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Pico Iyer
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Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  1,066 ratings  ·  70 reviews
The author of Video Night in Kathmandu describes the building of the world's biggest tourist hotel in the tourist-free North Korea, the effects of inflation in Argentina, shortages in Cuba, and crime in Paraguay. 15,000 first printing.
Hardcover, 190 pages
Published April 19th 1993 by Knopf (first published 1993)
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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
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
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
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
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.
Nimish Sawant
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
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
Artur Coelho
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Ananta Pathak
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Traveling through some forgotten places of the world – remote because of their physical or political isolation – the author tries to catch their soul. He tells about the oddities of lands and their people and how they act upon each other. Though the descriptions, comments and interpretations that the author proposes are very interesting, the narration is in general detached maybe because most of the essays were originally written for travel magazines. The book keeps the reader’s curiosity alive, ...more
This is one of the early Pico Iyer travel books I've read (the other is Video Night in Katmandu). I enjoy Iyer's writing style, although one main comment people would have upon reading these books is that the information is dated. Let me tell you something, folks - just read it both as travel writing and as history. The information therein isn't meant to primarily help you decide to travel to a place. It's a memoir of particular places at particular times. In this book you read about countries a ...more
Dated, very much so... Too bad as it is nonetheless well written...
More of the same travel writing from Pico Iyer. I love comparing notes with him about the places I've been to see what he says about them, but his stories about some of the places in this book seem a little too quaint and dated. Pleaces like Cuba and Vietnam have changed tremendously in the last 10 years. But I love his descriptions of Iceland and North Korea. Weird places, indeed. Did you know that in the phone book in Iceland people are listed by first names?
I enjoyed this book, but it's definitely feeling its age. The sections were written in the late 80s or early 90s. As the book talks about lonely places, the world has changed so much in terms of connectedness since that time. I enjoyed the North Korea section the most, feeling that while it's now under Kim Jong Il instead of Kim Il Sung, not much has changed.

So it was good, but there are plenty of more current books about these lonely places.
Mr Iyer's promise, shown by his essay on the number nine in Time Magazine, remains unfulfilled. This is a good, though not stunning, travel book. In the sense that you would not normally think about visiting some of these countries, Mr Iyer does a service in describing their quirks and idiosyncrasies in these essays. But his descriptions do not approach the sublime and his paragraphs are often lists, which are informative but not beautiful.
Some of these essays are pretty (liked Iceland and Vietnam best), but there's no cohesive center to the chapters other than the fact that they are all lonely places. I think Pico has gotten better as he has aged, and this book is pretty middling compared to some of the other things I've read from him. There's not a lot of emotion in this one, I think?
This read like a really detailed travel brochure, which was not what I was looking for nor what I expected. Iyer does do a good job of describing the places he's visited and placing them historically but I guess I was hoping for a little more depth rather than just a picturesque narrative of how beautiful the locations were.
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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
More about Pico Iyer...
Video Night in Kathmandu and Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home

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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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