I’m always interested to pick up the latest copy of the annual America’s Best Travel Writing, and 2015’s edition didn’t not disappoint me. As is typical of almost any collection of writing by different authors on different topics, this was a mixed bag, but the proportion of good to bad was great this year (as was the proportion of male/female writers).
This edition was nice and quite chunky, and included topics ranging from the huge music festival that used to occur each year in Timbuktu* to Lawrence of Arabia to skiing in North Korea, and as each article had been taken from a blog, magazine or other piece of journalism, most were fairly readable (length-wise) just before bedtime. (Reading just before going to sleep is a new habit that I’m working on with mixed results so far. I do enjoy it though even if I do fall asleep rather quickly sometimes.) I also really enjoyed the wide range of topics which fit perfectly with my flea-sized attention span that has sprung up this year. Plus, I got to arm-chair travel and learned a lot about places and topics that I didn’t know that I wasn’t interested in, and that’s always a bit of a plus, isn’t it?
The success of each “America’s Best…” volume seems to be inextricably linked with whoever is that year’s guest editor, and this year’s editorial selection was Andrew McCarthy (he of “The Breakfast Club” movie fame). In the years since that movie came out, McCarthy has worked diligently to be a good travel writer and legitimately won “Travel Writer of the Year” from the American Society of Travel Writers one year. I haven’t read any of his writing though, but he seems to have earned his accolades honestly by doing the trade.
So, this was a good solid read which fit in perfectly with my current monkey mind so I enjoyed it. If you haven’t tried any of the book series (and it’s not just travel writing but also includes volumes on short stories, science and nature writing etc.), then I recommend them for when you’re having difficulty concentrating.
This 2015 volume is also the first in quite a while that includes a decent number of female travel writers: 9/24 which is still not parity, but compared with earlier editions is a good showing. (See here for 2000 [Bill Bryson, ed.] and 2011 [with Sloane Crosley (ed.)]).
The America’s Best Travel Writing for each year is one in the series that I buy quite regularly as it usually has high quality writing and selections inside it. I don’t think it would really matter that much which year you bought, but it helps to match the guest editor with your own personal interests as I think it’s more enjoyable that way. (Or at least you have a higher chance of getting writing that is more suited to your own preferences, perhaps.) So, be prepared to dust off the ol “One Click” button or whatever it’s called wherever you go.
Good read and allowed me to travel to a wide variety of countries whilst happily ensconced in my reading chair.
- One of my old school friends used to be a boarder at my old school because her family lived in Timbuktu which always impressed me deeply. 🙂