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The Best American Travel Writing 2008 Paperback – October 8, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Reliable and yet still surprising--the best of the best." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

JASON WILSON is the drinks columnist at the Washington Post, the series editor of The Smart Set, and the author of Boozehound: On The Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated. He teaches at Drexel University.

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Product Details

  • Series: Best American
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618858644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618858644
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
Anthony Bourdain, the guest editor of The Best American Travel Writing 2008, is determined to shake us up, get our attention, make us uncomfortable. No package tours here, no excursions to familiar places, and believe me, no one is enjoying his travels in this collection. This might well have been subtitled, "Trips to Avoid."

I shouldn't be surprised I suppose. Bourdain's first book, Kitchen Confidential Updated Ed: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.) was horrifying, yet I couldn't put it down. But I found his shtick less compelling with his second book, A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, and I didn't bother finishing The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones. Bourdain is becoming a caricature, a posturing bad boy who thinks he can still shock us by eating bugs.

Still, I never miss each year's Best American Travel Writing collection, and the format is pretty forgiving of the inexperienced guest editor. The series editor, Jason Wilson, selects about a hundred articles from magazines, newspapers, and the web. Then the guest editor's assignment is to choose twenty-five from those. It's difficult, but not impossible, to screw up.

I wouldn't categorize this year's anthology as a screw-up, but it isn't one of my favorites, and I would recommend it only to those who are seriously into adventure tales. Nothing wrong with adventure tales.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on October 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
I loved almost every piece in this collection. The River is a Road is amazing. Dark Passage is amazing. David Sedaris' piece... amazing. I read through this way too quickly. Must go back and really savor some I went over too fast!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Yuni on July 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
I laughed out loud when I saw another reviewer call this a "hairy-chested" collection of travel writing and I couldn't agree more. A large portion of the stories in this book are hair-raising and purposely sensationalistic. Bourdain picked them to rise readers' ire and get a reaction.

Fortunately, not all the writings in this book possess a theme of bravado and shock. I really enjoyed the other short gems: a trans-Atlantic flight that dredged up childhood memories by David Sedaris, an educational and fascinating insight into falconry in the most expensive road trip ever by Annie Nocenti and an adventure on the newest and controversial railroad to Tibet by Pankaj Mishra.

For the most part, I enjoyed this collection despite a number of misses. This is a pretty decent compilation that would quench anyone's wanderlust until your next trip, that is.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Cranky Pants on October 17, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The problem of misprinting disclosed by Terri Ph.D. below seems to have been fixed. I received my copy of this book today, and it contains none of the problems she discussed. Thanks to Terri Ph.D. for the helpful warning, but the problem appears to have been corrected, so don't be discouraged now from purchasing this excellent collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Neil Cotiaux on October 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Any collection of essays or articles is bound to have some so-so pieces included, and this collection is no exception. Yet "Best American Travel Writing" for 2008 features some truly extraordinary first-person pieces that beautifully blend the requisite ingredients of landscape, inhabitants, history and knowledge of subject matter.

That certainly is the case with the opening piece, "Extreme Chocolate", whose title helps draw me into this book. Author Bill Buford lets us smell the jungle floor, sympathize with the artisans, and understand more than we ever thought we needed to know about premier chocolates. His storytelling is riveting and his research exhaustive. In similar fashion, James Campbell's "Chasing Ghosts" gives us a genuine sense of the dangers that lurk across Papua New Guinea and the lengths to which the author went to complete his harrowing journey.

If humor is what you're craving, look no further than Simon Doonan's "Brighton Beach Memoir", a wry look at Britain's aging dowager-by-the-sea. And Calvin Trillin's "Three Chopsticks" offers a gentle poke in the (pork) ribs as he follows the locals who eddy and surge from food stall to food stall in Singapore.

If politics is your cup of tea, flip to Matthew Teague's take on His Haughtiness in Tonga, immediately followed by Paul Theroux's examination of the Stalinesque idol worship in Turkmenistan.

Food for thought? Tag along with John Lancaster in Mumbai, who chronicles poverty tourism, one of the newer twists in globetrotting, and decide whether this seemingly perverse practice is more good than bad.
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Format: Paperback
This volume, as part of a "best of" series, is limited by the writings available during the nomination window for this edition (presumably, 2007). So the designation of "the best" is relative to what is available during this time period. Nevertheless, there are some interesting and entertaining, as well as sobering, articles included here. Of particular interest are:

- "Extreme Chocolate", on the history of dark chocolate
- "Hope and Squalor at Chungking Mansion", about a unique building and its residents in Hong Kong
- "Wheels of Fortune", about driving and renting cars in China
- "Next Stop, Squalor", about "poverty tourism"
- "Journey into Night", by David Sedaris... need I say more?
- "The Golden Man", by Paul Theroux... ditto

There is a focus to these stories, describing the lavish and the stricken, the gluttony and the obscure. These writers, at least for these essays, tend to contribute little to the communities that assist them in making a living.

"Dark Passage," about modern day pirates, which I first read in National Geographic with its superb photographs, lost relatively little sans pictures.

Poverty tourism has always been around, but it's current popularity, whether as a side trip during an African safari or a trip to India, is disturbing.

I've been interested in the "donate your old clothes to poor people in Africa" - charity? scam? - for quite a while now. From "The River is a Road": "Our neighbor Lucy sold the secondhand clothing worn by almost everyone on the barge and along the river: the ubiquitous American T-shirts donated to charities and dumped on the African market" (p. 136). I'm still trying to get a handle on this issue.
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