American Shaolin: one man's quest to become a Kung fu master by Matthew Polly

American ShaolinIf alarm bells ring at a book title beginning 'American' rest assured, this is an unexpected gem. Matthew Polly writes with wonderfully self-depreciating humour that makes for a very enjoyable read. Better still, he delivers real insight into modern training at the Shaolin temple.

There is a sense of genuine warmth for the people he meets and every word rings true. Polly is not afraid to expose the less spiritual side of Shaolin, with its tourist traps, political intrigues and the unhappy relationship between business, politics and religion.

He describes his training in both traditional kungfu and modern kickboxing at Shaolin, together with the monks he befriends, the challenge matches, the girls (or lack of them) and the other strange 'foreigners' who turned up at Shaolin during his 2 year stay. If you liked Iron and Silk and Angry White Pyjamas, American Shaolin is, in some ways, better than either. Highly recommended.