Sunday, December 9, 2007

Books I've Read: Smile When You're Lying

Smile When You're Lying
After years of writing sugarcoated articles about his travels, Chuck Thompson is rebelling against travel's airbrushed image with Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer. His confessions include brutally honest opinions of the travel industry, tourists, and expats, all wrapped up in a reality that you won't find in glossy travel magazines.

Thompson's reality includes graphic stories of Thailand, living in "disneyfied" Alaska, getting pulled over in Mexico and dealing with magazine consultants. Recounting his experience teaching ESL in Japan, he shows a side of the Japanese that I'm pretty sure you won't find elsewhere. His anecdotes had me alternating between disbelief and laughter. The book also has practical advice for the traveler. After criticizing the common travel tips that show up in magazines and newspapers, he lists 15 of his own suggestions to make travel easier.

Thought provoking political commentary is interspersed throughout the book, and several of the stories have a more serious tone. In one, Thompson explores what he believes is wrong with the Caribbean as a vacation destination. He also writes about the history of the U.S. military in the Philippines and the effects of Western influence on Eastern Europe.

An easy read that will keep you entertained even as it makes you think, Smile When You're Lying is a good book for anyone who likes to travel and doesn't get put off by some colorful language or explicit stories. If some of his rants get too negative or cynical, he does a good job of balancing them out with humorous stories. One of my favorite quotes from the book is "... a Zen-like acceptance of travel as a highly unpredictable animal is the most effective way of approaching it." The same could be said of this book.