefore my current nominee as ideal target reader of this site) comes this encouraging Thanksgiving-time news:

    >>I just wanted to tip you off to a new, potentially groundbreaking development in the Beijing craft brewery scene (hitherto nonexistent?) with the opening of this small scale craft brewery in a hutong near Gulou. Just thought you might appreciate the existence of a spot that dares to challenge the total dominance of Yanjing and Qingdao on the domestic beer scene as much as I did.<<

    More info on the Great Leap craft brewery from Beijing's City Weekend here and here, plus this picture of (I assume) co-owner Carl Setzer:


    I'm on the next flight to check this out -- or, the next one I can manage. More on the science of real beer-making in China from the City Weekend interview with Setzer:

    >>What are the biggest challenges to brewing in China?
    One of biggest challenges is sourcing materials in China that are of consistent quality--malts, hops, yeasts. If you pattern your beers after European and American styles here, you'll find biggest obstacles is access to good quality materials. Fortunately, we have found domestic malt companies with good quality, and domestic hops are actually growing faster than the wine industry here. [Good news!]

    Which of your brews is your favorite? Because we're sourcing almost all local ingredients, we have had to invent the recipes on our own.... The Pale Ale #6 (¥25/330ml glass) is simple and solid. More adventurous is the "honey ma" (honey and Sichuan peppercorn, ¥30/330ml glass). It has a lot of different flavors you don't get in the States. It's different and exciting.<<

    "Sichuan peppercorn," in case you're not familiar with it, is the spice responsible for the famous "hot and numbing," 麻辣, ma la flavor of Sichuan food. With that in beer, I suppose I'll never again be able to complain about bland Chinese beers. The thankfulness rolls on.

  • Torpedo

    New candidate for "most impressive mainstream beer"

    TorpedoBottleLG.jpgIf I could drink only one kind of beer for the rest of my life -- well, I suppose I'd be grateful to have that one! Especially if it wasn't the worst beer I've ever tasted, Chinese-market Suntory, which makes Shanghai's own watery REEB seem like a rich double-strength porter and is the only beer I've ever spit out.

    But I would move to a different level of gratitude if that one fated beer turned out to be this beer -- Sierra Nevada's "Torpedo Extra IPA." More about the beer, and the meaning of "torpedo," here, here, here, here, and here.

    Significance: Sierra Nevada has become a big national company, and Torpedo has entered its array of year-around beers. There are special, local, and seasonal beers that deserve great devotion. (Eg: Three Floyd's Alpha King.) But for now Torpedo is my nominee for the title of "most impressive beer from a generally-available nationwide brand."

    See for yourself. Beer-porn photo  courtesy of Sierra Nevada. Click for even more lovingly detailed view.


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming



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