Review: The Best American Travel Writing 2013

I’m an avid reader, but while I love the concept of nonfiction books, I don’t always enjoy reading nonfiction that is book-length. Enter magazines. Every month I feast my eyes on the new issue of National Geographic magazine. I am rarely disappointed by the fare, both visually and literary. But the stories I love most are always the ones that pick you up and transport you to another place. From remote dives into ancient caves in Mexico to hard-hitting exposes about the plight of people living in war-torn Nigeria, I’ve been many places through the pages of the National Geographic magazine.

The Best American Travel Writing 2013

The Best American Travel Writing 2013

But the pages of NGM are only so many and I’m always hungry for more. This is where my friends at NetGalley came in again. Through their service, I got to read the top entertaining, adventurous and sometimes terrifying travel tales of 2013. The Best American Travel Writing 2013 (edited by Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat, Pray, Love infamy) is now out officially, so I though I’d share some of my thoughts and tell you which stories you just can’t miss. The beauty of an anthology is that it allows readers to sample a wide array of authors, styles and subject-matter that all, somehow, play in to a particular theme. While Gilbert, the editor who was tasked with choosing the stories that made it into the final published book, has gotten some flak for her travel story (just Google “Eat, Pray, Love” AND “backlash” to see for yourself), she does have impeccable taste in writing. Some anthologies leave me happy for the few good tales and annoyed I had to slog through so much garbage to get to them. This anthology was not the case. Every story had me invested within the first couple pages (a necessity in a short story) and were all incredible in their own way. My favorites were “The Bull Passes Through” by Kevin Chroust (from The Morning News), “Blot Out” by Colleen Kinder (from Creative Nonfiction), “Dentists Without Borders” by David Sedaris (from The New Yorker), “Vietnam’s Bowl of Secrets” by David Farley (from Afar), and “Pirate City” by Rich Cohen (from The Paris Review). And here’s my favorite passage (of many!):

“You can pretend you’re in a tunnel. You can make believe you have on blinders. You can stare 100 yards in the distance at a random point. You can walk with urgency or purpose. You can look prickly or preoccupied. You can wear an iPod. You can make a cell phone call. You can fake a cell phone call. You can write a text message to no one. These are the ways foreign women get do the streets in Cairo.” From Blot Out, by Colleen Kinder

Good, right? And there’s more where that one came from. So go pick it up!

Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the preview read.

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