I enjoy reading travel writing, nearly as much as I enjoy the actual act of traveling. While perusing the travel section of NetGalley, I came across Ilan Stavans and Joshua Ellison's book Reclaiming Travel. The blurb on the book made it seem like an examination of how the world views travel and how to become a better traveler. My Interest= piqued. Thank you to Duke University Press Books for an advanced copy of Reclaiming Travel, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - In Reclaiming Travel. Stavans and Ellison examine a wide range of subjects related to travel. They start with travel in mythology and travel writing from early explorers. They look at travel from immigration and war, as a contrast to our contemporary leisure seeking travel. The book explores mapmaking, photography and the explosion of kitsch culture. The overall theme that ties the sections together, is a examination of what makes travel an art form? How does one go from being a tourist to being a traveler?
LIKE - I liked the scale in Reclaiming Travel. This short book spans a great number of topics and feels very inclusive of many of the most important areas relating to travel. My personal interest was primarily with the modern travel, especially theme parks and cruise lines. This is one of those books that is filled with interesting factoids and I kept pausing to share tidbits with my husband. For example, I had no idea that Paris was the world-wide top tourist destination. I was surprised at the scale of Chinese workers in the hospitality industry. I also enjoyed the section on photography. It's amazing how much digital photography and cell phones have shaped our culture and the way in which we capture vacation memories. I felt that there was a strong argument against our current need to photograph and document everything.
DISLIKE - I have two major complaints about Reclaiming Travel, both of which really hindered my enjoyment of this clearly well-researched book. First, the writing was too technical. It read like a text book, certainly not something that I would purchase at a bookstore. Maybe this was the intent? If I had not been reading this for a review, I likely would not have finished it. However, worse than the density factor, was the voice of the authors. They came across as very smug and quite honestly, the very question of tourist or traveler, is obnoxious. This attitude that was sprinkled throughout the book, made it difficult for me to respect their authority as experts in this field. It was very off-putting.
RECOMMEND - Although Reclaiming Travel does have plenty of fascinating chapters, overall, I cannot recommend this book for most people. It might be useful for academics in Sociology or History.