Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: The Best American Travel Writing 2014 by Paul Theroux, Jason Wilson


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
“Travel connoisseurs divide the world into those places they’ve been dying to visit or revisit and places they’d never set foot in but are glad someone else did. This year’s volume of travel writing . . . focuses mostly on the latter with derring-do dispatches.” — USA Today
A far-ranging collection of the best travel writing pieces published in 2013, collected by guest editor Paul Theroux. The Best American Travel Writing consistently includes a wide variety of pieces, illuminating the wonder, humor, fear, and exhilaration that greets all of us when we embark on a journey to a new place. Readers know that there is simply no other option when they want great travel writing.

MY TAKE:
I like traveling, but my fear of flying generally means that either I travel by land or I visit places via television or books.

The Best American Travel Writing 2014 contains the best travel articles that were published in 2013. The places include both US destinations and international destinations.

I read travel magazines and articles and most of the time, they're not memorable for me. The reason is that usually, it feels like an advertisement of some sort. The virtues of the places are extolled and it's rare to see articles that are less than glowing or don't entice a person to go and visit the destination. The few online articles I've seen that include both the good and the bad are usually pretty mediocre in terms of writing. I'm glad that this book contains articles that are not only well-written, but are more realistic than a lot of travel articles I've read.

A lot of really great travel articles tell a story that stays with you, and sometimes, the setting is just that. It frames the story and is not the focus of the article. Majority of the articles in this book are a joy to read because of that. For example, the first story, which is entitled Poisoned Land. It was written by Elif Batuman and published in The New Yorker. The story is set in Croatia, but while the author tours around Croatia and you really do get a feel for the country, the real star here is the disease Balkan endemic nephropathy.

Other memorable stories for me are: Amigos by Julia Cooke (wherein the author focuses on her friendship with a Cuban prostitute), 460 Days by Amanda Lindhout with Sara Corbett (which tells the story of a woman kidnapped in Somalia), and This Must be the Place by Michael Paterniti (wherein the author describes his connection to a small town in Spain.

The stories here can feel a little heavy at times, but for the most part, they are thought-provoking rather than depressing. If you're idea of well-written travel articles are those that tell the story of a place and its people rather than just describing a destination, you will enjoy this book.

Thanks to NetGalley and Mariner Books for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. The articles are very well-written.
  2. Most of the articles are thought-provoking.
  3. They include stories about places all over the world. 

THE BAD:

  1. It's not exactly light reading, and you might get restless if you try to read everything in one or a couple of sittings.

READ IT IF:

  1. You're looking for a book you can read while sipping coffee at a cafe or hot chocolate on the sofa while it's raining outside.
  2. You are a travel buff.
  3. You like travel articles that don't sugarcoat reality.

RATING:
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