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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 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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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 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 13 March 2012
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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 November 2015
Classic Karl Pilkington; if you've watched the TV series or listened to any of the podcasts with Ricky Gervais then you'll know what to expect. If you haven't, then Ricky, Steve and the production team are sending Karl around the world on wonderful opportunities to experience local culture and new things, aka tormenting him with things he really doesn't want to do, and putting him in the most awkward, uncomfortable, and unusual situations they can manage to get away with.

Karl is hilarious, a true idiot, and yet a genius as well. His simple logic delights me, whilst inwardly I cringe in horror at his often culturally inappropriate behaviour, and then laugh out loud at his hilarious outlook. He manages to make the most mundane things funny.

This is a companion book to the show I suppose, but I think it gets more in Karl's head, and is accompanied by wonderful photographs, maps, phone conversations and local information. Completely entertaining. Meeting Karl on holiday would be an unforgettable experience that's for sure.
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on 1 October 2010
More great stuff from the round headed genius. Listened to Ricky, Steve & Karl right from the early days of XFM, and I stuck with them all this time. So glad Karl's finally got his own show!

I love the series, and I love this book. Buy it now.

I just LOVE KARL PILKINGTON!!!
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on 12 October 2010
I just love this mans flat response to everything!! I have been to China and could relate to everything Karl picks up on. He presents a true image of the wonders & what travelling in these countries is really like, not full of hype & glossy images. He makes me laugh so much, well done sky 1 for finding a real talent.
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on 9 August 2012
So I watched bits of a couple of episodes of the An Idiot Abroad TV series but never really enjoyed it. I couldn't quite work out if Karl Pilkington really was as dopily parochial as he seemed or if it was put on, either way the series seemed exploitative and designed to make its viewers cringe.

I bought the book (in Kindle format) because:
a. it was on offer,
b. there was at least a little honest entertainment value to the TV series, and
c. because I wondered whether the book might shed a little light on KP.

Well it's not too bad. As a travel diary it is a bit useless: the series was never really about travel, rather about putting a small-minded little-Englander into discomfiting situations and laughing at his attempts to deal with the culture-shock. This is somewhat reflected in the book, albeit in not quite so extreme a way. It does read rather like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in that respect, with Karl playing the part of Arthur Dent (Gervaise and Merchant, as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Ford Prefect respectively don't figure in the book very much at all, thank goodness).

Actually, I found Pilkington's stream of consciousness description of his trips to India, Peru, Mexico, Jordan and so on to be a quite entertaining read: mildly humorous with a few laugh-out-loud moments. And instead of the slightly retarded, handbag-clutching clown from the TV series, Pilkington comes across far better in the book. Still a little-Englander, to be sure, still very much out of his depth in the face of camp carnival goers and Amazonian savages but willing to try out new experiences and then take a naiive, sideways glance at them. Indeed, on the telly he seems to make quite ridiculously stupid statements (e.g. about how Chinese people don't age well) but, reading them in the book (perhaps it's having the time to think about what he's saying) many of these inanities have their own, slightly twisted, left-field sort of logic to them. So it's that naiive, slightly grumpy, off-kilter view of the world that gives the book a certain charm.

I am still unsure as to whether the Pilkington persona is manufactured by him (and Gervaise and Merchant) or genuine (or a bit of both) but at least it's not as extreme her as in the series and if you can look past that this is a perfectly acceptable bit of humourous travel writing - not quite Bill Bryson, but enjoyable none-the-less.

The book includes a number of rather nice colour photos of KP and his travels. These don't fare very well in Kindle format, I'm afraid, but I have been reading the book on my Tablet where they show up rather nicely.

"I did some yoga with a baba. He laughed because I couldn't stretch as well as he could. It was hardly surprising really as he was stark b0ll0ck naked apart from a pair of shades, while I was wearing combat pants with the pockets stuffed full of toffees I'd taken from the first-class lounge at the airport. The guide said if I gave him some more money he would show me more. I don't know what more there was to see from this fella. The way he was bending upside down in my face I could have checked his prostate gland."
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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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