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Babylon by Bus: Or true story of two friends who gave up valuable franchise selling T-shirts to find meaning & adventure in Iraq where they became employed by the Occupation...

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  474 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Jeff and Ray had la vida: selling YANKEES SUCK T-shirts five months of the year in front of Fenway Park and spending the rest of the year traveling the world. Sure, they'd go back to college at some point, but for now, the future was comfortably on hold. But the play button got pushed for them after the Sox broke their hearts in the 2003 Series. In the painfully clear ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 3rd 2006 by Penguin Press HC, The
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Average rating 3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  474 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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Start your review of Babylon by Bus: Or true story of two friends who gave up valuable franchise selling T-shirts to find meaning & adventure in Iraq where they became employed by the Occupation...
Joe Huennekens
Jan 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
This book would've been great if the two men who wrote it didn't spend the entire book defending their irresponsible actions. Admitting that they were completely unqualified for the jobs they recieved in Iraq, LeMoine and Neumann never recognize that their immature and reckless behavior may have contributed to the failure of the US in rebuilding Iraqi civil society. While the book starts interestingly enough, the end is a cringe-inducing narrative that jumps from fist fights with the locals to ...more
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is a story about two guys from the east coast who decided they were bored with the college scene (and considering their ages, it's probably a good thing), bored with the concert scene, bored with the stadium sports scene, bored with the tourist scene, and even bored with the backpacker scene. They were super awesome dudes, just ask them.


These are the guys who spend hours talking about how awesome they are sure they are to anyone who will listen. These two losers go to Iraq due
Aug 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing! Absolutely amazing. I was hooked in by the rediculous title, and then held captive as these guys tell a story about Iraq that you are not gonna hear anywhere else. They kinda stumbled into Iraq and started volunteering for Non-Government-Organization aid centers and rather haphazardly attempt to help out and do some good in the middle of Baghdad - both in the Red and Green Zone. What we get is a point of view that is not told on the news, and is also not told by any other visitors, ...more
Kevin Movius
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
You know something is wrong with the military when two druggies accomplish more goodwill with the Iraqi people than the rest of the US government. They have very positive things to say about the people on the ground in Iraq, but not much positive about the leadership.
These guys charm, lie, cajole and manipulate their way into being the most effective NGO in Iraq at the time.
Aug 21, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who don't care about writing quality
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in current events
Recommended to Danny by: Gifted from my sister.
This book only gets 4 stars because i have never reviewed a book before, and while i thought this book was excellent, i guess i don't want to set the bar too high on the first attempt.

That said, this truly was a well written, genuine account of the U.S. occupation of Iraq told rather plainly and eloquently by two young men who put themselves in the thick of it. As any tale of war it is of course gritty and often heartbreaking, but still manages thoughtful insight and healthy doses of humor

Karin F.
The subtitle says a lot. What it doesn't say is that despite the fact that the book is somewhat inchoate, you just might read it all in one night. I did. And in the morning, when my boyfriend, who used to live with one of the authors, asked me if I liked it, I replied, "Not really". But there's some good stuff here....Some surprisingly astute observations about the mess in Iraq, a few portraits of truly dedicated, smart, and large-hearted women who are serving in and alongside the armed forces, ...more
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Babylon by bus is not only a funny sad/read, it is a surprisingly poignant addition to literature arising from the Second Iraq war. Stylistically, it's a cross between Ray & Jeff's Big Adventure and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with an emphasis on sedatives. Ray and Jeff, creators of the Yankees Suck T-shirts, world travels in the off-season, find their way to Iraq, where they find gainful unemployment trying to establish NGOs for Iraqis. We follow our anti-heros through several months ...more
I thought it was going to be a travel book about two guys going through the Middle East ad it morphed into a story of two irresponsible (but well-intentioned) guys spending several months working in Baghdad during the latter stages of Bremmer's Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) as it slid into the brewing civil war and uptick in violence against American occupation. Is it ok to say "what a shit show"? So much inexperience coupled with rampant greed and corruption (both sides). Not everyone ...more
Emma Sotillo
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It didn't hit me until the last page that this book is actually a memorial for two people that the author's felt deeply indebted to. When I first picked this book up I wanted to research some events that had a huge impact in the media during the second year of the war in Iraq. I enjoyed reading this book which was written from Ray's perspective. Their personal lives would never be the same after their short tour in Baghdad, and the memories they treasure are an eye-opening recount for events ...more
Cortney Mere
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book made me cringe - a lot. Yes, I cringed for the death and violence, but I also cringed that these two men were representing America in a foreign country. They were privileged and rude (unfortunately, they were also aggravatingly typical of Americans you do meet). Even though they made me embarrassed to be a fellow countryman, I am still glad I read the book because it was a unique perspective occupied Iraq.
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
OR, the true story of two friends who gave up their valuable franchise selling YANKEES SUCK T-shirts at Fenway to find meaning and adventure in Iraq, where they became employed by the occupation in jobs for which they lacked qualification and witnessed much that amazed and disturbed them.

The subtitle really does say it all. These two guys, Ray and Jeff, were entrepreneurs of that special breed - they had a mix of natural business sense, imagination and brass cojones that allowed them to lead far
Maol Mhuire O'Duinnin
May 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I actually heard this as a book on CD, but I think it still counts. This is definitely what I would call a "dude-bro" book, in that the authors come from a macho, woman-objectifying, partying point-of-view. Readers, be prepared for descriptions of lewdness from the all-American male perspective. That said, this book was fun to hear as its authors describe grandiose true tales of adventure in the Middle East. First, the two protagonists take off for Israel/ Palestine, then make their way to ...more
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really don't even know where to start with this one, so we'll default to the beginning. Most people, despite the old adage, DO judge a book by its cover: I thought this would be a raucous, but interesting look at Iraq through the eyes of two "interesting" characters. The best review would probably be the book's sub-title, whose "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" vibe is carried on throughout. Also carried throughout the book are copious amounts of drugs, which are frivolously intermixed with ...more
Sep 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Two self described hippy slacker drop-outs defy common sense and head to Iraq in 2003. They load up on Pot, Mushrooms, Valium, Xanax and whatever else they can score from the pharmacy and proceed to try to run a charitable organization delivering clothing to the residents of Faluja, Samara, Kirkuk, etc.

The story is a rambling, disjointed tale that introduces some characters only to never mention them again and others who are not mentioned for 150 pages only to be brought in with a familiarity
Jordan McPeek
Sep 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Are you someone who went to school, got a solid job, is paying off a mortgage and saving for your retirement? This book ain't about someone who makes such safe life choices. A couple professional partiers head to Iraq with no contacts, no prospects, no qualifications, little money and lots of drugs just to see what everyone's talking about. It's a great read. Almost right away they're hired as volunteer NGO workers. They meet all kinds of people from peaceniks to military contractors, and they ...more
Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was ok

The authors, a couple of pill-junkie global wanderers, freely point out how stupid and reckless it was to wander into Iraq, but they were able to get into the Green Zone in Baghdad, become volunteers, and make themselves useful by distributing aid to the Iraqis.

Unarmed, without escort, and un-armored, they went with Iraqi friends in flip-flops, jeans and t-shirts into the Sadr City slums to give out boxes of aid in areas where US troops would not dare set foot.

While no masterpiece, the book is
Jan 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
I can't give this book 5 stars because it isn't exactly a literary work of art. I had heard an interview with the authors on NPR, and was really intrigued and excited to read the book. However, it took me ~60 pages in to think I might end up caring about the story as it was told, since it started out as an account of Jeff & Ray making a string of irresponsible decisions while under the influence of a long list of illicite substances. I gave it some time though, and came to feel that that ...more
Apr 12, 2007 rated it liked it
I've had a hard time deciding what to say about this book, because I reacted to it in so many different ways.
I fault it for excessive use of acronyms and flagrant use of foul language. Also, it should have had an index.
Still, it offers a fascinating, disturbing, sometimes entertaining, sometimes sad glimps of Iraq during the early days of the U.S. occupatiion -- even if it is told through the eyes of two 20-somethings who apparently were seldom sober and never free of the influence of pills.
I picked this out on a lark and discovered a great insider story on what was going on in Iraq in the days of the Coalition Provisional Authority's power trip, told by a couple of misdirected but earnest guys who have no underlying agenda -- they just wanted to tell the story with unveiled honesty. And if you're a news junkie who enjoys geeking out on snippets of back stories re: big events in Iraq as experienced by non-military Americans and lifestyles of war correspondents (like poker parties ...more
Nov 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-travel
Two partying college drop outs go to Iraq in 2004 because they can and they are bored, and they start working helping NGOs, truly start caring and make a difference.
Wow, it was so interesting. It was educational concerning procedures and the history of events at the time. And they had great insights into Iraqi culture and the failure of the CPA. As someone whose been in the West Bank, I really enjoyed the beginning chapters of their time and thoughts from there.
Negative points-they named
Sep 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Unqualified hacks looking to break into the international humanitarian aid world
Shelves: action-politics
Gives an amazingly grounded glimpse into the on-the-ground reality of our occupation of Iraq, of, by, but by no means just for those of us in the 20-something indie/grubby backpacker/impromptu humanitarian aid worker crowd. There's more of us than you'd think...

Moral I gleaned from reading this book, which I'd also learned previously but have increasingly forgotten as I've gotten beyond the initial flush of career path discovery: Screw your immaculately constructed plans and whatnot and just
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An inherently interesting story written smoothly and told by an engaging narrator. Funny, and also, of course, rather upsetting. One blurb compares it to "Innocents Abroad meets Fear and Loathing" - it's a bit less of the latter and more of the former, but that's a good thing. Believable primary observational source on the beginning of the Iraq occupation, and definitely worth reading if the description interests you.
Apr 29, 2012 rated it liked it
the book starts out good but gets a little ridiculous as you flip the pages. story of 2 "dudes" who go to iraq, work at NGOs (not paid by the NGOs but they got paid in my view with writing a book) distributing clothes, do drugs (lots of it), experience the green & red zone and all the craziness of iraq. book written from a "bro" perspective, you learn more about how to get drugs in iraq and BS propaganda. both guys are idiots, but a typical DC, NPR loving "wonk" might enjoy the book. i ...more
Nov 26, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who are willing to loosely interpret the word "true."
What kind of idiot American that isn't (a) a service member, (b) deeply involved in humanitatian efforts, or (c) a highly paid military contractor (i.e. Halliburton, Blackwater, etc.) would want to just hang out in Iraq? When an adventure starts with such a pointless premise, you can't help but question the veracity of the story. That being said, it was still an entertaining read. Another thing I kept thinking while reading this book was "this sounds like something that my buddies Bill Parsons ...more
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow, I had heard about these guys. They used to sell T-shirts outside Fenway and Yankee stadium, then said screw it, let's go to Irag to work. In 2004! Tells what it is like working on the ground there with all the players, all the contractors, Iraqis, US military, the usual do-gooders, etc. Fascinating, fun, sad, and probably very real. "Military occupation is like living with our parents, except you don't klnow them, they don't like you, they speak a different language than you do, and they ...more
Jun 12, 2007 rated it liked it
Sort of a modern day On the Road, these two guys just insert themselves into history by backpacking to Iraq shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein. They get involved with the rebuilding effort and chronicle how the situation deteriorates over time, even as our leaders in Washington were telling us how things were getting better and better every day. They both work and party hard. This book could be a way to teach history and geography to slackers.
Aug 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was my second book for week "two" and was totally crazy. These two guys decide to go to Iraq and manage to get "jobs" (they aren't paid for most of their work) helping to distribute donated goods to the people in Baghdad. This is a very sad look at some the things that were wrong in the US's attempt to set up a government in Iraq, as seen by two drug and alcohol loving 20somethings in a way that doesn't seem possible.
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not as fratty or hedonistic as I expected. However, the story wasn't particularly engaging, and I felt no connection to the protagonists. A lot of names (journalists and such) were dropped. A few parties were mentioned. And the narrative is probably less jarring as it may have been when the book first came out, since we've since forgotten the early rah-rahing about the rebuilding of Iraq and been numbed by 7 more years of steady reports of political violence in Iraq.
Jun 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book was enjoyable, but I did grow tired of reading about the boys constant drug use and alcoholism. It's a true story about two young men who on a whim travel to wartime Bagdad and do pretty outstanding humanitarian work between drinking and drug binges. Provides a good, inside look at the "rebuilding" efforts of the US in Iraq; however, their only sources for information were newspapers and magazines.
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