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Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  1,599 ratings  ·  228 reviews
From Bangkok to Bogotá, a hilarious behind-the-brochures tour of picture-perfect locales, dangerous destinations, and overrated hellholes from a guy who knows the truth about travel

Travel writer, editor, and photographer Chuck Thompson has spent more than a decade traipsing through thirty-five (and counting) countries across the globe, and he’s had enough. Enough of the ha
ebook, 336 pages
Published November 27th 2007 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Amanda L
In sum: disparaging remarks about nearly every region the world, replete with reductionist stereotyping. Sure, you'll laugh of loud, but it might be followed by an immense shame that you're eating up a racist's (is he? or is he just too consumed with his grandiose ego to realize when a joke is about to cross a very definitive line? still can't say) generalizations. Is it any wonder that his grand conclusion is that Belgium, one of the more racist, nationalist places on earth, is hands-down the m ...more
Thompson's a smart and funny writer with some excellent and funky travel stories, a jaundiced worldview, and precious little respect for sacred cows. So points for that. But the book's basically a concatenation of what-shall-I-piss-on-now rants wrapped in lad-magazine snarkiness. Here's a short list, from memory, of some of the things that Thompson dislikes: travel magazines, feminists, Dallas, Eric Clapton, travel writers, expats, locals, the Caribbean, and American teachers (for complaining ab ...more
Jul 29, 2009 Valerie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Valerie by: Bill, Holly
Shelves: arewethereyet
Insights into the life of a travel writer. The real reason they travel, someone is paying them. One of my favorite bits was about the fallacy of taxi drivers as people who know what's going on in any city. However, he kept alluding to travel writing as that glossy magazine sell you something kind of writing, and I don't read much of that. Almost all of the travel writing I read Bryson, Cahill, O'Hanolan, Salzman, O'Rourke, Bass is of the more personally honest variety, so it took me a while to a ...more
Geoff Carter
Dec 30, 2007 Geoff Carter rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelers, voyeurs, jetsetters, embittered writers of fluff and ephemera
Here's the deal: Chuck Thompson has spent years writing freelance travel stories for The Atlantic, Esquire, Maxim and the like, and over the course of these 322 pages, he burns it all down. Early on, he sets up this collection of (true, but no doubt embellished) anecdotes by telling you that he's going to share all the travel stories that the Conde Nast crowd isn't ready to hear; what he ends up doing is telling you about his druggy coming-of-age in Alaska, his Hunter Thompson-like cadre of frie ...more
Wendy Baxter
Who knew that the best travel experiences and therefore the best travel writing consist primarily in the amount of booze, blow and blow jobs to be had? Not only that, but apparently this makes for authentic travel writing and anyone not including these things is obviously blowing sunshine up the reader's ass. And here I thought all along travel and travel writing was all about beauty and education. Silly me. And no, I didn't bother finishing this book. After the seemingly endless list of things ...more
Anne Walbridge
Felt like being stuck in some sweaty tropical dive bar, sticky counter and all, trapped next to some guy trying way too hard to be cool.
In many ways, I am the sort of writer that this book is lampooning. I've trotted out clichés and purple prose for luxury travel brochures for the past six years. I try not to, but as Thompson neatly puts it:

'A big problem with travel writers is that they're all essentially required to share the same opinion about everything [due to the increasing need to sell first and inform second]. As a result, their copy tends to be defined by how many clever variations they can conceive while riffing on the
Lisa Schmeiser
It says something about our world when a travel book published in 2008 feels like a quaint relic of an earlier era -- but this one does. Perhaps it's because so many of Thompson's essays are linked to his travels and experiences in the 1990s, and that truly is an era of travel we're never going to get back in this world of tiny bottles and shoeless security checks.

Still, this book has glimmers of potential: Thompson almost has the Joe Queenan knack for the comedic stiletto as descriptive sentenc
Miramira Endevall
Dec 18, 2009 Miramira Endevall rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Miramira by: Valerie
This is one of the most whiny travelogues I've ever read. Does Thompson honestly believe that travelers buy into all the hoak printed in travel magazines, or in (gods forbid) in-flight magazines? Okay, sure, he was forced to regurgitate idiotic platitudes when writing for such magazines, and the poor boy only traveled to certain places because be was being paid to do it. But for crying out loud, dude, you were PAID TO TRAVEL. In every job I've ever had, I've had to regurgitate sappy crap for som ...more
Certainly, I am not nearly as much of a seasoned travel writer as Mr. Thompson (its been two years for me) but I still found many reasons to disagree with him on a variety of points, mainly in his use of so many generalizations. Like, the entire Caribbean sucks. Thompson says this then forces the reader to slog through his interrogation of a colleague who writes about Caribbean travel. It is painful. Also, the Caribbean doesn't suck, St. John is a paradise, as my travel documentarian friend and ...more
I almost put down Chuck Thompson's smile when you're lying: confessions of a rogue travel writer before i was 50 pages into it with the intention of never finishing it (which is something i rarely do~sometimes i will put down a book with every intention of finishing it and not ever doing so but for some reason i often plow through many as i ended up doing with this one~and there were a few interesting parts~more than a few in actuality...) It was Thompson's caustic personality that put me off mo ...more
Rich Saskal
"Smile When You're Lying" is a memoir by veteran travel writer Chuck Thompson pitched as a takedown exposé of the travel writing genre.
While Thompson's cynical gonzo persona itself comes across as much of a cliche as the many travel writing cliches he mocks, the proof is on the page, and I kept turning them.
After reading Thompson's own deflation of some of the common rubrics of the travel -writing trade, I can't be sure if any of the tales he tells about himself are themselves true or, more to t
By Thompson's own admission, on page 208 he writes, "I'm not, as a rule, what's known as a "charmer" with the ladies." In my estimation, that's an understatement. Thompson muses about his pals' bad behavior but consistently claims to have shied away from any transgressions himself. Yeah, right. I found his writing to be not only crass, but also disjointed at times and peppered with unimportant digressions. There were a few stories referring to sports where he really lost my interest altogether. ...more
I would like to rate this book at least a 4; it brings to life a world of travel that magazines and guidebooks just don't. Here we get the inside scoop of why we hear the stories that we do, and why we don't hear the stories we don't. Confessions... is an engrossing tale for adventurous travelers as well as writers or wannabes (like me).

My problem, then? This book is grossly objectifying of women. I gave it measurable latitude, too, because he was going into other cultures and talking about him
Faye Dewell
I enjoyed the first half of the book but honestly by the second half I was bored. I finished it for the sake of finishing it but struggled to do so. I'm not sure if it was because I wanted the big overarching narrative/quest for meaning that he clearly states he won't give, or the fact that I wanted more of an expose on the travel industry and less of a personal narrative, or because I found his narrative self-indulgent, either way, it wasn't my favourite travel memoir. I just found the story go ...more
I would probably give this book 2.5 stars if I had that option, but I do think it deserves more than 2 stars. I didn't care for the beginning of this book at all, since it focused on the Thai sex trade, and reading about women having to (choosing to??) degrade themselves by catering to horny jerks with money to blow is not at all appealing to me. But other parts of the book were better. Thompson does come off as somewhat arrogant and condescending at times, but sometimes he does make interesting ...more
I really wanted to like this, but the guy came across as such a douchebag so much of the time. So self-important, so often condescending, it just irritated me. Sure, he has some sage advice and, yes, he gives some honest insight about travel writers and locales, but overall I just didn't care for the book as a whole. I finished it, though, so that says something, I suppose.
The cover blurbs will compare this writer to Hunter S. -- probably because of the travel and journalist aspect and last name similarity. I wouldn't go that far. (Actually -- and this is scary to admit as a journalist -- I don't much care for Hunter S.) But I would compare this style of writing and snark to Chris Ayres or J. Maarten Troost, and fans of both these authors should like what Chuck Thompson has to say in "Smile When You're Lying."

This is a lot less about travel writing confessions --
Kathleen Seal
Satirical, but honest, exploration of the travel industry-both myths and realities. Often hysterical accounts of his travel experiences around the world (although some not so funny at the time, I imagine). A few helpful hints to snooker the travel industry are thrown in along the way. Highly recommended for anyone who travels or is thinking about traveling abroad.
Thanks to this very good read, I will now plan a trip to Columbia before I plan a trip to Jamaica, will think twice about buying a Lonely Planet guide book, and yes, I will lie and bribe when overseas.
Петър Стойков
Туристическите списания и гайдове и са ми безкрайно безинтересни - с отдавна клиширани фрази всички държави и всички дестинации биват хвалени до безкрай, защото туристическата индустрия продава мечти и нищо друго. И има кой да ги купува - само така мога да си обясня как хората даваха по 3 евро да се снимат на камъка, на който е седял Херкулес - което беше просто един камък на средата на една пътека по време на една от екскурзиите ми в Гърция. Просто камък.

Както и да е, авторът на книгата е дълго
Jessie Jellick
This author seems like he's been bottling up his emotions about travel writing for far too long & this book was the explosion when he finally got to express himself! Some of it was insightful, some funny stories and examples of tired and bullshit travel writing designed to play up to our fantasies of relaxed, exciting, original, whatever we're dreaming of travel..of course most of us know any kind of advertising is bullshit but we fall for it anyway. I actually didn't mind the rants about tr ...more
The author points out that almost all travel guides are rife with cliches, overlook that negative aspects of any location, and lie at length about the positive aspects. Until he wrote this book, he was one of the travel writers who wrote in the manner described, but he grew increasingly disenchanted with it. He then wrote this angry expose of the travel industry, which was the (only) worthwhile part of the book. The rest was filled with braggadocio about his out-of-the-box travel. There's no nee ...more
eh. the synopsis was deceiving, implying there would be stories of the travel-underbelly. nope, or rather, not much of interest. lots of complaining, lots of reflection on the travel industry.
Jeff Ereverock
Travel industry whistle-blower, C. Thompson, sounds this piercing faith-in-humanity shrill: travel writers, as a rule, are a loathsome lot of sell-outs. Who knew?
I hate it when I'm really excited for a book, but it ends up to be so disappointing. The good points: Thompson seems like a smart, funny man. I gave it 2 stars because there was one really funny story in the first 10 pages that I still chuckle about today. Also because I actually managed to finish the book and not give up half-way through. The bad points: Thompson's 300+ page rant is only about 50% interesting. His tirades go on and on with lots of irritating digressions that don't further illus ...more
I don't agree with a lot of his opinions, and at times even found my self laughing at them. Chuck Thompson really comes across as a know-it-all travel snob, even though he's a super tough guy who has gritty travel experiences all the time. Listen, if people want to travel, they should travel. They can go to the Caribbean if that's what they want to do and I'm not going to judge them. There is no competition between people would like to travel and I don't like that mentality.

All of that said, I
Well,I'm going to have to revise my opinion (somewhat) of this book. I still thought the first 100 pages were obnoxious and I normally would've put it down and never finished it, but since I suggested it for book club, I was compelled to finish it and I'm glad I did. The second two-thirds of the book were much better and highly entertaining. He's still arrogant and thinks quite highly of himself, but he also knows it and is quite amusing and of course, extremely irreverent. He's like the Anthony ...more
I have always wanted to travel, but haven’t. Anyone who knows me will know this truth, so it is no wonder that my friend bought me this book. Chuck Thompson has set forth to debunk the myths of travel writing diction with, “Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer” and as far as I’m concerned, he’s made a clever argument.

He explains what it’s really like travelling in poor countries, what capitalism feels like in the east, what it’s like to run into foreigners of all nationa
Smile When You're Lying is less about "confessions of a rogue travel writer" and more about a few "sophomoric" (that's an inside joke you'll get once you read the book) situations he found himself involved in and some personal opinion about paradises that aren't. Still, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. Once you realize what you're dealing with, it's easy to settle in and follow along. Can't say that any of the "revelations" (i.e. - all the bits about thefts, trash-littered beaches and relative po ...more
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