A Lonely Planet editor’s compendium of 30 travel essays by an eclectic group of contemporary fiction writers.
Following up on the success of Better than Fiction (2012), George began collecting the pieces that comprise this volume with the intent to present another “moving microcosm of our modern world.” Though not all the essays are equally strong, George's efforts have produced a book that is nevertheless quite engaging. This latest volume offers work by luminaries like Jane Smiley and Dave Eggers, as well as work by newer talents like Porochista Khakpour. The pieces are set all over the world and include destinations as near as Mississippi and Idaho and as far away as Iceland, India, and Saudi Arabia. A few of the stories, such as Karen Joy Fowler’s “An Italian Education” and Khakpour’s “My Mississippi,” explore the ways travel can shape the development of youthful emotional, aesthetic, and/or sexual sensibilities and bring personal identity into sharper focus. Some, such as Eggers’ “The Road to Riyadh” and Mandi Sayer’s “Sleepless in Samoa,” depict the misunderstandings and sometimes-comic misadventures adult travelers often experience when venturing into lands far different from their own. As Lydia Millet observes in “Rocky Point,” “travel has a way of turning us into children” who have the choice to consciously grow beyond their vulnerabilities, prejudices, and misconceptions about others. Indeed, the trope of travel as the great teacher is played out in many other entries, such as Shirley Streshinsky’s “Travels with Suna.” The author reflects on her 30-year cross-continental interactions with an Indian woman who showed her the true meaning of friendship. As diverse as these essays are, one common thread—apart from the fact that they are all by fiction writers—unites them: beyond particulars of time and place, life is the greatest journey of all. Other contributors include Alexander McCall Smith, Francine Prose, Lily King, and DBC Pierre.
Pleasant narrative adventures for the armchair traveler.