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on 20 July 2011
If you have listened to the Ricky Gervais podcasts or the XFM shows, or seen the animated TV series, or read Karlogy or any of his previous books, then you know exactly what you are going to get here. Karl hasn't changed, and it is doubtful he ever will. If you haven't experienced Karl before, then I suggest listening to one of the podcasts before reading this book. Karl's monotone, put-upon, Mancunian accent is a quintessential part of his character, and I can't imagine going through this book without mentally assigning that voice to his words. It will also be useful in understanding the dynamic between Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl. Essentially, Gervais and Merchant are performing experiments on poor ol' Karl to learn how his brain works, although sometimes they just mess with him for fun.

'An Idiot Abroad' is the most ambitious of these experiments they have put together. Karl gets to travel and see the seven wonders of the modern world, and the results are documented in a TV series and this book, which is Karl's travel journal combined with numerous photos of the places he has been. He spends time with generous people in some of the poorest regions of the world, and gets to see the Wonders in ways inaccessible to a lot of people (he gets to go inside the burial chamber of one pyramid, and has a helicopter ride around the Christ the Redeemer statue). Karl hasn't written a huge amount about his experiences, but what there is is beautiful in a way only he could achieve.

The appeal of Karl is not merely that he says stupid things, or that his concerns are petty - anyone could do that - it is that there is some semblance of logic in his thinking, and, personally at least, it mirrors a part of myself. The part of me that is more concerned with immediate comforts than new experiences, and is underwhelmed by things that I have been told I should find spectacular. Karl takes these feelings and runs with them to their absurd conclusions, so that a book about the wonders of the world spends much of the time detailing toilet concerns.

That is not to say that Karl doesn't have quirks that are entirely his own. The little 'facts' and anecdotes he gathers from sources unknown are sometimes ludicrous (although the ones that end each chapter in the book appear accurate), and his desire to 'get rid of' pretty much everything are just more fascinating glimpses into his mind. Sometimes he will do or say something that has the appearance, briefly, of genius - the toilet chair springs to mind.

As much as I love this book (and I should add the Kindle version that I downloaded is amongst the best formatted ebooks I have found), it is the podcasts that I will forever hold dear. There is something about his voice that adds so much more to his character, and the written word will never really capture that.
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on 23 October 2010
My brother gave me this book for my birthday yesterday, as I've been a fan of Ricky, Steve & Karl since their XFM days. I've actually finished the book already; it was that funny, I couldn't put it down!

It was a good, interesting, &, in its own unique Karl-type way, insightful read. To those readers familiar with the trio, & who haven't watched the TV series, it quickly becomes clear that Karl's small production unit are colluding with Ricky & Steve to set Karl up in situations which they know will irritate him - e.g. getting him to film with a gay man on a nudist beach in Brazil.

In each country, Karl generally stays or travels with a local resident, most of whom are incredibly poor. Despite their hardship & daily circumstances (one delightful young man in India, Ashek, lives in what is essentially a garage), these people are extremely generous with their time & hospitality. In some cases, however, these parts of the book left me rather saddened for some of those who opened their homes to Karl - he was so rude & offensive to them. In one case in particular, Karl mentions how he pushed some food into the face of an elderly Chinese lady whilst shouting at her (in her own home, after she & her family had welcomed him in & cooked for him), just because she was trying to encourage him to try a bit of a different dish and this irritated him.

Plus, Karl was never actually that impressed by the Wonders - I hoped he might have ultimately learned to appreciate something, as there was a quote from his last wonder (Machu Picchu) at the beginning of that chapter in which he said "Magnificent. I'm speechless." So I thought that he might have actually gained some kind of new understanding from his experiences - but on reading the chapter, you find that he was just spouting it to Steve Merchant so that he could get out of the trip a day or two early. Somehow, it left me with a vague feeling of disappointment that a man who has experienced some of the world's most amazing treasures & cultures willingly persists in ignorance & disdain for much of what he encounters.

That said, it is definitely a book worth reading, with several laugh-out-loud moments, & offers a uniquely in-depth look at some of our world's most incredible people & places (as well as Karl's misadventures with the various toilet facilities of each country...).

Karl really is just a simian buffoon with "a head like a f**king orange", but he certainly makes for a fascinating travelling companion.
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on 31 October 2010
Karl Pilkington is both an idiot and a genius - again. He's able to make the most banal instances interesting, and at the same time ignore the big events. For instance, he devotes the same amount of pages to questioning the sexuality of his Brazilian tour guide and complaining about what's for tea as he does to Christ the Redeemer.

This book is a genuinely fun travel guide and personal diary. There are colorful hand-drawn maps, transcribed phone conversations with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and gorgeous pictures of the Seven Wonders and, better yet, the local geography, architecture, and people of each place Karl visits. The thing that excited me the most was the fact that there's so much new, fresh material in this book. I suppose it would be hard to travel the world and NOT find something new to say. If you're worried that this is just another compilation of Karl's greatest hits, don't be - by my count, Auntie Nora only comes up once and I don't recall him even mentioning the paper round he had when he was a boy.
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For anyone who has watched and loved "An Idiot Abroad" on television, then this book is an absolute must have. Perhaps if you've watched the show (especially more than once) you may think this book is one to miss, already feeling you might have seen it all but I promise you, you've only seen/heard the half of it.

While the show lets you see everything visually (even Karl's extreme awkwardness and that expression of soul-crushing humiliation), the book gives you so much more depth into what Karl thinks about during his encounters at each destination. The episodes may show you scenes of Karl's travels, but the book gives more information about what's really going on, and Karl lets you into his private thoughts about the people and the things he sees. The book gives much further insight also into what happens between the travelling, or what occurs once the cameras are off (like Karl's getting locked in a public lavatory for ten minutes because he didn't pay the caretaker and unknowingly then didn't have the handle for the door to get back out). Sometimes, the true gems are truly what happens when Karl isn't being filmed and that's what makes this book such a must-have for anyone who really wants to know what it's like being in such places without Michael Palin making it look like a luxury holiday.

Karl's inner thoughts are as just as hilarious as his monologues on the show, each chapter is so perfectly written, that you can almost hear him narrating each paragraph to you with just the right inflection. Karl Pilkington is an absolute 'everyman' and writes as one; he needs no fancy prose or ten-page descriptions of the great Pyramid to make the viewer see the world through his eyes; simply by being himself with his neurotic worries and absurd sense of humour anyone can read this book and feel connected to him and see the world as he sees it (as a twisted, odd, yet fascinating place).

If life is hard, then reading about how hard Karl Pilkington has it during his adventures will definitely make you smile and thank your lucky stars you're not an Idiot Abroad.
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on 22 March 2012
I've never been someone to hop onto any gravy train and this includes the 5.20pm from Let's Make Ricky Gervais a Multimillionaire Town. I find his humour a little too on the edge for me to enjoy, that is until I saw the cartoon that he appears in. The programme may have been called `The Ricky Gervais Show', but the star is idiot savant Karl Pilkington. Karl has since gone onto star in his own Sky TV show `An Idiot Abroad' and this is his travel diary of his experiences. I'm of a similar frame of mind of not wanting to make the Murdoch's any richer either, therefore this book is the first time I have experienced the show and it's so good I may actually go out and watch the DVD.

Gervais and Steve Merchant love to paint Karl Pilkington as someone who is a bit thick. However, this is far from the case; he may be depressing, gloomy and a bit odd, but there is a quick humour and spark that underpins his personality. More than ever this comes through in his travel diaries. Most people would jump at the chance to visit the seven modern wonders of the world, but Karl is nonplussed, being more interested in the toilet situation and food than anything else. Rather than being tiring this is actually one of the most genuine travel books I have ever read. I'm the type of person who has seen the Queen and visited the Grand Canyon and been pretty underwhelmed by both. Pilkington represents an unmentioned clan of people that just want to be left alone to do their own thing and not be forced into `enjoying' themselves.

`An Idiot Abroad' is well written and full of very amusing moments from the antics Karl gets up to, but also from the wry humour. There are some photos in the book that are black and white on the Kindle version, but come out crystal clear. This is one of the funniest and most truthful books I have read in a long time. I may be no more a fan of Gervais, but put me down as a Pilkington man.
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on 27 April 2011
An Idiot Abroad is truly hilarious. I usually read when I'm commuting to work on the Metro, but I'm glad I chose to read this one at home cos I laughed out loud until I cried so many times. I just had to pick up the book and see the back cover where it reads "Karl Pilkington: Adventurer, Philosopher, Knob Head" and I'd be in fits.

I watched the TV series on Sky, and although some people have said that the book just reiterates what was shown on it, I'd disagree. Obviously, there are many similar areas covered, but these just serve as a reminder of the funnier parts of the series. And more often than not these "recaps" are written completely differently to how Karl described them on the show, so they're still interesting (and hilarious). There's also a tonne of new little bits of info and anecdotes crammed in including a fair bit of "behind the scenes" stuff such as his dealings with the production team, so there's plenty of original material. The book is also really well put together with some daft illustrations and plenty of interesting pictures.

I would recommend it to anyone, not only because of it's humour, but because to a certain extent it still manages to be thought provoking and genuinely informative. I'd pick Karl as a guide to what it's really like to visit some places over plenty of other more highly esteemed travel writers any day.
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on 30 November 2010
I bought this book roughly a week or so after the TV series finished and whilst watching the show I came to realize what Stephen Merchant said about dear Karl is true, "He's just a simple, ignorant, English bloke"... or something like that. And Karl is ignorant, completely unaware of how stupid or racist what he says is, and its simply one of the funniest things to read. Reading the "Travel Diaries" I couldn't help but find every word funny, everything he believes to be true is just laugh out loud funny and to view the world from his perspective is simply a treat. If you loved the series and every stupid little thing Karl has said, then you'll love the book, which is a much better, in depth look into the strange, hilarious mind of Karl Pilkington.
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on 25 February 2016
I've had this book as my travel book previously after watching the Idiot Abroad series on TV. I can simply say that Karl's sense of humour comes across even more in this book. He documents his adventures and the things that annoy him and most of the things do not make the TV series.

I would definitely recommend this book to you, if you are looking for the perfect book whilst travelling then this is the one for you. You will not be disappointed, 5 stars.
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on 25 February 2011
karl Pilkington gives his different view of travel whilst visiting some of the world's man made wonders. If Michael Palin is your stable diet of travel writing this book is properly not for you. However if you want a travel guide from a bloke so far out of his comfort zone then this is the book to read, laugh out loud to and often shake your head in disbelief.

TV funny man Ricky Gervais decides to send his mate and radio producer friend Karl Pilkington around to world to see if they can change his view of the world. If you don't know nothing about Karl Pilkington it maybe worth watching Ricky Gervais Podcast sessions with Karl and Stephen Merchant and you understand the enigma that is Karl Pilkington.

I watched the TV series by the same name first and it for me it brought the book alive a lot more whilst reading along. Travel is not always the wonderful experience everyone makes out and Karl gives his open and honest account of the wonders which makes a refreshing chance from this is good, special, awe inspiring etc that other travel writer have done in the past.

This book isn't up to the standard of Bill Bryson travel writing or as funny but will still be a good read worth adding to your bookself.
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on 8 May 2013
Some very funny musings from the unique mind of Karl Pilkington. This a great companion to the first series of An Idiot Abroad and would be just as funny, or probably, funnier if I hadn't already seen the series. Even if you have, this contains enough stuff not included in the programme to make it a quick, yet worthwhile and amusing read.

The diary format suits Karls consise, say-it-like-it-s style. If you are used to listening to the podcasts/radio shows he has featured on will probably have his voice in your head when you read this, which is great! It has to be admitted that Karl is at his best in other formats when you can genuinely hear him as his tone of voice and manc accent seem to be part of the package and add to the humour, but the photo section in the middle of the book where you can at least see him and witness his slightly awkward, gormless expression makes up for this a bit.

The fact that this is not just recycled material from something else (like The World According to Karl Pilkington) is crucial in me being able to wholeheartedly recommend this. I can definitely see myself rereading this at some point when I want some light relief.
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