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Travels in Siberia

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  3,304 Ratings  ·  464 Reviews
A Dazzling Russian travelogue from the bestselling author of Great Plains

In his astonishing new work, Ian Frazier, one of our greatest and most entertaining storytellers, trains his perceptive, generous eye on Siberia, the storied expanse of Asiatic Russia whose grim renown is but one explanation among hundreds for the region's fascinating, enduring appeal. In Travels
ebook, 544 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Jan 03, 2013 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
“Sometimes travel is merely an opportunity taken when you can.”
― Ian Frazier, Travels in Siberia


A gifted narrator, Ian Frazier for me seems to occupy a genetic/literary lovechild space somewhere between Bill Bryson (mother: Midwestern appetites) and John McPhee (father: New Yorker affectations). Like Frazier, I too have been drawn to Russia. I remember traveling to Moscow and St. Petersburg shortly after the wall came down (and before the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis). There is something
Jan 21, 2011 RandomAnthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ian Frazier, the author of Travels in Siberia, wants people to know that Siberia is filled with mosquitoes and isn't always cold. Russian women are also, in his estimation, among the world's most beautiful. And apparently there are huge trash heaps spread along many of the roads. But this book is more than the sum of its travelogue plus history plus reflective essay parts. Frazier researched Travels in Siberia for a couple decades. He integrates the past, the landscape, and daily observations wi ...more
Wow, even the last chapter was superb - Siberian climate change and what this may portend for the future.


I am almost, almost done with Travels in Siberia which will be given four stars. From start to finish it has been very interesting, and the travel experiences are entertaining. Maybe it is better to read this rather than listen to it, as I am doing. You have to stop all the time and rewind. It is important to have access to maps. I assume the paper book has them. T
Dec 09, 2010 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian, nonfiction
When I returned from spending several months in Russia as a graduate student, a friend asked what it was like and whether I enjoyed it. My reply was something like, “It was great, I loved it, never go there.”
Russia is a place guaranteed to frustrate anyone who has to have things go according to plan, expects problems to be solved quickly and transparently, and likes things orderly and sanitized in that uniquely American way (my friend was all three). Plans fall apart, problems are addressed with
Feb 02, 2015 Hana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hana by: Kseniya Melnik
Ian Frazier is in love with Russia. He’s not sure just why, but that’s how love is sometimes. Frazier makes a splendid tour guide to the land he dubs “the greatest horrible country in the world.” Over the course of fifteen years Frazier learned Russian and made five journeys to Siberia, each at different times of the year, one taking him across the entire region over the course of a two-month long, rather harrowing, bug-infested drive.

But Frazier never ‘goes native’ (he doesn’t drink!) and his
Although I usually don’t read non-fiction, I am happily making an exception for Ian Frazier’s books, which are written in a compelling factual style. So far I have read On the Rez and now Travels in Siberia. A staff member at the New Yorker, Frazier has written about his favorite hobby of fishing, the Great Plains, Native Americans, Russia, and many other topics. He manages to make all of them absolutely fascinating. What unifies his writing is a love for particular places.

A year or so ago, I he
Nov 08, 2010 Trish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Travels in Siberia is BIG, and I thought the expanse of white cover particularly appropriate, too--just like the place. It seems peculiar to describe a trip (several trips, actually) across Siberia and say honestly at the end: "nothing much happened," but that about sums it up. For a traveller, nothing (unexpected) happening can be a very good thing, and readers can take heart that we had such a pleasant and wryly funny guide to the biggest country on earth ("too big, really"). I, for one, was ...more
Jan 08, 2011 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
boy, siberia is a realllly big place.the entire continental united states and most of europe would fit within its boundaries.the trans-siberian railway from moscow to vladivostock on the coast is 5,771 miles or twice the distance from new jersey to california.that's a long would be really neat to take a trip on that train, but it is probably something that i would like to do but will never get around to actually doing it.

the author actually makes 5 trips to siberia, although he mainly tal
Dec 08, 2010 Wanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is difficult to do a synopsis of a book that really does not have a plot. It has been called a travelogue. It most assuredly is not that. It has been criticized for "too much history." HELLLOOO! Even had it been a travel book, it should have historical context. Sometimes I wonder about reviewers.
The closest word that comes to my mind when I think of this book is picareque. It seems to fit. It tallks about Frazier's trips to Siberia, which he was determined to see after he fell in love with al
Aug 07, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Baldr
Shelves: memoir, russia
A largely entertaining and delightful read. I'd read the excerpts of it in The New Yorker, and I've slowly been developing a fascination with Siberia myself (Frazier's is an obsession), so I knew I'd have to read this eventually. Siberia reveals itself to be a mysterious place, where they speak a difficult and confusing foreign language called Russian, and enormous heaps of trash lie everywhere (though the trash has a much smaller paper component than in America, and also here in America we don' ...more
Apr 28, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A travel book by someone who clearly hates to travel. Tempered slightly with self-effacement, his incessant whining and intermittent panic attacks make for a grating journey. By the middle of the book one is left empathizing heavily with his unfortunate guides. He would have been better off learning how to politely toss back a few shots of vodka than his hours spent studiously attempting to learn the Russian language. His autistic obsession with museums and prison camps might have been a source ...more
It is a very interesting and well written account of Frazier’s ultimate trip across Siberia, few people, and I am sure even few Russians have ever undertaken. Throughout this journey, or many trips he took in the end, Frazier shows true engagement with the country and its history and a real affection for its people. It’s a fascinating account, even though I think that he might have missed something very Russian there. Maybe, the fact that he didn’t drink and went to sleep early, missing night pa ...more
Apr 13, 2017 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Frazier is a Russophile, admitting a love and fascination for all things Russian, in particular, Siberia. "Travels in Siberia" covers five trips to Siberia from the 1990's to around 2010. The main section of his travels is a road trip from St Petersburg to Vladivostok with two Russian companions in a car that continually breaks down. They cover a huge distance, see a lot of sights and people, get on each other's nerves and take a look at conditions in eastern Russia and Siberia. I'm not quite su ...more
Mikey B.
The author is a good writer and there is humour throughout this travelogue. He goes on five trips to Siberia. The first is by airplane to the Lake Baikal region and the second exploring the area within the Arctic Circle. The fourth trip is to Northern Siberia and his last trip is to Novosibirsk. The major portion of the book (his third trip) is his cross country road trip from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok by motor vehicle – a distance of immense proportions. To prepare himself for his Siberia j ...more
Nov 11, 2011 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-10-of-2013
Oh Ian Frazier, will you be my tour guide through the "best most horrible country in the world"?

What an incredible journey - or should I say FIVE separate journeys to Siberia - this man took me on! For anyone who has ever wondered what real Siberia is like, you must pick this up! Frazier strikes a good balance throughout the book of giving his readers a play-by-play of his crazy adventures as well as conveying rich, interesting history about Russia and Siberia. Fascinating stuff, although given
Sep 23, 2016 Betsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Frazier is, like me, a Russophile who is not shy about describing his inexplicable fascination with the country. This book presents his multiple trips to Siberia, from his first brief discovery of the region to his months-long road trip from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific. He mostly focuses on the quirky and downright crazy people and situations he encounters, writing with his usual wit. The book bogs down occasionally when he tries to explain the complex history of Russia's involvement in the re ...more
Mar 05, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished it and ended up really liking it, though I started out less then enthusiastic. I was listening to it and am usually less than thrilled when an author reads his own book. It also seemed to me he was mispronouncing Russian works, but then what do I know--just a little Russian though my sister who coached me was very particular about pronunciation.

It also took me awhile to realize that the travels of the title was really was meant to be plural--he writes about a total of 5 trips to Si
This is a multi-faceted look at Russia and especially the Siberia of the title told by a man who became obsessed with Russia early on in his life. His father was tracking Sputnik when Frazier was a boy in the 1950's!

I've spent the last weeks both travelling along with Frazier on his 3 trips to Siberia and learning about many aspects of Russia and Russian history. There are so many things to connect with in his writings. History, Czars, Monguls, the Decembrists, geography, geology, climate chang
Jan 18, 2011 Tasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-adventure
I finished Travels in Siberia and am stuck on what rating to give it. I'm flipping back and forth between 3.5 or 4. Parts of it were pretty funny and I loved the way he described his travel guides and their antics and interactions with him, the people, the travel, all of it. I really did enjoy learning about the really interesting things about Siberia. I really only ever thought of Siberia as a cold, remote, vast and pretty empty land where all the prison camps were and many suffered greatly.

Sep 06, 2011 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ian Frazier has a love affair with Siberia. In this delightfully conversational book, he relates his five trips in Siberia, touching briefly on his five or six additional trips to western Russia. More than a travelogue, the book includes fascinating accounts of Siberian history, anthropology, culture, and geography. Characters with whom Frazier travels come alive, as do the many people he meets along the way. Almost all his Siberian trips occurred after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and his o ...more
Ashley Fritz
Feb 02, 2012 Ashley Fritz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Travels in Sibera gets off to a slow start - while Ian Frazier is in deep Russia-love, the reader might not be so sure. Stick with it - once Part III begins it all becomes worth it. Frazier is known for his keen and close observation, and this book doesn't fail. He's humorous a lot of the time, even when someone in his situation would have lost their sense of humor entirely. He's sympathetic, not judgmental of a country that many people are quick to judge. It becomes about people, about human ex ...more
Elly Sands
Feb 20, 2011 Elly Sands rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was just a kid my Dad use to say when it was cold out "It feels like we live in Siberia." At the time of course, I knew nothing about Siberia but I sure do now! This book went way beyond my expectations. It held my interest in all 471 pages. It felt like I was sitting in that "so called" van driving along the endless road with the author and his two Russian companions. I learned so much about the geography, history, people, politics, culture and even the bathrooms in this amazing stretch ...more
Nov 09, 2010 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A fellow reviewer on Goodreads knocks Ian Frazier for not being "tougher and more adventuresome", but I think the tone is perfect. If I wanted to read about XTREME ADVENTURE GUY DOING XTREME THINGS, I'd pick up a book by that "Man vs. Wild" goofball. Nope, Sandy's just a regular dude (albeit a bestselling author who writes for The New Yorker) who gets to go on the ultimate road trip. His seemingly random observations of Russian life, his way of combining interesting historical observations with ...more
Sanjay Varma
Wonderful book. I have wanted to read it ever since a friend shared Ian Frazier's long form New Yorker essay about his drive across Siberia with two hired Russian guides. The author's enthusiasm shines, illuminating his prose descriptions of Siberia and its people. He also excels at weaving in historical points of view, and surveys of Siberian literature.

The weaknesses in this book are its length, and the author's unfortunate habit of describing transition moments (planning the trip, landing in
Connor FitzGerald
Jun 18, 2015 Connor FitzGerald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This guy is a seriously talented writer. I wasn't sure how I would go with a travel book, and I always thought Siberia was just freezing cold and an enormous land mass. This is the first of Frazier's books that I've read and I thoroughly enjoyed his conversational style of writing and his incisive explanations of his many experiences travelling in this enormous country. However, Frazier does not rely on the size and scale of Siberia to carry the book but instead, by meandering through the seemin ...more
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Beverly Woodcock
Not the best book club choice for winter in Maine! So far my impression is - why would anyone pick this as a vacation spot? Actually, finishing this book I liked it more than I thought I would. I learned quite a bit about Russia and Siberia and the history was interspersed with humorous anecdotes about travel experiences all over Russia. I discovered that there is 1/12 th of the globe I don't care to visit, but this was an interesting read .
Eric Kibler
Dec 12, 2010 Eric Kibler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A vastly informative, vastly entertaining book about a vastly vast place.

I can see myself rereading this book every five years or so. One of my favorite travel books. It's also a history book and a rumination on the character and geography of Russia as a whole.
Jan 30, 2016 Lori rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Ian Frazier is originally from my own state of Ohio. He was raised in a little town called Hudson, which is so Currier & Ives-ey, WASPy whitebread that it probably makes Connecticut look like South Central (LA). I mean, I lived in this town for about a year, myself (Every town has one crappy, bug infested fire-trap -- even Hudson, Ohio. And I found it. And rented it.) Hudson is so bucolic and Upper Class bubble world that the residents of Pleasantville would grow self conscious about their p ...more
Feb 18, 2013 Mitchell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In many ways this is two books. There's the history book and the travel book. I think Frazier is for the most part a better history writer than travel writer. As a Russia specialist who has been to a small chunk of Siberia, I was fascinated by the many stories Frazier dredged up of intrepid Siberian travelers, including some Americans, and obscure historical figures and battles as well as descriptions of seldom visited places. I was, however, a little frustrated by his tendency to start a good s ...more
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Ian Frazier (b.1951) is an American writer and humorist. He is the author of Travels in Siberia, Great Plains, On the Rez, Lamentations of the Father and Coyote V. Acme, among other works, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He graduated from Harvard University. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, he lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
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“Sometimes travel is merely an opportunity taken when you can.” 10 likes
“Scientists estimate that the Siberian permafrost holds the remains of 150 million mammoths—or about 8 million more than the 142 million Russians aboveground in Russia today.” 5 likes
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