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VINE VOICEon 3 April 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This wonderful and varied collection of reminiscences by published writers is a joyful thing.

These "travel tales", all, mostly, share a nostalgic longing looking back to those travel adventures that may well have changed lives and have certainly affected the way that the contributors now look at life and are infinitely more interesting than the endless photo albums (now dropbox albums)dragged out to bore friends (not included in the trips).

The writers represented here are all of a certain creme, writers who can afford holidays but more importantly these guys can write; it is their tool, recalling interestingly the events from the world they have ventured out into whether it to a Polynesian arts festival in Tahiti, the World Cup in Cape Town, a Thoreauesque experience in a wrecked trailer to experience Shakespeare in the woods in uptown Nowhere,a witch's curse or a football match in Mexico

Any reader of this collection, and I do urge anybody to take this up and peruse, will find familiar stories of their own experiences ~ those holiday moments that stay with us forever and long after the event and are impossible ever to recapture. These moments are truly once only and need to be enjoyed for themselves; it is not important to report them.

In this collection the two standout memoires for me were Carol Birch's meditative sleep by an indoor lake in an Irish mine and Sophie Cunningham's moving moment of sharing a chocolate cake with a beggar in Calcutta. these are life-changing moments
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's a bit of a misnomer to describe this book as being written by 'great fiction writers' as the cover does. 'Great' implies that their greatness is widely acknowledged to some degree.

I'd never heard of Australian authors Steven Amsterdam or Mark Dapin, for example, though the latter has written for the Guardian as well as the Dubbo Weekender.
Setting this quibble aside, this is a collection of cracking writing. They may all write fiction, but they can also all do travel writing.

There's a wide range of styles throughout the stories. Frances Mayes' beautifully constructed 'Quetzal' reads like a construct for detective fiction; Lloyd Jones' 'On The Way Home' is little more than a snapshot of a single incident lasting a few seconds, but beautifully done.

There are familiar names and more familiar styles - the wonderful, witty Maryna Lewycka, the elegant, complex constructs of Keri Hulme. For those who love good travel writing this is a lovely treat, a real box of mixed delights, that may well lead you to some new fiction discoveries.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 23 April 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I generally enjoy travel writing and have, at times, found they have inspired me to visit places which I would not otherwise have thought about. I remember reading an excellent book Investment Biker: Around the World with Jim Rogers, many years ago. He wrote about Samarkand in Uzbekistan very positively and as a result we visited this fantastic destination.

These stories are quite short and average about 10 pages or so each. This is something of a double edged sword as the writer does not have time to develop their description of the place they are writing about in much detail. The tendency therefore seems to be that they describe a specific and unusual event that they witnessed or revisit a place that, perhaps they had enjoyed travelling to many years before. However, clearly with such short offerings there is not much scope for the author to get bogged down too much.

I found most of these short tales interesting, but I cannot say that I was particularly inspired to visit anywhere new as a result. However, where I had personally previously visited the country I did find it enjoyable to read about places which I already knew, Berlin being an example. There seemed to be an American bias with a number of stories of coming of age type travels of young Americans.

Lonely Planet have expanded the scope of their offerings of late over and above the classic travel guides on which they have built their reputation. Recent publications have included large, coffee table type books to relatively modest offerings like this particular one and to my mind these ventures have been of varying success. However, I did enjoy reading many of these stories, appropriately enough, whilst I was on a long plane flight.
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VINE VOICEon 2 February 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a collection of over 30 short true stories written by a range of travel authors, some of whom are very well known. Each story conjures up the sights, smells and experiences often with a salutory learning point for the author. Most tales are only a few pages long, just enough to pique the interest.

Whilst I can devour most books in a few days, I found myself able to only read one story at a time so that I could really savour the experience. This has reawoken my interest in travellers tales and I now have plenty of new authors to follow up. Highly recommended for anyone who loves to explore our world.
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on 11 May 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Better Than Fiction is a compendium of true travel stories write by famous fiction writers and published by Lonely Planet, the guide book company. In this book of 320 pages there are 32 tales, mostly brief, but extremely varied in location and type. It is rare in any collection of short stories (true or fictional) that I like all of the collection, but in this case I thought they were all of a good standard, although I did have some preferences over others.

Favourite contributions include Shooting Pompeii by DBC Pierre (author of Booker and Whitbread prize-winning novel Vernon God Little) about his return to Central Mexico, a place he had visited many times as a young man. The theme of returning is also in Tom Carson's (Gilligan's Wake) segment, entitled The Tin Can, when he returned to Berlin having spent time there in his childhood as the son of a US State Department employee. As you can see many of these stories aren't your typical traveller's tales but journeys these writers have taken.

Travel tales of the more conventional style are here, as evidenced by the piece by Marina Lewycka (A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian) who writes engagingly of travelling independently around Malawi with her daughter. Charles Finch (A Burial at Sea) writes about his time in Cape Town during the 2012 World Cup with some interesting observations of the international fans he met, and how some conformed (or otherwise) to their national stereotypes.

Steven Amsterdam (Things We Didn't See Coming) was affected by his anti-malarial drugs in Sulawesi and went a bit crazy, his amusing story is entitled Confessions of a Coconut-Soup Eater. Joe Yogerst (White Tiger) had me gripped with his tale of how he and his friends stood up to a bully and extortionist from the Sudanese military in The Scarface Express. Another favourite was Into Unknown Climes by Nikki Gemmell. Gemmell went to Antarctica, to the Australian base, on a journalistic assignment where she found and lost the love of her life. This inspired her novel Shiver. Gemmell is not alone in being one of the many authors that I have not heard of before, but will be the first one I look to read again.

Stories include tales set in India, China, Ireland, Solomon Islands, Saudi Arabia, USA, Tahiti, UK (West Sussex), Cuba, Argentina, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria and the fictional city of Hav. The themes vary but what makes it different is that the authors are not travel writers but fiction writers (although some have written non-fiction work in the past) so they approach their contributions differently, and I found their writing engaging as the wove their facts and experience into a story. Recommended to all fans of travel writing, and to those who may have not dabbled in that genre before.
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on 22 April 2013
Sold under the banner of Alexander McCall Smith etc but only 1 small story is his out of many worthy but less engaging authors.
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on 12 April 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I wish there was something positive I could say about this book as most reviewers here have done... I had high hopes as I enjoy reading about travel and I quite like short stories. This book contains 32 true short stories about the travel experience of famous authors. For me though it just doesn't work.

The general theme through the book is about special travel memories, and many involve re-visiting a place perhaps lived in as a child, or of some other significance. The stories are quite personal in that they share a special moment in the author's life but they really have no context. I didn't find myself smiling to myself relating to the various stories - I found myself getting more frustrated that each story seemed more dull than the previous one.

The problem for me is that this subject matter doesn't lend itself to such stories. The moment is too fleeting, there's no sense of who the author actually is, and however good an author they may be, I think it's quite different writing 400 pages of fiction to writing a 4-6 page "my best holiday memory".

Not that it really matters but I hadn't heard of most the authors so I find it difficult to accept the book's description of them as being famous (one of two I have read previously but the others are described as being shortlisted for a wide range of literary awards).

On reflection I did quite like the first story actually, so there is something positive. It's a shame I can't find more positives.
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on 16 April 2013
I particularly liked being introduced to the novel delights of Huaxi Watermill by Arnold Zable. The scenes transported me to an exotic location which I may never be able to visit in the flesh and the style was almost conversational.

This is true of many of the travel stories and part of the attraction for me was the narration in the first person, so that I felt I was living alongside the authors in their retelling of real travel experiences they found remarkable.

However, I was sometimes confused on finding that some contributors were unsure whether they were relating travel memorabilia or spinning fiction. Yes, it was wonderful to have all the different styles of writing but I wonder whether the editor's brief had been strong enough to ensure that there is a clear distinction between a travelogue, a series of diary entries or travel masquerading as fiction.

Even so, I wouldn't want to detract for a minute from the very real charm of many of the threads of experience drawn often so lovingly by writers who conveyed a sense of nostalgia and atmosphere.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The problem with this book is one that affects nearly all compilations of short stories and that is one a varied quality. I thoroughly enjoyed a good proportion of stories in this book whilst also finding a fair few disappointing. I suspect any reader would find the same although I'm positive we wouldn't agree on which the good stories where. This compilation features 32 different stories, all true and all involving travel from 32 different fiction authors. I have to admit that not many of the authors were well known to me but that may reflect more on me that the authors in question. The stories are all very short - mostly 8 sides or less which I found a perfect length for the nature of the stories. It may be a view inside San Quentin prison, a street football match in Mexico or driving through Malawi there is plenty to entertain here and even those stories I was less keen on had something to interest or recommend. A great book to take away on holiday or to read at home to get your feet itching.
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on 22 April 2013
Although amongst the many short travel tales in this book, there were a few nuggets, overall I was a bit disappointed with them. Indeed, some gave the impression of being dashed off without much thought.

Thats said, there were a few worthwhile ones and maybe that's all one can ask for in a compendium of such tales.
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