The Best American Travel Writing, 2000, 2001, 2002

by ExperiencePlus! - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Best American Travel Writing, 2000, 2001, 2002

The Best in American Travel Writing

Each year a "guest" editor reviews and selects the "best" travel writing from hundreds of submissions published in the U.S. during that calendar year. Bill Bryson edited the year 2000 volume, Paul Theroux the 2001 volume and Frances Mayes is editing the 2002 volume (which comes out in hardback this month). The series editor, Jason Wilson, solicits submissions from editors and writers across the country. Apparently they receive hundreds. From these submissions the guest editor selects twenty-five or so for inclusion in this volume. The articles are new pieces, not excerpts from previously published books. They were recently published in monthly or weekly magazines or newspapers.


As you would expect, the selections range far and wide and include many familiar names but not always those you might associate with "travel writing:" Salmon Rushdie, Gretel Ehrlich, and Russel Banks, to name a few. Others are more predictable: Tim Cahill with some of his work from Outside Magazine or David Quammen, also from Outside.


Often the inclusions will be about a place you might be preparing to travel to. The 2000 volume, for example, had an article entitled "Lard is Good for You" by Alden Jones, about local food and diet in Costa Rica (The article isn’t exactly flattering about Costa Rican food but it has an interesting cultural perspective!) Join us on tour and we’ll leave the lard out! Click here for more information about our tours in Costa Rica. Others will give you a perspective on places you’ve never dreamed of going as in William Vollmann’s "The Very Short History of Nunavut," the Arctic homeland of the Innuit which was recently granted a level of autonomy by the Canadians.


The one thing that this series gives you, though, is great, current travel writing by some of the best in the business. Where do they come from? Not surprisingly many are from the New Yorker, Outside Magazine, Harper’s and The Atlantic Monthly. Even the newcomers on the block, National Geographic Traveler and National Geographic Adventure are well represented as are the more glitzy travel magazines like Condé Naste Traveler, Islands or Travel and Leisure. But would you have looked for good travel writing in the Coffee Journal or Sports Illustrated? That’s the great thing about this series, they do the looking for you and they’ve come up with a great collection of travel writing.


Great travel writing is about place and about life experience. It’s about traveling, thinking, reflecting and observing the world around you; it’s about the journey, not the arrival. Don’t expect these writers to tell you everything about the places they visit. Thank goodness, that’s not their objective. The objective of any good travel writing, just as with any piece of literature, is to teach you about yourself and the human experience. In the process, if these writers can entertain you and inspire you to head out again after the long winter recess, then they’ve done their job.