National Bestseller

Selected for American Library Association’s Alex Awards

Selected for Barnes & Nobles’ “Discover Great New Writers” series

Selected for Kansas Notable Books for 2008

Selected for’s “Travel Books We Loved in 2007”

Selected as a Book Sense Pick

“As a chronicler of human absurdity, Matthew Polly makes all the right moves.”
— Publishers Weekly

“A nicely developed narrative.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Polly’s chronicle of his two-year haitus from Princeton to study kung fu in China is an original and insightful book, moving beyong mere fish-out-of-water territory to become a story of personal redemption that’s never a drag.”
— The Boston Globe

“Polly speaks Chinese, and is not afraid to eat bitter, so his very funny book is both a record of superb physical accomplishment — he fights and wins a couple of challenge matches with coaches from rival schools — and a loving tribute to his teachers, the fighting monks.”
— The Guardian

“In his action-packed quest to immerse himself in Shaolin’s insular culture as thoroughly as any Coke-drinking guy from Kansas can, Polly transforms himself from a gangly wannabe into a formidable kickboxer. Since he never loses his sense of humor… Polly is an easy amateur to root for.”
— Entertainment Weekly

“A delightfully wry book… Polly writes with admirable verve and humor that comes at his own expense. His affection for the Chinese is infectious.”
— National Geographic Adventure

“Polly has done the hard thing, which is to crack the facade and take us inside his existential crisis while keeping a lively American-abroad story moving… Highly accessible and a pleasure to read.”
— Kansas City Star

American Shaolin takes readers along Polly’s often hilarious journey to discover his own strength.”
— Penthouse

“Filled with peculiar characters, crazy moves, ancient Chinese secrets, and plenty of ass-kicking, Polly’s indelible memoir is entertainment as good as it gets.”

“It takes a special kind of person to leave the comforts of Princeton University and move to rural China to smash his forearms against tree trunks.”
— The New York Post

“The book is almost indescribable. It is both outlandish and hysterical mostly because of Polly’s oddball descriptions, lunatic stories and fantastic comedic timing. The guy is a talent of a writer and a keen cultural observer who delivered one of the absolutely craziest coming of age stories you’ll ever read.”
— Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports

“A compelling, thoughtful, amusing and genuine work.”
— Arthur Sulzberger, Publisher of The New York Times

“I picked up American Shaolin and read it straight through. It is first rate. Polly’s book tells more about what’s going on in China and has more insights into the real China than anything in recent years. It is a wonderful true-life story with profound, behind-the-headlines observations about Chinese life. A tip of the Stetson to Matthew Polly.”
— Dan Rather, former anchor of the CBS Evening News

“A sensibility more alien to my own than Matthew Polly’s is hard to imagine. I consider foreign cultures to be really…foreign. I don’t spiritually quest; I go to church. As for the martial arts, I own a gun. But I loved American Shaolin. Reading it was like being abducted by an alien–a brilliant, funny, and hospitable alien who took me to another universe of sensibility. There I enjoyed myself immensely.”
— P.J. O’Rourke, bestselling author of Parliament of Whores

“A funny, offbeat tale of a man and a nation coming of age.”
— J. Maarten Troost, bestselling author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals

“A lot of people talk about becoming a real live ninja and don’t do a thing. That’s bullcrap. But this guy actually did it! In conclusion, Matthew Polly is the complete opposite of a wimpy baby.”
— Robert Hamburger, author of REAL Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Book

“An interesting, and funny, account of one Topeka kid’s ‘finding himself’ in China.”
— The Wichita Eagle

“Matthew is able to use the mistach between reality and the China and Shaolin of his imagination to good comic effect.”
— Independent on Sunday, UK

“Entertaining for both the insights into martial arts as well as the stories of life in China.”
— London Paper, UK

“This is both a hilarious account about the inevitable culture clash when East meets West and a moving tribute by Polly to the monks who taught and befriended him.”
— Sun Herald, Australia

“Polly’s high kicking martial arts adventures make for a rollicking good read that manages to illuminate as well as entertain.”
— Courier Mail, Australia

“Matthew Polly has set a new standard with his clever and sometimes hilarious new book, American Shaolin.”
— Journal of Asian Martial Arts

“I normally take a long time to read most travel narratives, because they’re often so dense and introspective, but I read ‘American Shaolin’ the way I’d read a detective thriller (or the latest ‘Harry Potter’), and still came out feeling like I’d learned a lot.”