Monday, November 27, 2006

Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World - Pico Iyer

The Basics: Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World, Pico Iyer, 1993, 190 pages, paperback

How I found it: Randomly browsing the travel section of my favourite Vancouver used bookstore, Bibliophile.

What's it about?: This a series of essays about countries that Iyer feels are "falling off the map". He has various reasons for classifying each of these countries, and generally I agree with him. The countries, or "lonely places", covered here are: North Korea, Argentina, Cuba, Iceland, Bhutan, Vietnam, Paraguay, and Australia. Each of the essays are an indepth look at what it means to spend time in that country, each people's outlook on the world, and a bit about the author's time there. In general though, Iyer uses great imagery to transport you there, understand how the people think, etc. These are less travel stories and more literary snapshots of countries.

Did I like it?: I quite like short prose, and essays like this since I think the format lends itself really well to bed time reading. I really liked Iyer's style of writing - I felt as if he had transported me to the place he was describing. Also, he really made me want to find out more about some of the countries and he made me want to visit Iceland even more than I already wanted to. My only complaint is that I didn't get the justification for labelling a place as "lonely place" in some instances.

Will you like?: This is some very well-written travel literature. It's not typical travel literature since it doesn't follow a journey and is not linear or plot-driven though, so unless you are okay with that, you might not like the book. However, if you ever have wondered about what life is like in North Korea, why Paraguay is so crazy or why people in Iceland are so uninhibited, this would be a good read.

But don't take my word for it: Mostly good reader reviews from, a review from a blog called FOJAZZ, Iyer's wikipedia entry,

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