Strengths: Karl’s facts at the end of each section are good, as well as the parts that weren’t shown in the series.
Weaknesses: Pictures are hard to see at times on the ebook version.
Why I read it: I loved the TV series.
Pages: 144 (ebook)
Publisher: Canongate Books
Setting: India, Brazil, China, Egypt, Mexico, Jordan, Israel, Peru
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
If you liked this, try: watch the TV show! Or try Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor (yes, that one) and Charley Boorman
I didn’t realise there was a book in addition to the TV series until I saw it on Kobo (although I should have expected it, considering that nearly every TV series has accompanying merchandise these days). The TV series played in Australia on a low key digital channel and gradually increased in hype through word of mouth. Yes, this series is good. It appears to be the brainwave of Ricky Gervais (of The Office) and Stephen Merchant, who decided that it would be incredibly funny to send their friend, fellow comedian Karl Pilkington around the world. Why is that so funny? You see, Karl is a homebody. He likes the familiar – language he can understand, food that he can identify and a ready supply of Monster Munch (some kind of flavoured corn chips according to Wikipedia). Karl does not like surprise, nor does he want to adventure into the unknown.
The book features regular dialogue between Karl, Ricky and Stephen – usually the latter two teasing Karl and getting him to perform something he would have never considered on his own – Mexican wrestling or eating bugs are just two examples. Karl usually does what they tell him, but not without having a whinge about how he’d rather be watching telly at home (probably with some Monster Munch). The book covers what is seen in the TV series and much more. Here, we get to reflect on Karl’s feelings and he really comes across as much more intelligent than portrayed in the show. Sure he’s blunt, but Karl is also very funny with a dry sense of humour. While Karl is no Michael Palin (and he makes several references to this), there are interesting facts at the end of each section of each country. It’s not a comprehensive travel guide, but a unique glimpse at life on the road – both good and bad. Karl does include commentary on the different toilets and bathrooms he encounters in addition to unique foods. A word of warning that some may find his bluntness offensive at times, but this book shines through Karl’s reactions to his experiences.
This is by no means award winning prose, but it’s a fun book that will have you laughing. I read it while on holiday and suggest you do the same.