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33+ Works 4,640 Members 89 Reviews 13 Favorited

About the Author

Pico Iyer was born in Oxford, England to Indian parents, who immigrated to California in 1957. He received a B.A. and M.A. from Oxford University and a second masters degree from Harvard University. From 1982 to 1985, he was a writer for Time magazine. Following a leave of absence to visit Asia, show more Iyer wrote Video Nights in Katmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East. In 1986 he returned to Time as a contributor. He also contributes regularly to Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Pico Iyer has written several other travel books including The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto; Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places in the World; and Tropical Classical: Essays from Several Directions. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Derek Shapton

Works by Pico Iyer

The Best American Travel Writing 2004 (2004) — Editor — 182 copies
Abandon (2003) 182 copies
The Man Within My Head (2012) 181 copies
Cuba and the Night: A Novel (1995) 138 copies

Associated Works

Siddhartha (1945) — Foreword, some editions — 27,597 copies
The English Patient (1992) — Introduction, some editions — 11,493 copies
The Year of the Hare (1989) — Foreword, some editions — 1,575 copies
Rereadings (2005) — Contributor — 674 copies
The Gate (1910) — Introduction, some editions — 422 copies
The Best American Travel Writing 2001 (2001) — Contributor — 236 copies
The Best American Essays 2011 (2011) — Contributor — 224 copies
The Best American Travel Writing 2006 (2006) — Contributor — 205 copies
The Inland Sea (1971) — Introduction — 201 copies
The Kindness of Strangers (2003) — Contributor — 200 copies
By the Seat of My Pants (2005) — Contributor — 141 copies
Japan: True Stories of Life on the Road (1998) — Contributor — 124 copies
Tales from Nowhere (2006) — Contributor — 124 copies
Granta 127: Japan (2014) — Contributor — 124 copies
The Best American Travel Writing 2012 (2012) — Contributor — 114 copies
The Best American Travel Writing 2016 (2016) — Contributor — 97 copies
The Best American Spiritual Writing 2008 (2008) — Contributor — 84 copies
Letter to a Stranger: Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us (2021) — Contributor — 60 copies
My California: Journeys By Great Writers (2004) — Introduction — 54 copies
The Best Spiritual Writing 2012 (2011) — Contributor — 27 copies
The Kiss: Intimacies from Writers (2018) — Contributor — 22 copies
Himalayan Odyssey (2002) — Introduction, some editions — 17 copies
Night: A Literary Companion (2009) — Contributor — 8 copies
Dao de Jing (graphic novel) (2020) — Foreword — 8 copies
Complete Studio Albums Collection (2011) — Liner notes — 6 copies


1001 (95) 1001 books (105) 20th century (223) anthology (198) Asia (117) biography (109) books (106) books about books (215) Buddha (211) Buddhism (1,195) classic (361) classics (421) ebook (123) essays (570) fiction (2,600) Finland (127) German (370) German literature (493) Germany (122) Hesse (99) historical fiction (160) India (404) Japan (351) Kindle (106) literature (656) memoir (151) Nobel Prize (106) non-fiction (720) novel (492) own (122) philosophy (877) read (367) religion (734) Roman (107) spiritual (103) spirituality (487) to-read (1,565) translation (120) travel (1,026) unread (126)

Common Knowledge



I've always enjoyed a good travel memoir, and I read some of Pico Iyer's books when I was younger, but it's been a while since I've picked one up. This one is intriguing because it's a little more intentional than the typical travel memoir -- Iyer is specifically in search of sites of great spiritual significance. I didn't get the sense that he is exploring his own spirituality here, though I suppose one wouldn't undertake such an enterprise without some consciousness of that. He visits sites in India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Israel, even North Korea, and makes observations about spiritual practices and how they are woven into the general social fabric of those places. He is a good writer and a good traveler, and this is an intellectual approach to these journeys. In the end, he seems to awake spiritually in spite of himself, realizing after visiting Sarnath, one of the holiest sites in India: "I decided that I would no longer seek out holy places in this city of temples; I would just let life come to me in all its happy confusion and find the holiness in that." This struck me as the words of a person who had found peace. Words to live by.… (more)
karenchase | 2 other reviews | Aug 12, 2023 |
This is another book I read years ago, and now cannot recall what it was like.
mykl-s | 3 other reviews | Jul 24, 2023 |
This relatively short book has something to surprise on nearly every page. It's one of those unusual books that starts out, as so many travel books do, as merely interesting, and turns into something much deeper by the end. You could call it a collection of essays on a theme, and certainly there's no indication that the places Iyer visited were visited recently or in the order presented, although you could read the book thinking that. What we have here, in part, is a work by a man who has spent decades traveling and is no longer content to simply report on wonderful and unusual destinations. Instead, he's looking deeper, finding new connections between the people and cultures he's encountering and humanity at large, and especially, the connections between humanity at large and he himself. Although he never says so outright, it's clear that he's feeling the approaching shadow of mortality and is no longer content to merely marvel at the surface of things, or to find patterns only a few levels deep. Hence the subtitle of the book, "In Search of Paradise." Not only are we individuals fated to fade away, but so are our cultures. What really, beneath all the bright diversity of people and places, undergirds this vast web called humanity?

Not that this book is at all difficult to read, or that it can't be experienced as travelogue. But late in the book, when Iyer happens to mention that he has spent much time with the Dalai Lama, traveling in his company on several occasions, I wasn't as surprised as I might have been.

Nevertheless I do recommend the book to those who are not looking for something deep; that's how I discovered it. I read the opening pages about Iyer getting off the plane in Tehran and liked his voice and didn't expect anything other than a fresh perspective on overlooked or misrepresented places. The full list of places visited and discussed, in addition to Iran, are North Korea; Kashmir; Broome, in Western Australia; Jerusalem; Ladakh, on the border of India and Tibet; Sri Lanka; Gokurabashi, Japan, an ancient cemetery near Osaka; and Varanasi. Although that last section is only 24 pages long, it let me imagine the place so vividly that my "memory" of it is as strong as my memory of places I've actually visited!

Highly recommended, whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not.
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john.cooper | 2 other reviews | Mar 24, 2023 |



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