Tim Cahill writes in his introduction to The Best American Travel Writing 2006, "'Story' is the essence of the travel essay. Stories are the way we organize the chaos in our lives, orchestrate voluminous factual material, andif we are very goodshed some light on the human condition." Here are twenty-six pieces that showcase the best travel writing from 2005, filled with "keen observations that transform ordinary journeys into extraordinary ones" (Library Journal).
Mark Jenkins journeys into a forgotten valley in Afghanistan, Kevin Fedarko takes a wild ride through the rapids of the Grand Canyon, and Christopher Solomon reports on the newest fad to hit South Korea: downhill skiing. For David Sedaris, a seemingly routine domestic flight is cause for a witty rumination on modern airline travel. Alain de Botton describes the discreet charms of Zurich, and Ian Frazier recalls leaving the small Midwestern town he called home. Michael Paterniti gives a touching portrait of the world's tallest maneight and a half feet and growing, while P.J. O'Rourke visits an airplane manufacturer to see firsthand how the French make the world's biggest passenger plane. George Saunders is dazzled by a trip to the "Vegas of the Middle East," Rolf Potts takes on tantric yoga for dilettantes, and Sean Flynn documents a seedier side of travelthe newest hotspot in the international sex trade.
Culled from a wide variety of publications, these stories, as Cahill writes, all "touched me in one way or another, changed an attitude, made me laugh aloud, or provided fuel for my dreams. I wish the reader similar joys."
Declares Cahill (Jaguars Ripped My Flesh) in his introduction to the seventh edition of Houghton's annual collection, "Story is the essence of the travel essay." So perhaps it's no surprise to see several contributions from writers with literary reputations. Gary Shteyngart revisits his native St. Petersburg for the holidays; George Saunders takes a surreal journey through Dubai; and Alain de Botton explains why he loves "boring and bourgeois" Zurich so much. But more traditional travel writers make their presence felt as well. Outside columnist Mark Jenkins hikes across the steppes from Afghanistan into China; in another article from that magazine, Michael Behar finds himself getting shot at by natives in the rain forests of West Papua. Airplanes come in for a lot of ribbing: P.J. O'Rourke jokes his way through a sneak peek at the jumbo-sized Airbus A380, while David Sedaris bears the resentment of his seatmate on a crowded flight after refusing to switch places with her husband. In a charming touch, the anthology begins and ends with stories about food: Chitrita Banerji's reflections about a Calcutta wedding feast are book-ended by Calvin Trillin's marvelous New Yorker piece about spending a week in Ecuador indulging his love for "thick and hearty" fanesca soup, a perfect mix of exotic locale and elegant prose. (Oct. 11) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.