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The Best American Travel Writing 2011 (Best American Travel Writing)

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  357 ratings  ·  54 reviews

Professional adventurer and National Book Award winner William Vollmann delivers an eclectic batch of the year’s most exhilarating travel writing that willinspire the armchair traveler’s wanderlust.

ebook, 288 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,069)
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Short thoughts:

My Monet Moment - awesome

Southern Culture on the Skids - oddly entertaining for being about NASCAR

Venance Lafrance Is Not Dead - completely hilarious and sarcastic, wanted to be Mischa's bestie...then became very sad. Awesome essay

A Girls Guide to Saudi Arabia - really interesting

The Last Stand of Freetown - I had no idea that such a cool social experiment/micro-nation was allowed to occur in Copenhagen. It's become its own study in humanity. (A "sovereign" town within the limits
As it turns out, I only want to read travel writing that is about the world that I wish existed (wine and bread in Tuscany, beautiful and interesting places, meaningful moments of connection with new people and places)... not the world as it really is (insurgence, intolerance, discomfort). So I did not finish this collection as it had more of the latter. Not the book's fault, more my own personal tastes and failings.
gotta quit reading these . . . the list of places I want to visit keeps getting longer!
For me, good travel writing should either 1) make me want to go to that place you're writing about and experience what you're writing about, or 2) describe a place in such a way that I feel like I'm there and have an insider's look at the location and culture.

Few of these stories accomplished both, and some -- "A Head for the Emir" and "Stuck" -- made me never want to visit those places (roadside bombs and eternal traffic, anyone?) "A Girls' Guide to Saudi Arabia" was my least favorite, and seem
Like any anthology, there are some hits and misses in here but on the whole they were mostly winners. I think that my favorites were "Venance Lafrance is not Dead", which is about the Haitian earthquake, "Twilight of the Vampires", about myths in Serbia, and "Stuck", about traffic in Moscow. The last one was sort of a sleeper surprise, given that the subject seems so mundane but turns out to be amazingly interesting. "Aligning the Internal Compass", about both the sport of orienteering and the s ...more
Genni Gunn
I really enjoyed this anthology. The editor's preference for style and voice is consistent throughout, which is great if you love it, not so great if you don't. I found the essays witty, insightful, educational, and very appealing on multiple levels. Particularly delightful is an essay titled, "Aligning the Internal Compass," about the author and her father taking an orienteering course, to try to understand direction, given that both of them are hopelessly lost the moment they turn one corner. ...more
This collection of travel stories has a few hits among the misses but not enough. I enjoy the anthology format and as a big fan of the short story I can always find something of merit in these collections.

The stories of note include My Monet Moment in which the author visits a village in Italy and is continually disappointed by not finding locals familiar with what he hopes to see. The story does have a happy ending showing that perhaps beauty found is more special than beauty sought.

Ben Auste
This book was frustrating. I really liked several of the articles, particularly the ones by Andre Aciman, Maureen Dowd, and Emily Witt. However, it seems like the editor's primary criteria was not that the article was about travel but that it made a specific location a key element of the story. A good example is "A Year of Birds" by Annie Proulx, which covered a year of birdwatching at her ranch in Wyoming. How is that piece travel writing WHEN IT TAKES PLACE ENTIRELY AT HER HOUSE?
Not as inspiring as the collection edited by William T. Vollman. His piece "A Head for the Emir" here is very good. Andre Aciman's "My Monet Moment" starts the collection off on the right tone, but the collection starts wobbling. It rarely finds its way back. "A Year of Birds" by Annie Proulx sketched in wonders about a life in Wyoming. Perhaps it was not a good year from travel essays. Perhaps Sloane Crosley really did not spend the time finding the gems. There are a few here, but again, it jus ...more
This may challenge your idea of travel writing. And it may be, as the "Best American" series editor notes, because there isn't that much good travel writing. Add to that the unfortunate absence of strong editorial direction as required in such a collection.

Some essays are what you expect from a sprawling journalistic narrative from the New Yorker, Harper's, or Atlantic Monthly and are more about politics, place, or economies of scale as related to place than about actual travel.

The first piece
I think the editor might be confused about what constitutes "travel writing". Half of this book is not so much the writers' personal experiences while traveling, but more like reading a newspaper of events. One woman even wrote about her experiences when she was living in various places -- not travel.

My favorite "My Monet Moment" -- was the first one in the book, and as far as I'm concerned you can stop after that. It was a delightful story of how the writer sought out and serendipitously found
Lafayette Public Library
Loved the essays about searching for the Monet building and the author's hopelessly screwed up internal navigation system. I also appreciated that most of the essays do not sentimentalize or see their settings through rose-colored glasses. While I didn't care for every essay, this anthology series is one that I always seek out.(LPL staff review)
I really enjoyed reading most of the stories in this collection of travel writing. There's an interesting mix of places (Saudi Arabia, Haiti, a NASCAR race) as well as types of stories, and in general the authors' takes on them are original and humorous. In my opinion, there are some truly standout pieces, such as "Venance Lafrance Is Not Dead" by Mischa Berlinski, and Ben Austen's "Southern Culture on the Skids", stories which I will definitely be coming back to as examples of the very best kin ...more
In his introduction, series editor Jason Wilson notes that magazines are now publishing "less and less quality travel writing," and sadly in this year's volume (which spotlights work published in 2010) I did notice a difference for the first time. The pieces just weren't as consistently interesting as usual, though I did have some favorites: Andre Aciman on his search for the source of a Monet painting; Porter Fox on the troubles of a pacific commune in Copenhagen; Keith Gessen on traffic nightm ...more
Wide ranging and fun, or gruesome, as case my be, and also pretty mainstream, no really edgy or alternative views here. Although david baez in Nicaragua and mscha berlinski in Haiti and vollmann and Kurdistan are looking at hard truths and sticky situations! Yeah Kurdistan, bet you didn’t even know it existed.
Fun stuff by tea obreht looking for vampires in Serbia, Justin nobel looking for authenticity in nunavik, annie proulx looking for cougars in Wyoming, gary shteyngart looking nightlife in
Kelly Lynn Thomas
Read for my Travel Writing class. As the title so aptly states, this book contains the best American travel writing from 2010 (although the collection is released in 2011, if that makes sense). I really appreciate the format of this book and that they include the titles and authors of all the selections series editor Jason Wilson sent on to this year's editor, kind of like an honorable mention for those works. Every piece in this collection was excellent, but I don't think I'll ever give an anth ...more
The editors have a different idea about what travel writing is than I do. I wanted to read more stories about people going to places where they did not live, primarily for their own recreation and enjoyment and edification. Some of the articles included here are well written but read more like news stories. One essay involves no travel at all, unless you count the author's walks around her neighborhood, which I don't. I did quite enjoy several of the pieces, including ones about NASCAR, Saudi Ar ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this engaging collection of off-beat articles. The first half of the book superb- which is funny as the book is organized alphabetically by author. From Andre Aciman's "My Monet Moment (Vanity Fair) to Ben Austin's "Southern Culture on the Skids"; Mischa Berlinski's "Venance Lafrance is not dead" (Men's Journal; Christopher Buckley's "My Year at Sea" (The Atlantic); Maureen Dowd's "A Girl's guide to Saudi Arabia"(Vanity Fair), and beyond, I was not disappointed.
Writing about a place does not make it travel writing. The selections in the book tend toward reporting - of wars, politics, economics. A year of bird watching from one's home made for enjoyable reading but was not travel writing. Very disappointing. I have enjoyed this series in the past.
A bunch of the 'Best American' books were on sale for the Kindle for a few bucks each, and I feel like I got almost exactly my money's worth for this one. I really enjoyed a previous edition of this book, but of course, like any anthology, it's hit or miss. I'm getting better at giving up and just skimming the ones that don't hold my interest, but I felt like I did more of that with this one that I would have liked.

Laura Jordan
My favorite pieces from this volume:

Mischa Berlinski, "Venance Lafrance Is Not Dead" (Haiti)
Maureen Dowd, "A Girls' Guide to Saudi Arabia" (Saudi Arabia)
Porter Fox, "The Last Stand of Free Town" (Copenhagen)
Tom Ireland, "Famous" (India)
Jessica McCaughey, "Aligning the Internal Compass" (not really about travel, but more about navigating and orienting oneself)
Tea Obreht, "Twilight of the Vampires" (Serbia)
I always love being introduced to new and relevant essays. This collection reminds me that the travel essay is alive and well. My favorite was Tea Obreht's "Twilight of the Vampires," so if you have time to read just one, I would recommend it before any of the others. (I promise, it has nothing to do with the Stephanie Meyer kind of vampires...)
Sarah Dodson-Knight
Loved the essays about searching for the Monet building and the author's hopelessly screwed up internal navigation system. I also appreciated that most of the essays do not sentimentalize or see their settings through rose-colored glasses. Wile I didn't care for every essay, this anthology series is one that I always seek out.
Picked this up as a plane read to head to Hawaii (my first time!)

All of the stories I made it to were terrific.

Then it was a month late getting back to the library, and... well... I thought books about giving up addictions and finding a new job were more important than pretending I was still in Hawaii.
Ann Klefstad
I ordinarily adore the volumes in this series, but this one seems to have too many polemical axes to grind to quite work for me. "Travel writing" is something perhaps different than "writing about the world"? Though Maureen Dowd on being an American woman tourist in Saudi Arabia has its moments.
Sara Frandina
Ups and downs. Overall, a good mix, and definitely some top-notch hits, but I did feel the collection started off stronger than it ended. A lot of good voices, and a good selection of mixed cultures, geographies, and ideas. Best review I can give without detailing each story.
I didn't read the entire book from cover to cover, but the essays I read were enjoyable and well written. I will re-visit this book at a later time and read the remaining essays, and I'm sure I won't be disappointed when I do.
3.5, mostly because it was so short--apparently there's just not as much travel writing being published these days. (It also lost a few points for having Sloane Crosley as the guest editor. Really, Best American? Really?)
I expected to like this book a lot, but I couldn't get into it at all. I always had to force myself to start the next story, even if the previous one was good. There were a couple of gems, but overall, meh.
Heather Purcell
The selections are of varying quality, but I love reading about other people's travel experiences while I'm traveling. (Read this one while in Thailand.) Several perceptive, creative authors are featured.
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Sloane Crosley (born August 3, 1978) is a writer living in New York. She graduated from Connecticut College in 2000 with a degree in creative writing. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, BlackBook magazine, The New York Observer, The Village Voice, Playboy Magazine, Maxim Magazine, Mirabella, and numerous other literary journals and websites. Her collection of essays, I W ...more
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