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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
Editors Bill Bryson and Jason Wilson have collected the cream of the American travel writing crop in the first anthology of a new series. In an effort to represent the full spectrum of travel writing, the editors have juxtaposed essays by well-known authors such as Dave Eggers, David Halberstam, and P. J. O'Rourke with talented up-and-coming new writers. The result is a collection that opens a window to the world, with each essay expressing a unique perspective on travel and culture. As a whole, this first edition of The Best American Travel Writing foreshadows an exciting future for the series, and for American travel writing.
One of the most appealing aspects of travel essay collections is the promise of a feast of experiences in every corner of the globe. The Best American Travel Writing allows readers to sample life in Zanzibar, Thailand, Bhutan, Russia, and many other destinations. In Bill Buford's engaging "Lions and Tigers and Bears," readers can even get a glimpse of life in New York's famous Central Park, as the author recounts his clandestine sleepover in the park's North Meadow. Another essay that packs plenty of laughs is Dave Eggers's "Hitchhiker's Cuba," a rollicking narrative in which the author's car becomes public transportation for Cubans met along the coast road outside Havana. The most unforgettable essays in the collection, however, are those that shuttle readers into the heart of danger. The hair-raising "From the Wonderful People Who Brought You the Killing Fields" by Patrick Symmes chronicles the author's quest to interview remaining members of the notorious Khmer Rouge in their stronghold in the mountains of Cambodia. In "The Last Safari," veteran safari leader Mark Ross describes a grueling seven-hour march toward the Ugandan border with terrorists holding his tour group at gunpoint.
Guest editor Bill Bryson's introduction gives an excellent historical overview of travel writing both at home and abroad, and then, with typical Bryson humor, goes on to illuminate his very first travel experiences: "I had never seen a zebra crossing before, never seen a tram, never seen an unsliced loaf of bread..." As his fans know, Bryson has come a long way since those days, but he has retained his sense of wonder. That perspective, in which the unknown, the exotic, and the unfamiliar are the sources of immeasurable riches, resonates in all of the essays in The Best American Travel Writing.