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Holidays in Hell: In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World's Worst Places and Asks, "What's Funny about Thi

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  2,726 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
Now available from Grove Press, P. J. O'Rourke's classic, best-selling guided tour of the world's most desolate, dangerous, and desperate places. "Tired of making bad jokes" and believing that "the world outside seemed a much worse joke than anything I could conjure," P. J. O'Rourke traversed the globe on a fun-finding mission, investigating the way of life in the most des ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Grove Press (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

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Jun 01, 2009 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back in the mid to late '80s when PJ O'Rourke wrote the pieces that make up Holidays in Hell, the world was a much different place: there was war in the Middle East, the threat of nuclear conflict, sectarian violence...alright, so things haven't changed all that much. Which is one reason why, after twenty years, this collection of reportage pieces from Lebanon, Nicaragua, Palestine, Northern Ireland and other conflict hot spots remains worth reading. Another is O'Rourke's gonzo-style, no-sacred- ...more
Aug 11, 2009 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure why I didn't like this book more. It was vividly and humorously written, educational and even important. I think it was just the page after page of diverse suffering and injustice, presented by an author whose considered opinion appears to be that there is no hope for the Third World and so we might as well laugh at it. (Tangentially, I suggest that easily offended readers skip the prologue, which contains a large number of barely-joking generalizations that even in the context of a ...more
Jan 04, 2008 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Contains one of the best paragraphs in all the English language... starting with ...."I snapped...."
My good friend Amy is an honors student in journalism. She’s about to start her Senior Year as editor-in-chief of her college newspaper.

Anyway, something she mentioned in a recent blog post was that she’d left for college, certain that her dream was to blast through her four years, then become a foreign correspondent, traveling the world and filing stories from exotic trouble-spots.

My mind flashed back on P.J. O’Rourke’s “Holidays in Hell,” a book that bridges a gap between where Amy is in her
Given that the writer had such a short period of time in the places he visited, he seemed to grasp the core of things pretty well. Pity that this accuracy is wasted on him as all he uses it for is to pass mean judgement on all, whether good or bad (apart from when it came to the occupied lands. As far as I'm concerned, he tried too hard to make both sides seem responsible, when we all clearly know the truth).

He also draws similes and makes references to events, people, and things that may have
Sergio GRANDE films
Disappointing. This is not a book that's stood the test of time; it was probably funnier while it was topical. What's the point of reading about a South Africa on the brink of democracy, or about a war-torn Beirut when the author does not offer a lasting impression of the countries but rather an account of his own experience at that precise moment in history? Change the circumstances and the accounts become inconsequential. As both did.
The biggest disappointment though, came from the little xeno
Sep 09, 2007 Earle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a well-developed sense of humor and a taste for the offbeat
If O'Rourke's quirky brand of humor resonates with you, this is as good as it gets. I've read most of his works, and this is my favorite.

O'Rourke was a foreign correspondent for 'Rolling Stone', and was sent to every god-forsaken hellhole in the world. It is from his experiences in these venues that the chapters are drawn.

The chapter on Lebanon begins ...... "Beirut, at a glance, lacks charm." If that doesn't strike you as pure writing genius, then you probably won't enjoy this book (or other of
Innocents Abroad Updated ....

In the best tradition of Mark Twain's perceptive observations and caustic humor, O'Rourke has a poke for everyone. In addition to the places mentioned in the book description, stories featuring the America's Cup in Perth Australia and Disneyland are added to "Hell-ish"

Since this is a collection of articles written in the mid-1980's, the epilogue was especially interesting in which O'Rourke describes places and events 25 years into the future ...

happy with my
Mar 31, 2014 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It was ok. A bit dated (set in 1980's, some interesting points/facts

Also author was really quite racist.

I wouldn't recommend this. I picked it up in a charity shop and should have saved my 1.50 to be honest.

I didn't bother finishing it (I got to the last 3 chapters, so gave it a good go)

How has this racist man got so many good reviews?

I was repeatedly shocked by his racist, ill informed and arrogant (American (white)-centric)comments.

Aug 27, 2008 Benito rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good shit, though perhaps some of it's a little dated now, having been written in the late 80s. The entry on Fremantle, WA as a part of 'Hell' is particularly interesting for us southern colonial folk I think. Good to see Australia has a town as awful as any in Israel, Northern Island, or Lebanon, though I had a great time in Fremantle myself, and would have chosen Adelaide or Brisbane as far more hellish, but hey, who's the famous right-wing gonzo boy here? Not me, that's for sure.
David H.
Jan 31, 2008 David H. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't consider myself a conservative, but I found out about P.J. O'Rourke during my college years (1980-1984, go Rockhurst!!!). O'Rourke shares tales of his world travels. Check out the one on South Korea, or the one on Poland. What a scream. I still read it sometimes, just for hearty laughs and a shot of great writing. I even got to meet him at a book signing. Great guy.
Dec 13, 2010 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My introduction to P.J. O'Rourke.I will always love this book. It made me laugh like no other book had managed and it planted the first seeds of anti-Socialism in my mind. It also made me realise that being un-PC is the way to go. It's okay to laugh at other countries and cultures if they're absolutely mad. Thanks P.J.
Wow, I'm the first to add this book? I should get some kind something for that!! This book is classic PJ O'Rourke. Vacationing in Beriut and Lebanon might not be for everyone, but you too can experience it through his writings!!
Raegan Butcher
Hilarious dispatches from some of the world's worst places. This guy is so funny I laugh out loud at his stuff when i'm reading it. No wonder he is (apparently, according to wkipedia) the world's most quoted author! Funny stuff!
May 15, 2010 Katjusa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious. Some of the best writing I've read recently. Would've given it five stars if the last chapter (his vision of 2013) wasn't so slipshod.
Stuart Gilkison
Nov 08, 2010 Stuart Gilkison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O'Rourkes best book by far.
Despicable politics but a great sense of humour.
May 09, 2010 Se84 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The guy's a jackass, but he can write.
Andrew Garvey
Before reading his late 1980s account of his adventures in some of the world’s (then) worst places – Lebanon, Poland, El Salvador, Israel, South Africa and, erm, Harvard – I’d always been vaguely aware that O’ Rourke’s book was generally regarded as a sort of comedic travel writing classic.

Almost thirty years later it still is. Sort of. In places. In other places it’s a crass, borderline racist jumbling of anecdotes and one-liners that’s best read, understood and somewhat forgiven as a product o
Oct 02, 2016 Dee marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
don't really find anything "funny" about the stupidity of war memorials - tacky in general
Cameron Wiggins
Sep 29, 2016 Cameron Wiggins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book with chapters like: "Jeurselum: God's Monkey House", "Panama Banal", "Sightseeing in Lebanon", and "What Do They Do for Fun in Warsaw?"
Denise Spicer
Sep 23, 2016 Denise Spicer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amusing travel stories from this journalist also provide sharp political commentary (mid to late 1980s). He gives a great defense of Western Civilization in the intro to the book.
Jun 08, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Risking life and limb in such Hellish zones as 1980s Lebanon, El Salvador, and Harvard University, O’Rourke looks “for a good time” amidst the chaos according to the rear cover description… just above the Nixon quote…trippy… While reading this, I assumed he was a journalist that had attempted the objective route during the sundry riots, protests, and Vietnams dotting the sixties and finally said “F**k it! This is all bullsh*t that perpetually repeats itself!” and moved on to a, if you will, more ...more
Oct 23, 2013 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining and acerbicly written, as one might expect. It's also interesting from an historical perspective these days. More depressing is while many of the conflicts and situations described have changed considerably (particularly Beirut and South Africa) similar turmoil has erupted elsewhere. Like the old adage, "the more things change, the more they stay the same". One exception is the section about Warsaw, which anyone visiting modern Poland should read. I visited Prague when it was still ...more
Peter rock
Sep 30, 2008 Peter rock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my freinds at face book and my space and rebecca
Recommended to Peter rock by: my father vince
this is a very good book i was always disapointed that P J O'rourke did not focus on dangerous hot spots in america go to save it to favorites and call me in the morning because i am in love with you earth. People of earth what the fuck ya all upset with each other for in groups where it gets messy for those of us that are not upset at all. p j o'rourke one of my fathers required reading projects. Hey my close personal Friends want to know all the books my large highly lethal family ...more
Jul 24, 2011 Lili rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lili by: Dad
Shelves: from-the-library
I enjoyed my second time through this book more than the first because it rings so true to some of my adventures in "trouble tourism.". There are just so many laugh out loud gems that I can't even begin to list all of them. For example, the phrase "covering a story from Mahogany Ridge," which means working on it in a bar. Of course, my hands down favorite is the ending of the Europe (April to May 1986) essay explaining why the USA has never been invaded. Find it in a library and read that page. ...more
Tom Schulte
I think I would have rated this 4 stars when I first read it a couple of decades ago... It is still hilarious, but vigorous satire and above-it-all laughing at misery makes me feel a tad uncomfortable when it didn't bother me, then. That being said, I was reminded of this tome when I saw it on "15 funniest travel books ever written" on Now what strikes me is how sad so much of the problem spots are still problem spots without resolution: illegal immigrants from Central America, infighti ...more
Feb 13, 2016 Mitch rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
This was an enjoyable book on a certain level; I say this because the overall effect on the reader may be positive but the content is also depressing. In it are showcased some of the worst situations available on the globe about 30 years ago and the reader is repeatedly shown the impossibility of any solution to major problems involving governance, religion and culture.

P.J.'s wit concerning them is acidic and, of course, funny. This book has been called a classic but I would prefer the term 'da
Jan 13, 2012 Marcus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Our politics may differ wildly, but I owe P.J. O'Rourke a very great debt. I read Holidays in Hell for the first time when I was thirteen, and it gave me two things which last to this day: A desire to travel to strange and terrible places, and the urgent need to lampoon what I find there

His account of Beirut and the Lebanon in-between and during various wars takes up about a third of the book, and is at times the most stupefyingly anger-inducing and bollock-tinglingly funny piece of extended wri
Oct 25, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2006
've had this book around for a while and have read it in bits and pieces, as it is written in a format that easily allows for that. It's been my bath book, my waiting in lines book, my doctor's office book. I've enjoyed it emmensely. I was a subscriber to Rolling Stone magazine for quite some time and always enjoyed reading O'Rourke's articles, so I had no doubt that I would appriciate a collection of them. (I was correct in that assumption.) I've also lately realized how little I know about his ...more
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Patrick Jake "P. J." O'Rourke is an American political satirist, journalist, writer, and author. O'Rourke is the H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute and is a regular correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, The American Spectator, and The Weekly Standard, and frequent panelist on National Public Radio's game show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. Since 2011 O'Rourke has been a columnist ...more
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“I was having dinner…in London…when eventually he got, as the Europeans always do, to the part about “Your country’s never been invaded.” And so I said, “Let me tell you who those bad guys are. They’re us. WE BE BAD. We’re the baddest-assed sons of bitches that ever jogged in Reeboks. We’re three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck and descended from a stock market crash on our mother’s side. You take your Germany, France, and Spain, roll them all together and it wouldn’t give us room to park our cars. We’re the big boys, Jack, the original, giant, economy-sized, new and improved butt kickers of all time. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats in Cap d’Antibes. And we’ve got an American Express card credit limit higher than your piss-ant metric numbers go. You say our country’s never been invaded? You’re right, little buddy. Because I’d like to see the needle-dicked foreigners who’d have the guts to try. We drink napalm to get our hearts started in the morning. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying 'Cheerio.' Hell can’t hold our sock-hops.
We walk taller, talk louder, spit further, fuck longer and buy more things than you know the names of. I’d rather be a junkie in a New York City jail than king, queen, and jack of all Europeans. We eat little countries like this for breakfast and shit them out before lunch.”
“It’s important to understand that in the Third World most driving is done with the horn, or “Egyptian Brake Pedal,” as it is known. There is a precise and complicated etiquette of horn use. Honk your horn only under the following circumstances:

1. When anything blocks the road
2. When anything doesn’t.
3. When anything might.
4. At red lights
5. At green lights.
6. At all other times.”
More quotes…