71 of 79 people found the following review helpful
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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 13 March 2012
I'm having a good run of LAUGH OUT LOUD reads. First, I read the hilarious The Morello Letters by Duncan McNair, then the hysterical dark thriller The Dealer by Tony Royden and now this! I'll be honest and say that I have never really seen the TV show (I was put off by the animation), but I'll be watching from now on. This is a very funny read! Ideal to take on your holiday.
41 of 48 people found the following review helpful
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.
48 of 57 people found the following review helpful
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.
on 19 December 2012
I've seen a few episodes from the TV series and wanted to give the book a go. I love Karl Pilkington: his generally unimpressed take on supposedly impressive things, his strange and intricate way of viewing the world and his unapologetic grumpiness.
An idiot abroad sees Karl on seven trips to see the wonders (the new ones, except one): the pyramids in Egypt, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the Taj Mahal in India, Chichen Itza in Mexico, The Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan and Machu Picchu in Peru. I love the illustrations and photos-mainly of him looking miserable- but couldn't enjoy them to the full because my kindle is black and white. At the beginning of each chapter there is a famous quote about the wonder, followed by one from Karl. For example, he says of the Great Wall, "It was knackered. So knackered that it wasn't really a wall. I remember hearing that you're supposed to be able to see the great wall of china from the moon, but that has got to be b*ll*cks 'cos even as I stood right next to this bit I had problems seeing it."
In general he hates everywhere he goes, partly because he's not a fan of being out of his comfort zone, but also because Ricky and Stephen go out of their way to make his life difficult. They force him to meet up with random, weird people and eat scary food such as fried insects.
I did find his pessimism and nonchalance a bit irritating at times, especially when he visited Christ the Redeemer, a place I really, really want to go to. I found that the more I read, the more he was actually putting me off going anywhere ever again. Then I realised how unfair it is that he got to do all this stuff for free, in fact he was paid for see all these famous sights. How unappreciative! But that's just it, isn't it? Often when things are given to us for free we don't appreciate them.
But then I forgave Karl because he had an epiphany where he acknowledged that he was lucky to get to go to all those places for free.
And he is completely hilarious. He takes bags of monster munch with him on every trip and hates most of the customs and food of the cultures, but still jumps in and does everything he's asked/made to do with plenty of enthusiasm: from dancing on a float at the Rio carnival, to wrestling in Mexico and riding a camel in Jordan, he really got into things. He is also very inquisitive and not afraid to question other people's customs.
The book has left me with images of a far too busy Christ the Redeemer, a dead sea with tons of spit in it, a great wall that's falling down and many more reasons not to go to any of these places. The one wonder he didn't slag off too much, however, was Machu Picchu, which just sounds great and is still top of my list of places to visit.
I have to say I find Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant pretty annoying. They don't give Karl much credit for the fact that he is the funny one and the one whose words people enjoy reading. Just near the end of the book Ricky calls to tell Karl they've changed the name of the series from 'Karl Pilkington's Seven Wonders' to 'An Idiot Abroad.' Karl's pretty unhappy and definitely doesn't agree to it, but as the title proves, he was bullied into it in the end. I suppose the bullying is all part of the act, and you could say that he would be nothing without the other two having made him famous, but still sometimes it's a bit much.
I would definitely recommend this book.
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.
It's been a few years since I checked in with Karl. I used to love the Ricky Gervais show on XFM and even the podcasts/audiobooks that followed have been good (but not as good as the radio shows) and I loved the subsequent books "Happyslapped by a jellyfish" and "Karlology" and would recommend anyone who enjoyed "An Idiot Abroad" to check those out. So it was interesting to check back in with Karl after a break of years to see what he's been up to. Thankfully, he hasn't changed. At all.
The moaning Manc is still talking about his various body parts as if they're individual to him: "me legs get tired before the rest of me body does" and "me brain was stressing me out - it knows I don't like it so why does it do that?". And of course he's still being picked on by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, this time from afar, as they send him into the world to see the Seven Wonders and throw obstacles in his path. When he goes to Israel he's kidnapped and held captive except Karl doesn't know it's not for real, it's training. When he goes to China he's made to fight trained Shaolin experts and when he visits Mexico he's put in the ring with other Lucha Libre wrestlers. And of course wherever he goes he's challenged to eat the local delicacies involving animal parts like eyes, brains, as well as various bugs.
Karl handles it as best he can but as a reader you're always rooting for him, he's just too likeable. His no-nonsense approach to life coupled with his strange outlook and way of seeing the world are what has made him so famous, and if you're a fan (a KP nut) of his previous books and recordings, you'll enjoy seeing Karl deal with these odd situations and places in his own unique way. "An Idiot Abroad" is a great read and had me laughing throughout, the only thing missing was Monkey News. Karl really is a national treasure and should be titled the Eighth Wonder of the World.
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.
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.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
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.