My brother gave me this book years ago, long before I'd understood that Susan Orlean was and should always be a household name. Then I saw her speak at the 2011 Miami Book Fair International for the debut of "Rin Tin Tin" and understood still further why she is something special. It was definitely time to finally read this book of essays.
Watching Susan Orlean speak is the same thing as reading her essays. This is remarkable because I have always held to the tenet that those who can write well are those who cannot speak well, and vice versa. Her connection with language must be such that what she thinks comes out equally well if she's telling you in person or via a book. In my opinion, this hints at a highly organized mind, or at least one where the lobes are more connected than usual.
Some of these stories are bland. They don't grab you by the seat of your pants and they don't make you want to meet the subjects. (The hairdresser, the fan-shop guy, to name a couple.) But the others? Personality simply lifts off the page and becomes a full-fleshed person in front you, warts and all. I want to meet all the surfer girls on Maui, learn about the Ottoman Empire from the preeminent tennis mom of Bulgaria, hug Tiffany, and I definitely want to ride in a car with Jean Jennings. So will you.