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VINE VOICEon 23 January 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's difficult to give an overall review of this collection of Lonely Planet travel stories, because it's so patchy. I found some of the stories early in the collection off-putting, because they seem to represent a rather obnoxious form of travel writer. The typical pattern of the tales in the first third of this anthology runs roughly as follows: an American who considers himself to be a bona fide traveller, rather than - heaven forbid! - a tourist, and therefore wants to head off the beaten track and find the *real* Tibet/Vietnam/Iraq/etc. Without bothering to read up on the are, or pay much attention to the locals, he finds himself in entirely preventable adverse circumstances and appears somewhat bewildered by the inability of the locals to speak English. This leads to startling discoveries, such as, "travelling on Iraqi railways was not exactly the Orient Express" (Cesar G Soriano, "Baghdad to Basra"). Most irritating is Bill Fink's "The End of the Road", in which two young men drive a jeep through rural Thailand close to the borders with Myanmar and Laos, blasting out Jimi Hendrix and calling each other "dude", utterly oblivious to the political and military tensions of the region and wondering why none of the locals want to come out and chat with them.

Luckily, I persevered despite the dispiriting nature of the first five or six pieces, because things really started to pick up with Jason Elliot's "A Visit to Kanasankatan" (and I won't spoil the punchline, but I fell for it totally). From here on in, the stories get a lot less culturally imperial, and begin to revel in the generosity, hospitality, and downright quirkiness of humans from Morocco to the Australian outback, Hawaii to Turkey. The writing in "Wangara's Cross", "A Slight Leaning Backwards" and "Egg Child" is beautiful, the pieces managing to be delicate short stories whilst still conveying enough of a very particular place to be classes as travel writing.

All in all, a strange mix which has given me some ideas about writers whose other work I would like to seek out - but also pointers as to whose to avoid.
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on 3 November 2013
There's a big difference between being a traveller and going on holiday. Some who go on holiday also travel, but many who travel are not on holiday. It may seem an odd distinction, but if you're going to buy a book about travel writing, it's worth being aware that these are not going to be holiday stories. Equally, they are not going to be holiday or location 'reviews'. When you buy 'Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing' you will not get facts and figures about when things were built, who the architect was, and what it costs to go in. That's not travel writing - that's a guidebook. What you will get is a series of really well written 'travellers tales' collected together, drawn from the enormous stock of writing built up by Lonely Planet over decades of publishing.

I buy a lot of travel writing - I read a lot less. I know I OUGHT to like this stuff but all too often books are more about the writers themselves than what they actually saw or did. Whether you like the book depends far too much on whether you get to like the author. What 'Best Of Lonely Planet Travel Writing' offers is something that most books fail to deliver - short, punchy stories of life on the road, of things going horribly wrong, of the kindness of strangers, and of utterly miserable times when all you want to do is go home. Each is delivered in just a few pages, long enough to lure you in, short enough to pick up and put down as a before bed or in the bath read. There are some similarities of style that help you to get a sense of what works and what doesn't.

'Best Of' delivers twenty six travel tales written by what seem to be world class travel writers. Each chapter starts out by explaining who the author is and what they've written or for what they're best known. I found that very useful as I had only heard of a small number of the writers and even those I'd heard of, I hadn't previously read. Many of the writers are of retirement age or above, many of the events described date back by several decades to a time before the Wi-Fi and mobile phones, a time when some of the countries were very different than they are today, when travel was both more of a physical challenge but also sometimes less of a physical risk. The tales have wide geographic coverage - Africa, South America, plenty of Asia and even Australasia. There's even one quirky little story set in London. Several of the stories tell of the unexpected kindness of strangers, whilst others tell of just how weird those foreign folk can be. There are also refreshingly honest admissions that the desire to get off the beaten track and find yourself rather than going where everyone else wants to go can be a massive mistake. Sometimes nobody goes to that obscure little monastery not because it's in the middle of nowhere, but because there's sod-all to see when you get there and the monks won't appreciate your visit.
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VINE VOICEon 17 June 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing is a collection of 26 travelogue stories rather than the more familiar travel guides that the publisher is famous for.

Some well known names in (and out of) the travel world author the pages: Jan Morris, Simon Winchester and Pico Iyer and there's a particularly amusing tale from Danny Wallace who is dazzled by the kindness of his Czech fixer in Prague.

After a frosty start, he lets go of his inhibitions and allows his new found friend to take him out on the town, introduce him to friends, buy him food, even invite him to sleep on his sofa (despite Wallace's protests).

"These Czechs are alright" thinks Wallace, warmed by his experience. But the warmth soon goes cold. On the way to the airport, the fixer presents Wallace with a hefty bill, which not only covers the cost of all Wallace's meals and beer, but the cost of all the beer and food of everyone he met and even a charge for sleeping on the sofa!

Each story is just a few pages long, but topics are wide ranging; from adventures in the Ethiopian outback to Iraqi train journeys; from the hunt for Turkish tigers to somewhere you will never have heard of but may be closer to home than you realise: Kanasankatan.

For fans of travel writing, this book is a taster menu from which you can choose something more meaty if you find something you like. Showcasing a broad selection of writing styles and topics in one book, a short bio is given for each author, so you can easily track down more of the their writing if you wish.

Some are most definitely better than others, but overall, Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing is a good collection of some great (and a few not so great) travel stories and for fans of intrepid travellers' tales, this is recommended reading.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
`Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing' is a collection of stories and articles from the various Lonely Planet anthologies compiled by the founder of the company, Tony Wheeler. This book covers a wide range of travel experiences, be it beautiful descriptions of life up a Borneo river, the humour in an Ecuador wedding, Danny Wallace's hilarious exploits in Prague, examples of human kindness to a stranger in Morocco, the experience of being sick abroad and the compassion of strangers who help you on your way, gentle drunken brotherhood in south America or one magical night turtle watching on the Ascension islands; this book has it all and more. Some stories are better than others and a few stand out for their excellence and this is pretty standard for any collection of work, some authors style or experiences will resonate with you more than others. This would have benefited from some photography to illustrate the various destinations and exploits, but this is a minor point and these stories are so well described you can conjure up the images pretty well on your own. If you enjoy travel literature then this is a good collection, each article is short enough to enjoy at an odd moment and the various destinations and adventures are varied enough to hold you interest. The only problem is that it will re-ignite your wanderlust and make you want to get out there and hit the road, now where was that travel brochure?

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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VINE VOICEon 30 December 2009
Lonely Planet guide books have been infuriating and inspiring travellers in equal measure since the late nineties. While they can be, indeed have been, criticised for flippant, over casual descriptions and dismissals of whole countries in a few sentences they are also deservedly praised for the eye opening narratives and brave - or foolhardy - attempts to travel way beyond the tourist trail.
So it was with some trepidation that I approached this compendium of travel writing; 'best of' compilations too often end up being anything but and in the complex world of travel writing it can be even more subjective. With contributions from, among many others, Jan Morris, Danny Wallace, Tim Cahill and William Dalrymple I felt certain that the claim of the title would at least warrant some justification. By the time I had finished the final essay, Simon Winchester's wonderfully evocative 'Ascension In The Moonlight' the positive pieces had walloped the opposition by a decent rugby score. Indeed Winchester's other worldly account of an unscheduled trip to Ascension Island complete with its view across miles of unbroken ocean from the peak of its mountain proved to be, not only the icing on a very generous cake, but a true symbol of the whole Lonely Planet ethos.
In these penny pinching times of recession when foreign holidays are, for many, a distant dream it can be equally rewarding to visit the back roads of Thailand, the Tibetan monasteries of Mount Kailash or experience a lunar eclipse over Ascension Island among the colourful pages of this un put downable little book.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you enjoy the essays that you hear on the "From our own Correspondent" on BBC, then you will love this book.

This book is a selection of essays, most of which you can read in five or ten minutes, about the places and sights that you are, if you are like me, never likely to go to, but would love to enjoy...

The tales are of hardship, friendship and humour in the face of some of the roughest places on Earth, meeting some of the most interesting people imaginable.

If you have ever read the Fieldings Guide: The world's most dangerous places (The World's Most Dangerous Places: 5th Edition - also highly recommended), then you will already know the style of writing. Concise, perceptive and, above all, highly entertaining.

I highly recommend this book, especially as you can dip in an out very easily.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book contains an number of eclectic travellers' tales from around the world. At the most basic level it may provide guidance to the young or inexperienced traveller. At perhaps the same level it will make sound reading for the armchair traveller and justify their reasons for remaining in the armchair. For actual travellers of the world it provides a series of anecdotes which many will have experienced to one degree or another.

This is not a comprehensive travel guide. As such it is probably best suited to the would-be traveller. That said, it is amusing, surprising and sometimes striking to actual travellers whether on business or pleasure. it's a book to dip in to. Not essential reading but worthwhile all the same.

A good backdrop to the travel approach of Lonely Planet.
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VINE VOICEon 9 January 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a tasting menu of Lonely Planet's travel writing, short pieces and extracts to tempt you into buying full length volumes by the authors herein. The pieces here are all excellent, but they'll mostly be pretty familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in travel writing. I'd read about 80% of this before, either in the original form or in other compilation volumes, and I wouldn't even describe myself as particularly interested in travel writing. (Which does bring up a cavil: if LP do have the great archive of travel writing they claim, why do they reprint the same stories so often? This book shares no less than 4 pieces with a previous compilation 'By The Seat Of My Pants') So, a great introduction to the genre, if you're completely unfamiliar with it.
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
One of the best prescriptions for the winter chill is to put your feet up and read about far away places and excting experiences. Certainly it's cheaper and less dangerous!

I found this less uneven than many travel anthologies, and I was pleasantly surprised that it really was more about experiences than facts. Good writing, and sharp eyes, are the great advantage that guidebooks can offer us over websites - based on this, I think I'll be picking up a Lonely Planet Guide next time I head out of my comfort zone...
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VINE VOICEon 27 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Let the Lonely Planet team take you to places you've only ever dreamed of visiting! This book is an easy read, full of short essays about exotic locations and fascinating people which you can pick up and put down when you have spare time. A great book for reading before bed as you can get the whole essay in before you drift off. As with any book of mixed authors, you'll enjoy some more than others, but a nice collection all the same.
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