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Better Than Fiction: True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers

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- An exciting new anthology of travel literature - Features international authors, including Alexander McCall Smith, Joyce Carol Oates and DBC Pierre - Brings to life the idea that travel can inspire, entertain, enlighten and change lives


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- An exciting new anthology of travel literature - Features international authors, including Alexander McCall Smith, Joyce Carol Oates and DBC Pierre - Brings to life the idea that travel can inspire, entertain, enlighten and change lives

30 review for Better Than Fiction: True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carol Hislop

    Reading travel literature is one of my favourite things to do. Unfortunately, some authors seem to believe that the subject matter, I.e the location, makes up for poor writing skills. Imagine how pleased I was to find this book of true travel stories written by really good authors. I loved it and can't recommend it highly enough and it illustrates that the quality of writing is more important than a destination. Good writers can bring any subject to life.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Daren

    This book is a Lonely Planet collection of short stories - all travel related, and all by authors recognised as fiction writers. There are thirty two stories, some of the authors are well known to me, others I have never heard of. The authors are from varied places, but largely - UK, USA, Australia & NZ. The stories are set in varied places, and are varied in their complexity and intensity - some are more about emotion and situation, others are about the adventure, the travel and the This book is a Lonely Planet collection of short stories - all travel related, and all by authors recognised as fiction writers. There are thirty two stories, some of the authors are well known to me, others I have never heard of. The authors are from varied places, but largely - UK, USA, Australia & NZ. The stories are set in varied places, and are varied in their complexity and intensity - some are more about emotion and situation, others are about the adventure, the travel and the experience. Of the thirty odd stories, I would say 10 are excellent, and 10 were not for me. The rest sit in between. Those which are memorable having finished the book include Huaxi Watermill, by Arnold Zable; Adfrift in the Solomon Islands, by Mark Dapin; Confessions of a Coconut Soup Eater, by Steven Amsterdam; Sudan - the Scarface Express, by Joe Yogerst; The Fairbanks Shakespeare Camp, by Stefan Merril Block. 3 stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sadie

    I liked some of the stories, but felt they were more bogged down with emotion than about quirky travel gaffes or interesting encounters. A couple made me cry, which is a good sign that the story connected, but not the global romp one might hope to get.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Pomes

    The writing was good, the stories...some good, some not. Overall, not a book I would recommend buying. Borrow it from the library.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    Out of 32 stories, I really liked only 9. The rest were pretty good, not bad, just not that memorable nor good enough to make me want to buy this book. The ones I really liked were: Going South by Kurt Anderson Kind of Blue by Sophie Cunningham Huaxi Watermill by Arnold Zable Quetzal by Frances Mayes You, Me and the Sea by Steven Hall A Tango with Freud by Alexander McCall Smith The Thieves of Rome by M. J. Hyland An Alpine Escape by Aliya Whitley Who Wants a Girl? by Isabel Allende

  6. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    I picked this up from the new non-fiction shelf at my library-- fully expecting to read a few tales but not ALL of them while I waited for books on hold to arrive. Instead, I read them all. True, some are better than others but I made note of at least six authors I'd like to learn more about and I admired the bravery of many more. This was a vicarious trip around the world.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    It wasn’t. Better than fiction, that is. I was disappointed in this collection of travel stories. There were a few I really liked (especially Bryce Courtenay’s “Getting Travel Dirt Under Your Fingernails” as well as Cunningham’s “Kind of Blue,” Finch’s “A Small World After All,” and Kelman’s “Before the Monsoon”), but overall, there just wasn’t enough depth to each story for me. There was also a bit too much of the Westerner using locals as props for a story, which bothered me a lot (“Chasing It wasn’t. Better than fiction, that is.😉 I was disappointed in this collection of travel stories. There were a few I really liked (especially Bryce Courtenay’s “Getting Travel Dirt Under Your Fingernails” as well as Cunningham’s “Kind of Blue,” Finch’s “A Small World After All,” and Kelman’s “Before the Monsoon”), but overall, there just wasn’t enough depth to each story for me. There was also a bit too much of the Westerner using locals as props for a story, which bothered me a lot (“Chasing Missionaries” in particular). I was looking for more reflection, more exploration of how travel can change us and deepen our perception of the world. Travel so often does that for me, and I missed that depth in this collection.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    There were a few thoughtful and compelling stories, but most of it was shallow and full of humble-bragging. (I'm reminded again of how often traveling/the ability to travel is a status symbol.) I really liked the story about the sad guy saving a beached shark in the rain.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    What a great collection.Travel stories by great writers. What more could you ask for? I live vicariously through travel essays and I love them. It is fascinating for me to learn about another culture, even if it is second-hand, plus I love reading about how that experience changes the writer. Most of the time, I'm jealous of the person's experience and opportunities, but there are some stories in here that make me think, "Have you lost your frickin' mind?!" [Sudan: The Scarface Express by Joe What a great collection.Travel stories by great writers. What more could you ask for? I live vicariously through travel essays and I love them. It is fascinating for me to learn about another culture, even if it is second-hand, plus I love reading about how that experience changes the writer. Most of the time, I'm jealous of the person's experience and opportunities, but there are some stories in here that make me think, "Have you lost your frickin' mind?!" [Sudan: The Scarface Express by Joe Yogerst] I will caveat that by saying, I am not someone who does extreme anything. Not that I don't like adventure or trying something new. I just prefer living instead of walking the razor's edge of sanity and common sense. Anyway, great book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karen!

    I just. No. You guys! You made it sound so good. And then it wasn't. At all. There are only a handful of good or decent stories. The others are anecdotes that either lack structure or make too much of nothing or self-aggrandize the author. I am so disappointed.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Iain Hamill

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Maybe all the more so as I picked it up as a free book at a popular coffee shop! Inspiring and well written.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    Like any book of short stories some were stronger than others, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Fournier

    An interesting collection of non-fiction travel stories by mostly fiction authors. I did not enjoy this collection as much as A Moveable Feast: Life-Changing Food Adventures Around the World but still enjoyed it. What's great about these collections is that they are like a sampler platter of interesting writers and people and often I make note of names/books to read in the future. Particularly liked "Confessions of a Coconut-Soup Eater", "Arriving in Luxembourg" and "You, Me and the Sea".

  14. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This is the perfect book to read over an extended period of time. Read a few chapters - or just 1 - put it down and come back to it whenever! Authors whose fiction I've never experienced as well as authors I'm familiar with writing about their travel experiences . . . what could be better?!?!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Clausen

    A great selection of all sorts of non fiction travel stories from fiction writers. Many of these will put you right on the streets of Mumbai, an Antarctic base or some other exotic place.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Vera Marie

    In his introduction to Better Than Fiction True Travel Tales From Great Fiction Writers, Don George says that despite owning a collection of guidebooks, two novels on Greece, “..proved to be the best guides of all, immersive, enlightening introductions to the landscape, people, and culture I was discovering….As I have learned over and over in my wanderings, some of the best travel writing is fictional.” He certainly will get no argument here. The book, Better than Fiction, a collection of 30+ In his introduction to Better Than Fiction True Travel Tales From Great Fiction Writers, Don George says that despite owning a collection of guidebooks, two novels on Greece, “..proved to be the best guides of all, immersive, enlightening introductions to the landscape, people, and culture I was discovering….As I have learned over and over in my wanderings, some of the best travel writing is fictional.” He certainly will get no argument here. The book, Better than Fiction, a collection of 30+ travel experiences from fiction writers, will introduce you to the writing style of a crowd of writers.The collection includes authors from many countries, so you are almost guaranteed to hear a voice that is new to you. The best of the essays are very personal experiences with meticulous description of place. Two stories in this book are worth the entire price and then some. Isabel Allende, whose novels depict locations with almost startling clarity, writes about a trip to India that spurred her to start a foundation to help young women and girls. Her story squeezed my heart. The second entry in Better than Fiction that I truly loved was Suzanne Joinson’s Chasing Missionaries. She relates a research trip to Kashgar , a rebellious section of western China, looking for background for A Lady Cyclist s Guide to Kashgar. She has 2nd thoughts about leaving her baby behind with her husband when riots break out. Foreigners are supposed to leave. She stays longer than she should. The story is gripping and her telling of it skillfully underplayed. First thing you know, you will succumb to the lure of these masterful writers and go off to explore the corners of the world they so enticingly recreate. This review is part of one I wrote at A Traveler's Library, read the entire review here.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    A book of 32 travel stories written by published (some renown) authors. The places, time periods, and topics vary greatly. There are many by Australian authors featured, which introduced me to many I didn't know. Some stories were poignant, as with Isabel Allende's "Who Wants a Girl?" set in India. Others were disturbing, funny, or inspirational. Quotes: from Kind of Blue by Sophie Cunningham ….now I see that learning is just a gradual revelation of how deep our ignorance really is. To give up to A book of 32 travel stories written by published (some renown) authors. The places, time periods, and topics vary greatly. There are many by Australian authors featured, which introduced me to many I didn't know. Some stories were poignant, as with Isabel Allende's "Who Wants a Girl?" set in India. Others were disturbing, funny, or inspirational. Quotes: from Kind of Blue by Sophie Cunningham ….now I see that learning is just a gradual revelation of how deep our ignorance really is. To give up to not knowing, to be uncertain of the name of things: that space is the place where possibility lives and in my mind it shimmers bright as a blue summer sky. from "A Small World After All" by Charles Finch I guess the lesson is you can’t go everywhere. You should still go everywhere you can. An Alpine Escape by Aliya Whiteley But a random line on a map took us to a place where we could find the courage we needed. And I’ve begun to understand the purpose of travel; a few days of seeing the world in a different way gives us the confidence to face whatever waits for us at home. Even mountains. Read this for the White Lake Township Library's reading challenge: read a book of essays. It did make me want to go somewhere soon!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    A great travel book by a singular author can offer one a great vacation from home. But this mixed bag didn't have the same effect on me as would a singular vision in which the author's life might change, the writer's perspective of the world might be illuminated (and hopefully for the better). Charles Finch, one of the author's represented here among these stories, sums travel up best for me: "I guess the lesson is you can't go everywhere. But you should still go where you can." I so that I'm A great travel book by a singular author can offer one a great vacation from home. But this mixed bag didn't have the same effect on me as would a singular vision in which the author's life might change, the writer's perspective of the world might be illuminated (and hopefully for the better). Charles Finch, one of the author's represented here among these stories, sums travel up best for me: "I guess the lesson is you can't go everywhere. But you should still go where you can." I so that I'm always ready, I keep a well-stocked back-pack in the closet by the front door. I picked up that habit years ago when I lived in California where one should always be "earthquake-prepared". Now I am always travel-prepared and it's a nice feeling to know I'm ready to go!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Some lovely stories in here. Quite good for a work book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    Some of the travel tales were a pure pleasure to read, others were mediocre.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Very inconsistent but has a few gems. Many are not stories so much as anecdotes. My favorites were Joyce Carol Oates, DBC Pierre, and Frances Mayes.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    to find - thanks for the hattip Renee :O)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Isabel (kittiwake)

    The game ended as sunset approached and church bells struck seven. I'm pretty sure we didn't play for a regulation 90 minutes. The thin air at seven-thousand-feet-plus was rough on us boys from the low plains. And we lost decisively – Mexico City 5 (I think), Omaha 2 – but we scored, twice, playing their national pastime on their street. We were breathless, sweaty, filthy, bloody, bruised and totally, deeply, existentially gratified. I obtained this book as a downloadable freebie from a card I The game ended as sunset approached and church bells struck seven. I'm pretty sure we didn't play for a regulation 90 minutes. The thin air at seven-thousand-feet-plus was rough on us boys from the low plains. And we lost decisively – Mexico City 5 (I think), Omaha 2 – but we scored, twice, playing their national pastime on their street. We were breathless, sweaty, filthy, bloody, bruised and totally, deeply, existentially gratified. I obtained this book as a downloadable freebie from a card I picked up in Starbucks freebie, and then it stayed in iBooks on my iPad for a long time, as I prefer to read ebooks on my Kindle. Finally, however, I was challenged to read and review for the Go Review That Book! group, and I decide to read it on holiday this summer. Lonely Planet's decision to ask fiction writers to contribute non-fiction travel tales to a book has worked out really well, and I found this book so much better than I had expected! I was hooked from the very first story, a wonderfully nostalgic tale of a road trip to Mexico with a group of friends the summer between school and college, during which they made an unexpected connection with the locals after giving a boy a lift. There are stories that take place in all corners of the world, ranging across every continent, including Antarctica, and even one place that has never existed. There are encounters with witches and beggars, with criminals in and outside prison, and memories of trips taken long ago with former friends and lovers. There may have been the odd story that didn't resonate with me, but the vast majority did, and I will end with another of my favourites, a story of a day spent exploring an old mine in Ireland, easily accessible then but long ago blocked off by barbed wire. I saw light ahead and went towards it. It was falling from up high onto a rock wall, a bright triangular patch of sunlight that threw the jags of rock into high relief. I turned off the flashlight and approached with awe. A green cave landscape was illuminated, a copper lake of turquoise water that glinted in the sunshine, a small shaly beach, a far-flung outcrop of rock, almost white in the glare. You could get to the outcrop by going round the side and crouching low where the rock hung out over the water, but the ground there was scree-like and sloping and the water looked deep. I was underneath one of the big open shafts. The walls glittered. The water flowed out of the lake, round the rock and away down a channel about three feet across, meandering towards a grand arched darkness in the distance. I'm bad at judging distances, but you could have swum in the lake, rowed a boat.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura Segala

    This is a widely varied collection of true stories about travel, not necessarily tourism-oriented. Some of the authors were living in another country for work, or were traveling short-term on work-assignments. Joyce Carol Oates shares a story about a tour of the notorious San Quentin Prison, a story which didn't quite strike me as a "travel tale." Some of the stories are more interesting than others. I found the book to be good bed-time reading because it wasn't a page-turner that kept me awake; This is a widely varied collection of true stories about travel, not necessarily tourism-oriented. Some of the authors were living in another country for work, or were traveling short-term on work-assignments. Joyce Carol Oates shares a story about a tour of the notorious San Quentin Prison, a story which didn't quite strike me as a "travel tale." Some of the stories are more interesting than others. I found the book to be good bed-time reading because it wasn't a page-turner that kept me awake; rather the stories were just interesting enough to help me fall asleep while imagining life in other countries.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dave Cave

    32 short travel stories by fiction writers. The concept sounded good, everyone has at least on good travel adventure and fiction writers would have the ability to bring such adventures back to life. I was wrong. Even though some stories are colourful descriptions of cultural experiences, there are too many mundane and pointless stories about America that barely constitute travel. Small minded people that think moving house (4) is a travel story. The book misses the point and isn't worth the paper 32 short travel stories by fiction writers. The concept sounded good, everyone has at least on good travel adventure and fiction writers would have the ability to bring such adventures back to life. I was wrong. Even though some stories are colourful descriptions of cultural experiences, there are too many mundane and pointless stories about America that barely constitute travel. Small minded people that think moving house (4) is a travel story. The book misses the point and isn't worth the paper written. Take the money you'd waste on this, buy a cheap flight, make your own story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Didn't want this one to end! Travel stories by great writers... several of them so good that I'll be looking up their fiction works. Stories ranging from Antartica to the Artic, and South Africa (during the World Cup - probably my favourite story) to the Solomon Islands. Some are funny, some are thoughtful, many are surprising. What's not to like?! :)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maha Abed

    Filled with travel stories by a variety of authors, some boring, some heartwarming, others moving. A great little book if you enjoy travel writing and don’t want to commit to toiling through an entire novel during a busy stage of your life.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Some of these were great, some not so much.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Megan Mischinski

    Considerably underwhelming read...I only found a handful of the stories to be worthwhile.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ann Fisher

    I'm always a sucker for these travel anthologies, and this one is better than most. It introduced me to several new authors, which is always a bonus.

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