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Falling Off the Map

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  1,605 ratings  ·  132 reviews
The bare bones sketch - It's a travelogue of the weird and wonderful. But, I can't say anymore because I haven't read more than the backcover yet.
Published 2007 by Vintage Departures (first published 1993)
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3.80  · 
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 ·  1,605 ratings  ·  132 reviews

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Jun 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can'ttttt anymore, I'm gonna die of boredom. I was so looking forward to reading this book, but it is SO BLAH! I was expecting more of a travelogue style of writing, not a completely stand-offish overview. The author didn't really get into experiencing these cultures, it seemed. He gave a sentence here and there exchanged with a local at a restaurant or bar, but that was about the extent of it. I just couldn't trudge through the rest. I thought about maybe adding this back to my to-read for la ...more
A quick look over the other reviews and ratings reinforces my view that this book was very hit and miss.
Consisting of eight individual travel non-fiction short stories in different locations, it really was a mixture. All were written in the period ? to ?, and teh author has specifically noted that they were not updated with the power of hindsight or retrospectively edited, which means they become a snapshot in history.

They are all linked in that the author considers them Lonely Places or places
Sep 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travelogue
I wouldnt have picked up Iyer again after reading his 'Video Night in Kathmandu', but was drawn by a friend's reco and d super-selection of places - North Korea, Argentina, Cuba, Iceland, Bhutan, Paraguay. Also Vietnam and Australia but have read a bit about them especially the latter bcoz of cricketing articles too.
The writing isnt bad, it just lacks conversations and 'joy of idleness' as Theroux put it. Each place starts off well and there r some superb observations, but then gets into a rut.
May 23, 2009 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 13, 2011 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
Sairam Krishnan
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely collection of Pico Iyer's travel pieces for various magazines, brought together under a theme that is intriguing, and immensely relatable. Pico Iyer's introductory essay to the book is extraordinary writing, and I will come back to it again and again. The essays themselves are mixed things, a couple of them I loved, a couple did nothing for me, and another was just about okay reading. In all of them, however, Iyer's remarkable command of the travel writer's idiom shines through. You may ...more
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
The timestamp for the first chapter is 1990. I imagine myself then, 26 years ago, cognizant of the places being referred to in the book only thanks to an atlas, and a penchant for remembering country-capital-currency courtesy school quizzes. Just text in the head, with no images to go along, in a world before the internet.
What then, are these lonely places? From Iceland up there to Australia down south and from North Korea to the right and Paraguay to the left (ideologically, just the opposite!
What a beautiful book!!
With literature so beautiful that it makes you want to put the book down so you can go over the sentences in your mind again, and mention of intelligent references all over making you reach out for the encyclopedia and set in places so far removed from the world that they make you curious, this book is just perfect.

I've been a fan of Iyer's for a long time from his TED talks and essays in magazines but now I know it's for a lifetime. The man knows how to travel, what to lo
Christine Zibas
"Lonely places are not just isolated places, for loneliness is a state of mind.... Loneliness cuts in both directions, and there are 101 kinds of solitude."

For Pico Iyer, the countries he examines in this book vary widely in their solitude. In some cases, it's geography (like Australia); in others (such as North Korea), it's a political decision. Hence, the 101 kinds of solitude.

The unfortunate thing about this book is that it was written in 1993, and with any travel book from that time, some th
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
UGH. This easily goes down as one of the most boring travel books I've ever read! The concept seemed good: writing about some of the loneliest places on the planet. But does lonely have to equate to boring? I can't say I even understand why the author traveled at all, except to come home and write a boring book about it; not a shred of the author's personality or a sense of humor could be found in these 200 dry and impersonal pages.

The fact that the book is severely dated (published in 1993) pr
Dec 24, 2013 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
Nov 20, 2012 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
Syed Saqi
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a communication skills class in college, my prof ( considered Pico Iyer as a benchmark in today's world in terms of written prose. Now I understand.

In a collection of essays about his travels across the globe, Pico has a unique sense of capturing the essence of the place. He could be philosophical, interested , concerned and yet be blase, in the same sentence. His essays leave a lot to imagination, and yet revealing all the character of the places. I h
Jul 02, 2015 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
Rajat Ubhaykar
Mar 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, cuba
A slightly dated book in which Pico Iyer travels to the Lonely Places of our alarmingly interconnected planet: Iceland, North Korea, Bhutan, Cuba, Paraguay, Argentina, Australia, Vietnam. I like Iyer's non-judgmental attitude towards travel writing, unlike the cantankerous Paul Theroux who can easily get on your nerves. Iyer writes about these strange lands with trademark eloquence and erudition, managing to both entertain and educate the reader in equal measure. Recommended!
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.

UPDATE: Nov 2017: I finally made it to Iceland! And now I want to go back...
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read it while backpacking around the world for one year the 2nd time! I loved his analysis of Australia but Video Nights in Kathmandu is the story closest to my heart because I know the situation, the people and the culture intimately.
Great writing, though most of the material seemed rather dated. His description of Paraguay was probably my favorite essay.
Nathan Albright
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge-2018
It is little surprise that lonely people are attracted to lonely places, and that we tend to see places through our own state of mind.  The author's discussion of various places he has visited around the world that strike him as lonely places is made up largely of places I would like to go, and not (interestingly enough) out of places I am very familiar with, with the exception of Argentina.  It is unclear if the author sees these places as lonely simply because he is a lonely traveler--that may ...more
Jun 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Having taken a growingly serious interest in travel writing, and having wanted to read Pico Iyer ever since I came across this quote, "Kindness is water, religion is like tea. You can survive without tea, you can't survive without water," I decided to pick up Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World two days ago.

In six eloquently crafted essays, Iyer introduces us to six different places, each fascinating and lonely in its own right.

What makes a lonely place? According to Iyer, lonel
Jul 22, 2013 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
Oct 31, 2013 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
Yuqi Tan
Finally, I finished this book, Falling off the map by Pico Lyer. I was first intrigued by Lyer’s ted talk titled “where is home”, which resonates much with my international student self. So I looked up his books, and found this book that echoes my desire to visit exotic places. He wrote about his visits to North Korea, Argentina, Cuba, Iceland, Bhutan, Vietnam, Paraguay, and Australia (in early 90s). Granted that those countries could look completely different now, I find his words complete the ...more
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Lonely places are not just isolated places, for loneliness is a state of mind.... Loneliness cuts in both directions, and there are 101 kinds of solitude."

After being inundated for years by his quotes (stereotypically used to caption images on social media), I finally got the chance to get a copy of his books.

In this one, he gathers several essays about places as disparate as Iceland and Argentina - all the essays being about places which are isolated and lonely.

Well, after going through his b
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016, travel
"What does the elegant nostalgia of Argentina have in common with the raffish nonchalance of Australia? And what do both these countries have in common with North Korea? They are all 'lonely places,' cut off from the rest of the world by geography, ideology, or sheer weirdness. And they have all attracted the attention of Pico Iyer, one of the finest travel writers ever to book a room in the Pyongyang Koryn hotel.

"Whether he is documenting the cruising rites of Islandic teenagers, being interrog
Stephen Heiner
Aug 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
This book was first released in 1993 and was written about the "lonely places of the world," which in Ayer's estimation included North Korea, Argentina, Cuba, Iceland, Bhutan, Vietnam, Paraguay, and Australia. Obviously globalization and simply the passage of time have made some of these places less "lonely" than in the 1990s, but much of what made them so in Pico's mind still persists.

"Lonely places are the places that don't fit in; the places that have no seat at our international dinner table
Andrew Post
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first book I'd read by Pico Iyer. I'm not entirely certain why everyone calls him funny (I never laughed once), but he certainly is entertaining. Like a good travel writer, Iyer keeps his eyes and ears open, talks to everyone, notices the little details that make a place what it is (in the case of North Korea, Cuba, Paraguay, and Vietnam, completely effing insane), and gets out of the cities and into the countryside just to see how things are done there. He also has a way with words ...more
Jan 30, 2015 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
Jan 01, 2014 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
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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
“Finding a sanctuary, a place apart from time, is not so different from finding a faith.” 19 likes
“... epiphanies rarely repeat themselves.” 19 likes
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