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My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  441 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Susan Orlean has been called “a national treasure” by The Washington Post and “a kind of latter-day Tocqueville” by The New York Times Book Review. In addition to having written classic articles for The New Yorker, she was played, with some creative liberties, by Meryl Streep in her Golden Globe Award—winning performance in the film Adaptation.
Now, in My Kind of Place, the
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2004)
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Elissa Washuta
I loved these essays. I do not gravitate toward "travel writing" because I do not travel and so I just don't usually have any way to identify with it in any way. But I found this on a list of best nonfiction books and so I went with it. Orlean's "everywhere" included the Bridgewater Mall near where I grew up in New Jersey and the home of a woman in NJ who kept a crap-load of tigers--a story I knew well, I thought, but Orlean rendered the characters with such lively energy. And, man, her endings! ...more
It's Susan Orlean. Come on.
I was going to buy this book in SF a few weeks ago, but my cards wouldn't cover it and the author whose picture is on the cover looked like kind of an asshole, so I easily gave that up. But checked it out at the library cause they had it a few weeks ago.

I don't know why this book was in the travel section. Sure, the stories took place in locations all over the country and world (sort of), but the stories had hardly anything to do with the locations. More like events that took place that happene
I have been listening to this book and find it just right. Articulate, thoughtful, insightful and inspiring. It is not an ordinary travel book. Susan Orlean writes about the World championship of taxidermy in Springfield Illinois, and about the music recording industry of Zaire, Congo, Cameroon and an African music epicenter in a tiny shop in Paris. She describes one street in Thailand and the people who live there - not at all just the great place to eat cheap sort of travelogue. She throws in ...more
Jason Jordan
My Kind of Place has several interesting essays. I particularly like those that focus on a certain location instead of a region. For instance, "All Mixed Up" centers on a grocery store in Queens, New York, rather than Queens itself. Some end too abruptly, I think, but most are informative and fascinating. It would've been helpful for Orlean to have worked the year into each essay--even in a roundabout way--so that the reader would have a clear(er) sense of context. I also think that the "Everywh ...more
I tend not to read travel narratives, except the 'Emily Murphy's boat sank, she lost her passport and her shoes' type, because my wanderlust is force to be reckoned with. It's not something I can handle continually stirring if I plan to remain in my normal life. By the end of the first chapted of a Bill Bryson or Pico Iyer book, I'm halfway out the door with a bike lock in one hand and a super-absorbent towel in the other. But while these particular stories were nice to read, they were not reall ...more
alana Semuels
These aren't really travel stories, but rather New Yorker-type stories about weird and strange people and events around the world that Orlean attends. Highlights are one about a taxidermy collection (one guy makes a stuffed panda by combining two bears, which are legal to kill, unlike pandas), one about climbing Mt. Fuji, and one about a pageant in the South. Some of the short humor pieces at the end don't quite fit in the book, but they're still pretty amusing. Defintely recommended for anyone ...more
Grady McCallie
This is an enjoyable but uneven collection of essays about places and cultures in the U.S. and around the world. Most were originally printed in the New Yorker between 1992 and 2003. The title seems obliquely inspired by the Frank Sinatra song, 'My Kind of Town', which is mentioned in passing in one of the longest and best pieces in the collection, 'All Mixed Up'. It's a close look at an independent grocery in Queens, and it offers a magnificent portrait of the rhythms of the store, the economic ...more
I love Susan Orlean's writing, even that article about her walking desk (yes, that one). This collection includes great reported pieces on everything from animal hoarders and NYC grocery stores to fertility blessings in Bhutan. A few pieces get a little overwrought with description or a little silly, but most are thoughtful travel essays with fun quips dropped in like "never go anywhere without a sweatshirt, a string of pearls, and a big, elegant scarf, which can be used as a dress, a shawl, a s ...more
Emma Komlos-Hrobsky (Assistant Editor, Tin House Magazine): In reading Susan Orlean’s My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere, an anthology of her best travel writing, I’ve been thinking about what makes Orlean’s nonfiction genuinely charming where others’ writing in the same vein can feel twee to me. So much of her material here might seem to write itself; how could an essay about tiger hoarders in suburban New Jersey or little league basebull under the thumb of Cast ...more
I picked this up at the Macomb Friends of the Library book sale last fall because it was a $2 hardback and because the first essay is about something that happened in Springfield, IL (where my sister lives). OH, and because it's by Susan Orlean, one of my all-time favorite writers. But I thought it might be one of those weird publishing company things where, without even really involving the author, they just compiled a bunch of random essays without thoughtfully tying things together (like thos ...more
Kelly Lynn Thomas
Read for my Travel Writing class. Some of the pieces were really, really good, but others were kind of stupid and not really travel pieces (like the one about her life as a series of performance pieces--cutesy, not a travel piece). The best ones were, in my opinion, "Where's Willy?", "Royalty", and the one about her climbing Mount Fuji in Japan, which has a very long, very silly name.

The thing that gets me about this book is that you can tell that Susan Orlean has led a fairly privileged life. A
Bookmarks Magazine

Orlean is best known for The Orchid Thief, which was recast as the movie Adaptation. These essays similarly cast ordinary people in a most extraordinary light, from parents of beauty pageant girls to Cuban farmers. Critics don't call her one of our best essayists for nothing. Orlean approaches her subjects with intense curiosity and fairness, has an unusually good ear for language and dialogue, and arrives at perceptive conclusions about human behavior. Still, My Kind of Place is an uneven colle

Great stories, mostly previously published in the New Yorker. Orlean is a skilled writer, adept at making the reader feel she's really gotten to know something about someone. And there's just enough of Orlean's personality to be interesting, but not overwhelming.
Entertaining essays first published in the New Yorker that are not travel pieces so much as profiles of interesting people and places. The New Jersey tiger hoarder is a classic. She reads these herself and has a good narrative voice.
Orleans travel stories don't remind me of typical, heavy New Yorker profiles, which I suppose they aren't. I think the most memorable story was the longer one near the beginning of the collection about a neighborhood grocery store in Queens, NY, if I recall.
One thing I liked is how fearless she was about listing all the wild ethnic foods that different kinds of people would seek in the store.
And, when she tells you the owner likes to listen to Sinatra all day, she then writes five more sentences
Interesting collection of essays. Some were decades old, but still interesting and I enjoyed the postscript that followed up on a few of the stories.
I loved the idea of this book, that place is a central character in these essays or articles. But some of them fell short, actually, maybe it was more like some of them ran too long.
Some of the stories were great ideas and had great moments, but went on past my interest.
I did love the fresh angles the author used for topics, like hiking Mt. Fuji and the story about the grocery store and the woman who keeps all the tigers.
My favorite part of the book was actually the final third, which were shor
Mike Maginot
After reading Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin book, I was ready to see how the author approached a “travel book”. My Kind of Place contains several entertaining essays covering everything from a gathering of taxidermists in Springfield, Illinois to the phallic statues and fertility rites that she observed in Bhutan. According to Orlean, Bangkok, Thailand is “a place to disappear”, but first you have to check your email. It’s really a book about people, a lady who collects tigers, a painter that makes the b ...more
I just love Orlean's voice, and that whole New Yorker style of essay. I agree with many other reviewers that the third section of this book, which consists of snippet-length humor pieces and snapshots, doesn't fit well with the rest of the content -- but it's all tremendously well-done. She is consistently open-minded and interested in everyone, even people like the baby-pageant mommies she talked to in the mid-'90s, and Thomas Kinkade (even though he comes across as nutty and arrogant, as one w ...more
Not bad. There were stories that I found interesting, the one about Keiko for example, and others that just seemd like filler i.e the one about Tina Turner.

As others have noted, many of the stories came to an abrupt end, which I found odd given the attention to detail that the author paid throughout the story.

I also think it was a mistake for the author to have read her own book. She is clearly a very talented writer, but narration is not her strong suit and I think it contributed to my low rati
Heard this as a book on tape. Not so much travel stories as stories about places. Some wonderful sentences in there, but some very long stories that needed serious editing as well. Probably wouldn't have finished the book but it's a long drive home, so I finished the tape.

I was constantly wondering how she managed to report conversations with people when she didn't appear to speak any languages. I will remember some of these places and people, though, and that's the sign of a good book, no?
Susan Orlean is certainly good at creating a profile piece, and her prose is clean and crisp, but I couldn't help but feel each essay remained on the surface, was if without a thesis or arc, closing abruptly. I'd wonder if a final page was torn away, but then, there are no awful formulaic endings either. Would I have enjoyed them more if I had read them on The New Yorker? There is a different expectation in form between. the pages of a magazine.
Deborah Malinoski
Just couldn't get into chapter was excruciatingly detailed story about people working at a supermarket....enough said!
Sherry (sethurner)
Amazon reviews have done an excellent job of sayig what this collection of essays was about. I will simply say that much like another writer I admire, John McPhee, Susan Orlean has the ability to write about a wide variety of topics that I might not be automatically drawn too (say, African music in France) and make them really interesting and compelling. Her essays both entertain and inform. Like potato chips, it's hard to read just one.
While I enjoyed some of the articles, I wasn't really struck by many of this book. And while, I might have enjoyed some as magazine/newspaper pieces, I wasn't sold on the book as a whole. To me, many of the articles ended abruptly, leaving me wondering what was the point? I have liked other similar books: Anna Quindlen's for example, but something here was missing. And superficially, I hated the cover photo of the author.
Susan Orleans is my kind of tourist. She goes everywhere in the spirit of Rikki Tikki Tavi, whose motto was, "Go and find out." Orleans shows up at taxidermy conventions, she climbs mountains in Japan and Bhutan, she walks through upper west side playgrounds, attends the Super Bowl and the Olympics, and in each, she captures the telling detail. Great travel writing.
A travel writer who claims no one wants to go to the places she travels to, Susan Orlean has a wonderful eye for the quirky, irreverent, fascinating, previously unknown details that make life interesting. Loved most of the essays, a few didn't thrill me to the bone, but hey, you can't please all of the people all of the time. Will reread this one.
Each chapter of this book is an essay about a different location. Whether she is describing a grocery store in New York, fertility symbols in Bhutan, or a shower curtain in a bathroom, Orlean brings fresh observations and humorous metaphors to her writing. Her writing talents truly transport the reader to whichever place she is.
So far, I am really enjoying this book. I love not only her writing style. And she's wickedly funny too.

Like any collection of essays or articles, some were better than others. But overall, I really liked what she chose to observe and research. I laughed and teared up and learned some things. I highly recommend this book.
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I'm the product of a happy and uneventful childhood in the suburbs of Cleveland, followed by a happy and pretty eventful four years as a student at University of Michigan. From there, I wandered to the West Coast, landing in Portland, Oregon, where I managed (somehow) to get a job as a writer. This had been my dream, of course, but I had no experience and no credentials. What I did have, in spades ...more
More about Susan Orlean...
The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters With Extraordinary People The Best American Essays 2005 The Best American Travel Writing 2007

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