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Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,200 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
The author of Video Night in Kathmandu ups the ante on himself in this sublimely evocative and acerbically funny tour through the world's loneliest and most eccentric places. From Iceland to Bhutan to Argentina, Iyer remains both uncannily observant and hilarious.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
ebook, 208 pages
Published February 9th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1993)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,952)
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May 23, 2009 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-general
That Pico Iyer - how is possible to be so erudite and entertaining as he is? What a great idea, to group a bunch of places as disparate as Iceland and Australia together and reveal their commonality as Lonely Places - not so much places where people might be lonely as places that have "fallen off the map", or fallen out of time - Cuba is a particularly good example of this being once or twice or thrice removed from the Westernized, globalized, relentlessly forward-looking mainstream way of life ...more
Nov 18, 2011 Peter rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting idea for a group of travel essays, include countries that are isolated either by geography, by politics, or socially. Somewhat dated in that I'm sure that some of the countries included are very different now than they were in the early 90's, such as Argentina and Paraguay.

There's some funny bits, but the problem I have with the book is that Iyer writes like a well trained journalist. Meaning that he doesn't get involved with anyone, there's very little interaction with the local
Dec 28, 2013 Cheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at many different remote places that exist within the increasingly connected world. The most fascinating thing, I found, was that even though it has been about 15 years since these pieces were written, most of it is still pretty accurate. The author's visits included Bhutan, Iceland, North Korea, Paraguay, Vietnam and Australia. I think that Vietnam may be more modern now than described, with more connection to the world, but I don't know that the other places have changed. Au ...more
Marie Angell
Apr 07, 2013 Marie Angell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pico Iyer is an oustanding travel writer. Or I should say, writer. He has an insight, a way of really drinking in a place, that makes me feel I'm there.

This book is a particularly timely read in a weird way. He writes about places that are isolated or undervisited in the mid-1990's, including Cuba and North Korea. Most of these countries are still off the beaten path, for one reason or another, yet still quite in the news today.

North Korea in particular gives unexpected insight into the current
Sep 06, 2015 Hildur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
A fun and entertaining view on some of the more unique places on Earth. A bit outdated now of course, but still an interesting look at the atmosphere in a few remote areas 25 years ago, including Iceland. Surprisingly I quite liked his account of my home country, I think he pretty much nailed it. Again, some of the information is outdated, but I feel that he quite captures the spirit of Iceland and Icelanders in a way that I could not have done myself. Besides from Iceland I enjoyed the chapters ...more
Jan 30, 2015 Rj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished reading Pico Iyer's Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1993). The book is a collection of Iyer's travel writing about places around the world that he classifies as odd and lonely. I have been a big fan of Iyer's writing and his approach to travel writing ever since discovering his Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-so-Far-East prior to a trip to China. A British-born writer of Indian descent, currently living in Japa ...more
This is the first travelogue that I read, and I'm infinitely grateful to my friend who lent me the book. In this, as in his other books, Iyer's prose is beautiful, his observation keen, but most of all he writes with compassion (not sentiment) and fondness about the places and people he meets, drawing you in, and making you wish that you were in Reykjavik instead of wherever it is you are.
Nancy Lewis
I love to discover the unusual & this book is full of it. Before reading this book, I wanted to travel to every place that I haven't been, with some places higher on the priority list than others. After reading this book, Iceland has moved up a few notches in the ranking.
Nimish Sawant
Jan 02, 2015 Nimish Sawant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best things about this book, apart from Pico Iyer's exquisite descriptions, is the political context given behind every region. Be it the dictatorship of the Kim family in Hermit Kingdom North Korea or the bloody history of Paraguay and Vietnam or even the unrealistic expectations of the Argentine people in the midst of an economic crises. Sure the book was written in the early 90s and situations may have improved in these regions. But for a travel enthusiast, the contexts are what ma ...more
Jan 17, 2014 Chitra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book for multiple reasons - his style, his choice of countries, the theme, his observations. Pretty much everything I read in the book was something new to me. It wasnt as much an easy read as I had expected, not only because of all the new info, but also because of the theme itself - firstly, the book is a couple of decades old and so is dated, and secondly the book deals with places that are so not in the mainstream, that seem so lost and so off from everything and every ...more
Jan 20, 2016 May rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
The premise of the books is actually quite good. The idea that some places are quite remote and are therefore lonely relative to the connectivity that other places have to each other as a globalizing world makes distances shorter. The author has a clear point of view and background as he describes and visits all places unknown.

The book, for me, lacked heart relative to other travel books that might be more trans-formative or gushing with the mind opening heart expanding experiences one has when
Minu Mathew
This is the first book that I am reading penned by Pico Iyer. The idea that it is a travel book is what attracted me to the book. Each chapter is a short excerpt of various countries he has visited and he categorises them as lonely places and justifies it too. I found the writing interesting if I knew a little something about the country prior like Bhutan, Korea, Vietnam and Australia whereas I found it boring to read the other chapters. The observations which translates to writing is the most i ...more
Artur Coelho
Feb 12, 2012 Artur Coelho rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Espaços solitários não são necessariamente espaços isolados de solidão, recantos do planeta longe de tudo e de todos. Pico Iyer relata nesta obra viagens a locais onde a história, a economia ou imperativos sociais e culturais contribuíram para uma certa ideia de isolamento, de estranheza face à cada vez mais homogénea aldeia global. Visitando o isolamento político da Coreia do Norte e de Cuba, o ostracismo de legalidade duvidosa do Paraguai, a luta pela preservação dos valores tradicionais do Bu ...more
Jul 29, 2014 Katrice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed-books
I tend to classify travel writers in two general categories, the “fabulous, fabulous” and the “dotty uncle”. For me to get to into that would require another entry all together but basically the strength of the “fabulous, fabulous” is really poetic and picturesque descriptions of the place and their weakness is a cold impersonalness. The “dotty uncle” is more earthy, candid and relaable but tends to be too personal and too subjective and you’re not really given a good picture of the place itself ...more
Jul 22, 2013 S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cheshire
Pico Iyer might be the most difficult contemporary writer to summarize or review. a product of Eton, Oxford (Double First Class degree) and Harvard, he might very well have a 180 I.Q. one is intimidated by his intellect and academic training. Time Magazine. 10 cover stories. anything you write about him, aren't you merely setting yourself up for a devastating cross-interrogation?

as I wrote in my first review of his work, a noticeable feature of his work is the continual and continuing innocence
Margie Thessin
Jan 12, 2015 Margie Thessin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book in the Delhi airport for something to read on the 17- hour flight ahead and what an entertaining diversion it was. I learned a lot about places I frankly never gave any thought to and most of which I have no desire to visit (Bhutan? Paraguay? No.). Nothing I read here changed my future travel plans. I like good food and creature comforts and these aren't available at any price in many of these places. So sorry, not going.
I did like reading about them though.
Jun 24, 2010 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book of travel essays is a very dated snapshot of a wide range of countries in the 1980s, and it definitely piqued my interest in visiting some places I didn't know much about, particularly Iceland. While the book is an easy, engaging read with curious descriptions of the people and places he encounters on his journeys, I found Pico Iyer's writing a bit distant, a lot Orientalist, and not as down-and-dirty as he sometimes portrays himself on these adventures. He reports his interaction with ...more
Thomas Cooney
Oct 09, 2015 Thomas Cooney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first book I ever read by Iyer, but certainly not the last. This came strongly recommended by the first creative writing professor I ever had, back in the early 1990s, and it didn't disappoint. It's been too long since I read it to get into specifics, but I loved the essays on Iceland and North Korea. If you love writing, reading, travel, and, like me and like Pico Iyer, are a supplicant to Graham Greene, this is a great place to start with Iyer.
Feb 29, 2008 Torie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I randomly picked this book out of the small collection in the house where we stayed in Hawai'i. Being in vagabond mode, I enjoyed the quaintly written travelogues of "the world's loneliest places." Most travel writing is challenging for me. This was better than Bill Bryson (is he a travel writer?), whom I just can't get into, but Iyer's writing was still somehow lacking. He gave good historical backgrounds to the places he wrote about (North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Iceland, Paraguay, ...more
Aug 03, 2015 Rob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful documentation of places in time. This was my first Pico Iyer book, and he reads like a gentler, more poetic Paul Theroux. I really loved the imagery and the ability to see places frozen in time as they opened to the outside world for the first time in decades. Many of these places no longer exist in a form recognizable from the book (Iceland has changed significantly, for instance), so it's a great postcard from 30 years ago.
Jul 31, 2015 Jasmine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful. I am hungry and craving for places and writing on different places these days. I loved reading 'Lady and the Monk' and I was not sure what to expect from this book. His writing surprised me as it was more funny, relaxed and even sarcastic and I always assumed Iyer as a very serious writer.This is the book which set my heart leaping with joy at a certain chapter...
Ananta Pathak
Feb 17, 2015 Ananta Pathak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the particular thing about pico iyer is that nothing escapes from his gaze at a country. in this book that describes his journeys into different places, one thing that is common about his search for loneliness gives us glimpse into the world. a travel writer with eye like a hawk gazing through many layers of places which may vary from Bhutan to Iceland.
Jul 18, 2015 Maurice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book by Pico Iyer, especially if you consider how little some of those placed have changed. Iceland is still a remarkable remote place, Cuba is largely unchanged despite the recent trends towards more openness, North Korea is what is has been for decades, and Argentina - as always - hops from one economic downturn to another. His descriptions of the places he saw in the late 1980s and early 1990s are apt, vivid and on more than a few cases even original (surprising given how much is writte ...more
Not my favorite Pico Iyer book. I usually love his (later) writings. I got tired of hearing about how all these lonely place were constantly offering "escort" services and the like. A sad dirty observation, but enough already. Except for the essay on Cuba, this read too much like a subjective field guide. I like the subjective part, and wanted even more about the writer's experiences and reactions. In travel essays, I want stories, not city reviews. Just my preference. It felt like writing from ...more
Oct 17, 2013 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author is a brilliant writer and reads well. His definition of 'Lonely Places' escapes me. Alice Springs could be lonely, but how can you place Melbourne in the same category? He is not too fond on Bhutan because he finds the people there are like 'zombies' following the government program and direction. He feels isolated in a small village in Iceland. People there don't look like him. I don't think he means 'lonely places' but rather places he feels alienated. Born in England to an academic ...more
Oct 13, 2007 Clare rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book more than I did, because I love Pico Iyer's brilliant, subtle sense of sarcasm. But almost 15 years after its initial publication, the book has unfortunately become so outdated as to render most of it completely irrelevant--it was hard for me to wrap my mind around his witty observations of countries that are, for the most part, no longer anything like he describes. (Even sadder, the chapters that didn't feel totally outdated--Australia in particular--seemed to ...more
Nov 14, 2012 Tanvi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good enough book, funny, witty, and offering a decidedly detached view of all these places; almost a book of reviews of different places. Very quick observer and definitely one to notice; Pico Iyer is a great travel writer. However, I liked the unlikely combinations of things and the synopsis of each city's character. The main thing that didn't work for me is that everything was very dated and that all these Lonely Places (except, as far as I know, Australia) have changed a lot and are not as ...more
Nov 20, 2013 Nirnaya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
In a characteristically unassuming manner, Pico manages to evoke the most vivid images of all the places described in his book and takes us on a humble journey to some of the most 'lonely' places on Earth. From North Korea to Paraguay, Australia to Iceland, Vietnam to Bhutan, it is a roller coaster ride through cultures, seeing the world in many different ways through their eyes. The book was written in the early 90s, but the standing of many countries remains un-mutated. In an era of globalizat ...more
Ricardo Ribeiro
Jul 21, 2013 Ricardo Ribeiro rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Until I got to Paraguay chapter I was thinking about two stars. The book is dated and the author has a distant approach to the places and specially to the people. Besides, the writing style is not consistent, with some pleasant chapters - like Cuba - and some not so good, like Bhutan.

But the I got to the Paraguay's chapter and I found it outrageous. Note well, I am not connected in absolutely no way with that country, but the malice with which the author writes about it is not accetable. Disgust
Aaron Terrazas
Oct 20, 2015 Aaron Terrazas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pleasantly light -- nothing to deep, or profound, or captivating. But certainly an enjoyable read (especially during travel) with some interesting parts.
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Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian descent. As an acclaimed travel writer, he began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel -- the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. Since then, he has written ten books, exploring also the cultural consequences of isolation, whether writing about the exiled spiritual leaders of ...more
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“So it is that Lonely Places attract as many lonely people as they produce, and the loneliness we see in them is partly in ourselves.” 15 likes
“... epiphanies rarely repeat themselves.” 13 likes
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