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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good writing, diverse topics but lacking in a woman's voice
This is an unusual collection of the "best" travel writing for 2010. Although none of the articles are by any means bad, truly just a few really impressed me as outstanding travel writing.

But first, perhaps the genre of "travel writing" should be defined. To me, it's a story about an event that happened outside one's native town, state or country. There is...
Published on December 1, 2010 by CGScammell

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Disappointing
I was a bit disappointed in this collection after seeing the good reviews. Maybe my expectations were too high? The collection seemed very uneven and I found about one-third to one-half of the entries to be not all that interesting. Some of the entries seemed too long and some seemed not long enough. For example, the first entry was by a travel writer who happens to be...
Published on November 30, 2010 by Bruce Loveitt


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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good writing, diverse topics but lacking in a woman's voice, December 1, 2010
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This is an unusual collection of the "best" travel writing for 2010. Although none of the articles are by any means bad, truly just a few really impressed me as outstanding travel writing.

But first, perhaps the genre of "travel writing" should be defined. To me, it's a story about an event that happened outside one's native town, state or country. There is always a sense of being a stranger in a place. Good travel writing details the stranger's experience. It's not a travel guide for tourists who are looking for bargains and deals. Travel writing is informative, written in the first person. "Place" is always important but so is the personal experience. Travel writing entices readers to want to go to the places the strangers wrote about to see that place for themselves. If there is no enticement, it's not really good writing.

Good travel writing can also include historical events that took place in the areas written about. This is my personal favorite, writing about a new place because of its historical significance, interfused with the writer's personal reaction in modern times to that "place." And there are some good stories in this "Best of" that fit this genre.

At first I was taken back by this collection when discovering that the first story was a short (thankfully!) story by Henry Alford about a gay man's fantasy in Instabul, Turkey. "Appointment in Instanbul" fits the description of travel writing but lacks detail and significance to be considered "best of." Luckily the subsequent stories fare much better:

Tom Bissell, "Looking for Judas" (Virginia Quarterly Review) writes about his off-the-beaten path in Jerusalem looking for THE spot where Judas killed himself and instead writes about his impressions of well-armed Israelis and their heightened security awareness everywhere.

Colby Buzzell writes "Down & Out in Fresno and San Francisco" (Esquire). This was not so much a travel article, but an honest look at how many ex-cons and other down-and-outers live in these cities during our recent recession. It's a good article worth reading. But is it truly a travel article?

Avi Davis, "The Undead Travel" writes about his trip to Romania to "find" the old Prince Dracula's former home. This is an interesting article because he infuses much history into this article. Dracula was a real person in medieval times. Unfortunately, his claim to fame was impaling people rather than biting them in the neck. People like Avi travel to Romania just to look for anything Dracula-related, and this article is for people like him.

Michael Finkel writes "The Hadza." This National Geographic author describes a baboon hunt and other Hadza customs in Tanzania in that renowned NatGeo style. It's very good, very detailed and worth reading.

Ian Frazier (The New Yorker) writes "Travels in Siberia," a summary of his new book by the same name. This is the longest article in this collection, and also, IMO, one of the best. It's a traditional travel article in that Place and experience and person all matter. It's like a detailed, exciting 1980s article about the Soviet Union. No detail is left out. Frazier is a good writer and worth reading. This article was an excellent choice for this collection.

Ted Genoways (Outside Magazine) writes "Batman Returns," an ingenious article about his experience with his father in the Suriname Brownsberg Nature Park. Nature, human interaction (a sensitive father-son experience) and place make this an interesting read.

J.C Hallman's "A House Is a Machine to Live in" is an interesting sort. It takes place in mostly Norway (inside a friend's Oslo home and later inside a cruise ship cabin) but discussions with his friend deal with ocean liners, ocean travel, cruise ship travel and some of its history.

Peter Hessler, "Strange Stones" (The New Yorker) is another good article. Hessler's fame is from his beautifully-written, detailed and sensitive articles and books about China. "Stones" is no different. His latest book about China, "Country Driving" is reflected in this work.

Christopher Hitchens from Vanity Fair writes "The Lovely Stones," a short article about the Partheon and its place in history today.

Garrison Keillor (National Geographic) writes "Take in the State Fair." This is not about a specific state fair, but a synopsis of what the average midwestern state fair is. It's written in the typical Keillor style.

Peter LaSalle writes "Walking: an Essay on Writing." Just like Keillor's abstract article before this, this is an article about walking, but it in airport terminals, across Paris or in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro. This article works, because LaSalle interjects this essay with his surroundings.

Peter Jon Lindberg writes "In Defense of Tourism" (from Travel and Leisure) and this is perhaps the one weak article along with Alford's "Instanbul" article. It's more of an essay on trveling in general. This is better placed at the end of the book.

Susan Orlean (Smithsonian Magazine) writes "Where Donkeys Deliver," a clever article about Fez,Morocco and its strange Islamic ways. It's also about the doneky and its importance to the town. It's the only article by a female writer. Too bad, because this article is one of the better ones in the book.

David Owen from The New Yorker writes "The Ghost Course," an interesting bit on a Scottish golf course and the regional history of golfing. History comes up a lot in this article, but so does the here and now. Well done.

George Packer from The New Yorker writes "The Ponzi State," an interesting article about the Florida housing boom and bust. It's a good article and very informative, but is it true travel writing?

Matthew Power from Men's Journal writes "Lost in the Amazon." It's a good article. I didn't even realize that Men's Journal publishes articles this good about travels!

Steven Rinella from Outside Magazine writes "Me, Myself and Ribeye" and his quest for the perfect Argentinian steak. It's a very detailed, adventurous article that is typical of Outside Magazine. Rinells writes about both the landscape, its people and the quest for beef. Nicely done.

David Sedaris from The New Yorker writes "Guy Walks into a Bar Car" about his adventure in 1991 (!) traveling by train from New York to Chicago and back. It's filled with the usual comedic dialogue that made Sedaris famous.

Patrick Symmes from Conde Nast Traveler writes "The Filthy, Fecund Secret of Emilia-Romagna" and the experiences he had living there for a week with his family. It's a good article, very detailed, and unlike most articles published in Conde Nast. It's about the town's food, its people, and its rich soil. It's not an ideal travel spot, but this article makes the Italian village downright appealing.

Simon Winchester from Lapham's Quarterly writes "Take Nothing, Leave Nothing" about his experience on a South African island in the 1980s. He wasn't a very considerate tourist, and this article explains why. He writes in detail about what not to do to and with the locals. Not bad.

These are the articles in a nutshell. Some where about experiences written long ago. Only two, the ones in CA and FL, are current. All have a serious tone to them. Most are informative. I've mentioned my personal favorites but perhaps others will disagree with me. The articles as a whole are good and editor Bill Buford did a good job. Next time he should really look at more women writers, though. There's a whole new experience left out by excluding women writers.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quiet Wonder, November 4, 2010
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Peter Jon Lindberg defends tourism against elitism, but Simon Winchester concedes his globetrotting has caused damage he cannot calculate. Patrick Symmes and Peter Hessler portray places you might actually visit, while Ian Frazier and Matthew Power describe journeys no sane civilian should attempt. Peter LaSalle and Henry Alford don't write about travel so much as experiences while traveling. And Colby Buzzell writes about his own neighborhood, hardly a romantic safari.

Bill Buford compiles twenty-one essays, from three to sixty pages, on the experience of place, especially places you and I will probably never get to visit. From hunting baboons on the Tanzanian veldt to gorging on Argentinean beef, golfing near the Arctic Circle to sitting stranded in Earth's most remote harbor, these tales stir the natural human longing to go far and see that which we have never seen before.

Though these essays differ wildly in tone, message, and direction, I recall none I did not enjoy. When Susan Orlean depicts the medina donkeys of Fez, I feel a pull to volunteer at the world's most peculiar animal hospital. When Tom Bissell finds the spot where Judas hanged himself, I want to descend that darkened valley and find that wind-blasted tree. I found these essays smart, inspirational, and ceaselessly moving.

The Best American series is sometimes uneven, reflecting editors' myopic visions and failing to capture a particular literary form's range in a given year. Not this one. I resented going to work, because it meant putting the book down and postponing the opportunity for guided tours of Earth's most inspiring locations. This poignant anthology will keep you glued, drinking in our world's moments of concealed beauty and quiet, majestic wonder.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Disappointing, November 30, 2010
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Bruce Loveitt (Ogdensburg, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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I was a bit disappointed in this collection after seeing the good reviews. Maybe my expectations were too high? The collection seemed very uneven and I found about one-third to one-half of the entries to be not all that interesting. Some of the entries seemed too long and some seemed not long enough. For example, the first entry was by a travel writer who happens to be gay and he meets a man who he wants to get romantically involved with, only to find out that the other man is only interested in making some quick money as a tour-guide. It was funny, in a bittersweet way, and pretty interesting, but it was only 4 pages long and I felt like just as I was getting interested in the story........it was over!.....Another story was over 60 pages long, and I felt it did not warrant such length.....especially in a book of this kind. That one story just took up too much of the book. Some of the stories just did not engage me, such as the story by the writer who went down to South America to study bats with his scientist father. On the other hand, one of the other stories about rich people who buy apartments on old cruise ships that have been converted into condominiums was just fascinating. These people travel the world, as part of a small but elite community, with the ship as their home. I didn't know anything like this existed and I found the story to be very interesting. Again, I was disappointed overall in the collection. It wasn't as good as I expected it to be. It is worth reading, but you may find yourself bored in spots and you may want to skip over some of the stories.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A few good ones in the mix, February 6, 2011
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Suz (Rocky Mountains USA) - See all my reviews
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I found this collection of essays and articles very uneven. Some of the pieces interested me at first glance, others only the second, third or fourth time of picking up this book. And still others, I've tried to read but given up the slog a few pages in. I'm not saying that this collection is not in fact the "best American travel writing of 2010," but "best" is subjective. I've learned from exploring this book, to avoid any other collections edited by Messrs. Buford and Wilson, on the basis of personal preference.

The highlights in this collection are "In Defense of Tourism" (Lindberg), "Where Donkeys Deliver" (Orleans), "The Ponzi State" (Packer), and "Take in the State Fair" (Keillor). In a grab bag such as a collection of articles/essays, four out of twenty-one is probably not a bad signal-to-noise ratio.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Globetrotting from the Comfort of Home, January 20, 2011
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Lurking behind this rather mundane cover is a cornucopia of 21 stories from the best writers today - Ian Frazier, Peter Hessler, Susan Orlean, David Sedaris, to name but a few. Series editor Jason Wilson, and book editor Bill Buford have done a fantastic job identifying the top travel pieces, saving the reader from hunting and searching. They also write introductions that frame this collection. The stories are diverse. In some, the place looms large as the main character, as in Ian Frazier's trek across Siberia (I will never look at the expanse on the map the same), or in Matthew Power's "Lost in the Amazon" about Ed Stafford's quest to walk the length of the Amazon River. In others, the place is a mirror to reflect the author's soul, as in Colby Buzzell's "Down and Out in Fresno and San Francisco", or in Simon Winchester's "Take Nothing, Leave Nothing", where he visits the most isolated island that is permanently inhabited, which appropriately enough was and still is part of the British Empire. Interestingly, only a few stories come from travel magazines, which tend to be more advice oriented than captivating. This book takes you to foreign places, even when some of those places are next door. Whether you are transported to Israel on the meditation on the historical Judas, or among hunter gatherers in Tanzania, or riding the donkeys of Morocco, you will never be bored, and more often challenged to think. Because there is nothing that causes us more to look at our own surroundings as when we encounter the very different Other.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Motivation to Travel, January 26, 2011
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Patricia Gray (Portland, Oregon) - See all my reviews
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This collection of essays is, like another reviewer stated, not what I expected. Although I really did not know what to expect when I got this book, I was expecting something to do with traveling and the experiences of travel.

The essays are all different in their aspects of travel they choose to focus on regarding travel, but they all deal with experiences that cannot be duplicated and should be savored.

I enjoyed this book, but felt it was a bit heady and intense for light vacation reading. This would be a good book to read to get motivated to go on that epic hike or distant journey, but not to take across town on the city bus.

This book is not good or bad in on my grading scale, I would not purchase this title if given the opportunity, but would not return it if I received it as a gift. I doubt I'll be referencing this in the future, but will not be Goodwill-ing it either.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good writing, but not always about travel, February 19, 2011
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This review is from: The Best American Travel Writing 2010 (The Best American Series (R)) (Paperback)
While all the pieces in this collections are well written and interesting, only a few are about the experience of traveling, which is why I read travel writing. So while it wasn't the collection I was expecting, it was a good collection.

FYI: Four of the essays are from the New Yorker, and they make up 113 pages (of 314), so if you're a New Yorker subscriber, you have already read more than a third of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Visiting the world from your armchair, April 25, 2012
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Scott Schiefelbein (Portland, Oregon United States) - See all my reviews
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Travel writing can be tough to enjoy. Most travel writing is for magazines that want you to visit a certain location and invariably come with suggestions for restaurants and hotels and some gorgeous photography. Light, fluffy, and good for planning the next vacation getaway, but that's about it.

On occasion, travel writing can be great - it can transport you not only to the heart of a foreign land that you may have never considered before, it can also drop you into the heart of a great story that you want to revisit over and over again. Such writing lies in "The Best American Travel Writing 2010," edited by Bill Buford. This collection of twenty-plus tales of varying lengths (Ian Frazier's "Travels in Siberia" is by far the longest and one of the most fascinating) offers the reader a dizzying array of perspectives and settings that for the most part demand a second read.

My personal favorite in this selection is Tom Bissell's "Looking for Judas," in which he looks for the spot where Judas killed himself. What could have been a tedious slog through the available evidence and the current geography instead becomes a disturbing examination of life in present-day Jerusalem. Bissell does a terrific job of conveying not only the desolation that hangs over the likely spot of Judas's suicide but also the whole city.

Ian Frazier's long take on Siberia (which he later fleshed out to a full-length book) makes you glad that he took the trip and not you. Siberia may be fascinating in the abstract, but the journey itself seems to be a dangerous, unhealthy, and depressing slog. One suspects that Frazier's story is more fun to read than it was to write.

That cannot be said for Avi Davis's "The Undead Travel," in which he takes on the tourist debacle that has inflicted Romania as it tries to capitalize on our never-ending hunger for Dracula lore and knicknacks. Davis takes great delight in this silly fascination and the Romanians' dedication with wringing every last cent from it.

I'm not going to summarize every article or story here, but in any book that provides selections by Christopher Hitchens, George Packer, and Garrison Keillor is worth checking out.

Not every story is a home run, but that's likely the case with every collection from multiple authors. I imagine that my favorites are likely to be among those another reader will enjoy least, and vice versa. But what is undeniable is the range and quality of the writing and the stories contained in this book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A *Real* Mixed Bag, April 6, 2011
This review is from: The Best American Travel Writing 2010 (The Best American Series (R)) (Paperback)
I've generally enjoyed the Best Americal Travel Writing series in years past, but must confess to disappointment with this 2010 entry. The standout for me was Ian Frazier's take on Siberia, which another reviewer called a "traditional travel article" where "Place and experience and person all matter." Whatever, it was a crackling good narrative and thoroughly entertaining -- which shows you where I'm coming from. A number of other stories were more ruminative (like 'Walking, An Essay on Writing', 'The Filthy, Fecund Secret of Emilia-Romagna'), had little (if anything) to do with travel ('The Ponzi State'), or found the writer wallowing in personal foibles ('Down & Out in Fresno and San Francisco','Guy Walks into a Bar Car'). Some I found just plain tedious ('A House is a Machine to Live In' or 'The Ghost Course' which I glazed over because, admittedly, I have no interest in golf). My personal favorite in the series: the 2006 collection edited by Tim Cahill. Alas, too many misses for 2010.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best is alway s great, November 10, 2010
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So happy this book came just as the winter rains came to oregon, I am loving the entire book. the one downside is some of the stories are a bit unfun due to the global change and the increased poverty a nd problems of the rural third world. But ite honest! and good travel writing should be honest, not sugar coated ad copy.
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The Best American Travel Writing 2010 (The Best American Series (R))
The Best American Travel Writing 2010 (The Best American Series (R)) by Jason Wilson (Paperback - October 5, 2010)
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