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.
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY REVIEW
As a travel writer myself, I enjoy reading this series. The stories are intriguing and always very well written.