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18% Gray

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  3,187 ratings  ·  207 reviews
Distraught over the sudden disappearance of his wife Stella, Zack tries to drown his grief in Tijuana, where he encounters a violent scene, and trying to save a stranger's life, he nearly loses his own. He manages to escape in his assailants’ van and makes it back to the US, only to find a bag of marijuana in it.

Using this as an impetus to change his life, Zack sets off f
Paperback, 264 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Open Letter (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,187 ratings  ·  207 reviews

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Mar 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the things I needed to find in the novel. Enough for me to give 3 stars, but not enough to put it next to the books I have rated with 4 and 5 stars.
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A Bulgarian best-selling novel with more that 10 editions since 2008, which I wanted to share widely as soon as I read it, is finally translated into English! It is a beautiful love story, an exciting hero’s journey across America and into self-realization, a Quentin-Tarantino-like entertainment, which at times hits you with its deep sensitivity. It is dynamic, fast moving, funny and evocative.
The main character, Zack is a Bulgarian who moves to the USA after the fall of the Berlin wall. The bo
Chad Post
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
DISCLAIMER: I am the publisher of the book and thus spent approximately two years reading and editing and working on it. So take my review with a grain of salt, or the understanding that I am deeply invested in this text and know it quite well. Also, I would really appreciate it if you would purchase this book, since it would benefit Open Letter directly.

A fun adventure book about a man who's lost his wife, found a massive bag of marijuana, and decided to fix his life by taking a road trip acros
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sex, drugs and violence meets fine arts, photography and the meaning of life. Autobiographically accurate and pornographically intimate. This novel reads like a blog, feels like a diary and draws you in like an action flick. It's a cult classic.

18% for evah!
Delaney Nolan
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Yr classic zany American road trip, from LA to NYC, told this time by a Bulgarian transplant. There are some wonderful moments and some of the writing I really enjoyed-- lines about the forest fire being like he's in the belly of an orange balloon-- but this book didn't hold together for me. The protagonist is critical towards everyone and everything, which begs the reader to turn that scornful, overly cynical eye on him. And that narrator treads a pretty worn line: I've fallen into the trap of ...more
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation, fiction
zachary karabashliev's 18% gray is an entertaining and often very funny post-breakup road trip tale. armed with an ample stock of photography equipment, toblerone, desperation, relationship woes, and a very large bag of marijuana, narrator zack sets off for new york city from his southern california home in hopes of perhaps winning back his beloved and estranged stella. mishap, dark humor, and existential musing keep zack company as he attempts to put his life in order. karabashliev, bulgarian-b ...more
Thomas Hübner
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing

When you take photos sometimes, you may know or not know that cameras have a light meter. All light meters including those in every camera must be calibrated to assume a certain percentage of light being reflected from the subject you want to photograph.

Each light meter can be used to determine correct exposure so long as the photographer knows the angle of measurement and knows how to isolate what is being measured. In addition to knowing the area from which
Vania Lateva
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We are nothing, but flare.
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've stared at this page, written, rewritten, and deleted this review over and over again. I'm not sure how to put anything in words so in case I fail...just read this novel. You might change your outlook and you might not. Even if you don't, you'll have read one hell of a story.

This is a story of life. The author tells his story purely and without regard or romanticism. It is rather difficult NOT to get inside the character's head as you read. As a reader, I forged a bond with the character, Z
Mariana Juliette
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
So happy that the book is now published in English.
"18% Gray" became a Bulgarian best seller and received so many awards and prizes - including being rated one of the 100 Best Bulgarian books and I can see why.
Quite interesting novel - all in one adventure, love and romance, suspense and all this mixed with the author's ability to write so intriguing would make you read it on a single sitting. I did not get up till I read it all and now after reading it few times I still find it interesting.
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
18% Gray is an interesting story, but I found it to be just plain sad instead of humorous. The main character is not one of those characters you will love, because this is about his pain and his attempt to escape it. Consumed by his grief and his inability to come to terms with his wife disappearing he makes plenty of stupid decisions. Some of the thought processes are disturbing and some of the events that occur are not for overly sensitive readers.
*I received the book for free through Goodrea
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
The story is interesting and it really makes you read the book until the end but I don't like the way it's written - I find the language used in it too shallow and simple.
Vanessa  P.
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Flo Neamţiu
We’ve been to Bulgaria for a weekend and we were interested to find some Bulgarian authors. We visited almost 10 different libraries all across Sophia and barely found a couple of authors translated in English. However, this book was in EVERY one of the bookstores. Sometimes was the only English book in the store, but it was there. So I was very curious and bought it.
I did find some Bulgarian cultural aspects in it, although the action happens in the US, so I guess I got what I paid for, but I
Jodie Scales
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredibly written book. It isn't quite appropriate for me to share with students, but I am sure my adult friends will enjoy it, even if you haven't been to Bulgaria. If you have, it is so hilarious in a dark humor, but very real way. We have met the author and have a presentation with him later this month.
Leslie Ann
Apr 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
3.5 stars. Solid read for my AtW challenge (Bulgaria), although the book mostly takes place in the U.S. Indeed, the book seems like a love letter to photography and the U.S. After a while, I was caught up by the absurd events and prose, and was pleasantly surprised by how everything fell into place by the end.
Mariya Hineva
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely perfect and intimate. The ending is so not expected, it made me cry as I felt for Zach. At some points the language and the scenes were a bit too much for me, but then again this made me understand through what is the character going. I absolutely love the male point of view of love, loss and life. The book is amazing.

I wanted more and more...I am so in love with the character, the plot and the atmosphere, that I now want to read all of his books.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
does love have seasons?
when did I actually start perceiving Stella through my own thoughts about her and not through direct observation? I've watched her through layers of confusion and anger instead of seeing her as she was. why have I viewed her through the monocle of my bitter ego?
Manuela Draganova
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved reading it all the way to the end. The sense of Zachary's writing is a very interesting mixure ot high testosteron and vulnerability, well incorporated into dynamic, multylevele and captivating plot. Highly recommend it.
Joanna Van der veen
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
A really good read. A well realised central character and fast-moving plot based around a gripping road trip narrative. My first Bulgarian book in translation, and it's made me want go try more!
Lídia Saragaço
Jan 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
Mateusz Swietoslawski
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Check out the review on my blog

The theme of the road is probably one of the most ancient story telling mechanisms known to man; and maybe one of the best. From Odyssey to Lord of the Rings storytellers have sent their characters on various journeys so that before reaching their destination and ending their epic quest they can also find themselves on the way there.

Without spoiling too much, Zack (a fictional version of the author) goes on a bing drinking marathon through Tijuana, Mexico to someho
Paulo Santos
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I bought this book in Sofia, in the advice of the bookstore clerk. It is a good book, well written and interesting, more about America and the way it's perceived by someone from Europe than about Bulgaria.
At times exciting, at times somewhat boring, this is an Americana road trip buddy flick about a man and his giant stolen bag of marijuana.

The biggest, most obvious theme running through the book is about not living the life one was meant to live. Specifically, not living the life of the artist. But it felt heavy handed. This book is not a subtle look at someone who has squandered his talent, but rather a significant portion of this book features the protagonist explicitly wondering why he had sq
Aaron (Typographical Era)
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
[Just finished this one for the second time, and I think I loved it even more...]

The driving idea behind Zachary Karabashliev’s debut novel 18% Gray, that one has to experience some sort of extreme loss in order to gain a better understanding of what’s truly important in life, certainly isn’t a new one. However, the beauty of this particular tale lies in the author’s supreme skill at weaving together autobiographical nuggets with invented exaggerations and half-truths in order to create a spellb
Lora Grigorova
Aug 06, 2012 rated it liked it
18% Gray:

The most common thing you are going to heаr about Zachary Karabashliev’s 18% Gray is that it is the Bulgarian version of On the Road by Jack Kerouac. As Luben Dilov said it, “On the road. Not with Jack but with Zack.”. As a quote it sounds good, almost original, you might say. As a hint towards the topic of the book, it is a complete bullshit.

In 18% Gray the protagonist Zack is indeed on the road. He also takes the famous Route 66 (or what is lef
Jaimie Lau
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a seriously good book. The structure of the novel takes three forms (the present day, past events and past conversations) that compliment each other superbly yet reveal completely different circumstances, perspective and at times, sides of the main character. Zachary is unfiltered and uncontrived. He can be crude and boorish yet at the heart of this character, is something touching and romantic (but without being romantic). The book is really well-written and his descriptions and imagery ...more
David Williams
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
18% Gray is Mr. Karabashliev's attempt to make the largely quotidian moments of a life interesting. That is not to say that this book is boring or about the boring, in fact it is quite compelling, and its lack of true chapter breaks encourages one to binge read. The focus of the narrative is on the background control that is everyday in order to make the larger moments that much more distinct.
The eponymous protagonist is an ex-hard-as-balls Bulgarian come SoCo dunderhead who stumbles upon man
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Zachary Karabashliev created a character in this book that did not aim to impress anyone. Zach could be insufferable, but he was overall tolerable. He only knew and conveyed his personal truths, but as his camera clicked away, the reader can find them to be universal. Much of where an audiences soft spot develops throughout this tail is from where the author intertwines past scenes with Zack, his beloved Stella, and the present. The ending was quite the surprise for me. I recommend this book, be ...more
Megara 🧿
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
18% Gray is a stream of consciousness-style novel about how the narrator, Zach, deals with the loss of the love of his life. He drunkenly stumbles across a giant plastic bag stuffed with marijuana in Avenida Revolucion and decides to take a road-trip across the States to New York to sell the ganja. Throughout the novel, I couldn't help but think that I had little interest in the plot, but really enjoyed the author's voice. I thought I would give the book two stars on GoodReads, but everything ch ...more
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