I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
As an avid traveler, this book appealed to me as an opportunity to get a another person's point of view on some places I've never been. After reading the book however, I think anyone with a good sense of humor and curiosity would really enjoy this book.
Between being narrated by the author himself, and the auto-biographical nature of the subject, it's an extremely personal account of this smart, funny man's experiences. I found his insights clever and the experiences with the different individuals in each place were very true to the experience every traveler has when meeting up with people by chance on the road.
He paints a vivid picture of each spot he goes to; Iran (to ski!), the US (famous assassination locations and 9/11 sites) , the Ukraine (Chernobyl), North Korea (State organized tour) and Lebanon (his childhood home).
In each location, something strange, shocking, or unique happens; from being stuck in the elevator from hell and his insanely difficult way of extracting himself from it, to being on the same tour to Chernobyl as a man that has a very bizarre reaction to the site, to heading home to Lebanon only to find he may have attended private school with Osama Bin Laden. Every stop of this fantastic tour had it's own twists and turns, and I loved them all.
I was sorry when it was over, and hope for another book by the author soon.
My husband is very much opposed to listening to audiobooks, and don't even get him started on ebooks. "If you can't hold it in your hands and smell the pages as you turn them, then it's not a real book." But every once in awhile I'll entice him with a book by someone he loves. Penn Jillette is one of those people.
I have been an atheist for a long time, but my husband is still on his spiritual journey. It was very funny to me when he finished this book, took out his earphones and declared, "Oh my BOB! I'm an atheist!" I've known for awhile that he was headed in that direction. He just needed Penn Jillette to push him past his fears. Humor can sometimes do the job that scientific proof can't.
The downside is that Penn Jillette is a loud, over the top entertainer and my husband is a tech nerd who works on computers. While it's just fine for PJ to go around shouting out about the glories of atheism, it's not so great for a nerd from NC to do the same. I learned a long time ago that you have to feel people out before you tell them you don't believe there is an almighty creator. But the hubs is so excited about his new self-discovery that he goes around telling random people. The car salesman for instance. Thankfully we had already signed all the papers, otherwise I think we would have been asked to leave. The man got very pale and spluttered some unintelligible words before getting up and walking away from us.
What the other reviewers have said is true. Penn Jillette is obnoxiously foul mouthed. But didn't you know that when you bought the book? Haven't you seen his show? Or worse, that movie all those comedians did about the dirtiest joke in the world, The Aristocrats? I find it interesting that the biggest objection to this book isn't that he rejects the existence of god, but rather, that he has a dirty mouth. Oh yes. And he name drops. Well, of course he does! He's a famous guy that knows other famous people. He isn't very likely to say, "I was hanging out with this guy I know that does magic, I think his name is Bob..." No. He's going to say, "When I was hanging out with Siegfried and Roy backstage..." These are the kinds of people he is surrounded by, so of course they will be part of his story.
I liked many things about this book. He speaks so lovingly of his parents and sister, and has the right idea about what being a father means. I also loved what he said about saying, 'I don't know.' As you get older, you start to realize that you aren't always the smartest person in the room. Sometimes the only answer you can give is, 'I don't know.' So, for now, I don't know if there is an elephant in my bathtub, but now that I'm thinking about it, I better go check.