October 21, 2019

About Michael Shapiro

ms-suit-mugMichael Shapiro is a writer, photographer, editor and interviewer whose work appears in national magazines and metropolitan newspapers. He’s the author of A Sense of Place and specializes in travel and entertainment, but his interests range far and wide — since 2011 he’s been the gambling columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Shapiro’s story about rafting through the Grand Canyon in the wake of John Wesley Powell’s first descent is in The Best Travel Writing 2011. His essay, “The Longest Day” appears in The Best Travel Writing 2005.

His feature about Jan Morris’s Wales was the May 2006 cover story for National Geographic Traveler. Shapiro has written about Kauai for Islands magazine and interviewed Studs Terkel for The Sun, a literary journal. His story and photos about Mongolia’s Nadaam festival ran in the Washington Post’s travel section.

A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration (Travelers’ Tales) is his award-winning collection of interviews with Bill Bryson, Frances Mayes, Paul Theroux, Peter Matthiessen, Tim Cahill, Jan Morris, Pico Iyer, Isabel Allende, Simon Winchester, and many others.

Shapiro recently turned to filmmaking, co-directing and producing the 2017 documentary, Junkyard Alchemist, about Patrick Amiot who turns junk into art, which premiered with two sold-out showings at the 2017 Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival.

In 2016, he won the Explore Canada Award of Excellence for his story about Vancouver’s leadership of the sustainable seafood movement. In 2007, he won the Bedford Pace grand award for his National Geographic feature on Jan Morris’s Wales. He has won the top prize in the Travel Classics contest four times.

The Society of American Travel Writers recognized Shapiro with a 1998 Lowell Thomas award for an investigation of frequent flier programs, published in the San Francisco Chronicle. Shapiro has appeared on national television networks including CNN and PBS, as well as on radio shows ranging from KGO’s “On the Go” to KPFA’s “Morning Show.” He teaches annually at the Book Passage travel writers conference near San Francisco.

He has interviewed some of the world’s most talented musicians, including BB King, Smokey Robinson, Merle Haggard, Natalie Merchant, Brian Wilson, Lucinda Williams, and Greg Brown for newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also interviewed Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, Steve Howe of YES, and the inimitable Richard Thompson.

He’s biked through Cuba for the Washington Post, celebrated Holy Week in Guatemala for the Dallas Morning News, explored Napa’s wine country for the New York Times, and floated down the Mekong River on a Laotian cargo barge.

Shapiro contributed the text to Guatemala: A Journey Through the Land of the Maya a pictorial book with images by Kraig Lieb, a photographer for Lonely Planet.

Before turning to travel literature, Shapiro wrote two books about using the Net for travel, including 1997’s Internet Travel Planner. In 1994, he helped develop the first Web directory and magazine, Global Network Navigator, created by O’Reilly Media. Shapiro spent a year working for CNET, an online tech-news site, before embarking on a freelance career in 1998.

Michael lives with his wife in Sonoma County, spending his free time cycling, river rafting, sea kayaking and volunteering for ETC, a group that takes disabled people on outdoor adventures.


“Hearing some of the great travel writers talk about their craft is certainly instructive for readers and writers alike. Most enjoyable are (Shapiro’s) interviews with some of the standard-bearers Arthur Frommer, Eric Newby, Peter Matthiessen and Jan Morris.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Shapiro functions as a less long-winded Charlie Rose. He’s done his homework, seeming to know the books as well as their authors do. He elicits philosophies of travel (Jan Morris says, ‘Grin like a dog and run about the city’) as well as homely advice (Tim Cahill: ‘Never go shark diving with a guy that’s only got one arm’).
Washington Post

“I enjoyed A Sense of Place down to the last drop. This is a wonderful book, full of literary and experiential allusions — a fascinating read.”
Keith Bellows, editor, National Geographic Traveler

Illuminating, entertaining, and insightful.
Chicago Tribune

Big-minded, big-hearted, progressive and compassionate.
San Francisco Chronicle