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The Wonder Trail: True Stories from Los Angeles to the End of the World

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  584 ratings  ·  99 reviews
Steve Hely, writer for The Office and American Dad!, and recipient of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, presents a travel book about his journey through Central and South America. Part travel book, part pop history, part comic memoir, Hely's writing will make readers want to reach for their backpack and hiking boots.

The Wonder Trail is the story of Steve's trip from Lo
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Dutton
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E. Ce Miller
May 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Steve Hely's THE WONDER TRAIL is like taking a road trip with your older brother (assuming your older brother is anything like my older brother)—even though you love him to death, the entire time he’s driving you slightly insane because he’s not taking anything seriously (even though you begrudgingly admit he’s probably having a better time than everyone else.) And then he makes you burst out laughing at the most absurd moments, and you just think: “God damn it, this guy.” You spend the entire t ...more
Bent Hansen
May 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, non-fiction
I am a little divided about how to feel about this book. Parts of it are quite funny in a self-ironic, Bill Bryson kind of way, while other parts are tremendously boring - especially when Steve Hely sets out to recount the history of whatever region or city he has landed in. Some of them work out okay, but the worst are when he also wants to show off his research of the main literary about that particular time or place - making those parts seem like a bibliographical review in the most academic ...more
Writer's Relief
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"The Wonder Trail: True Stories from Los Angeles" to the End of the World follows Steve Hely from his home in Los Angeles to the southernmost city in the world: Puetro Williams, in Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Chile.

Hely, a television writer (The Office, Veep), follows up his literary debut "How I Became a Famous Novelist" with a book that hooks readers with its infectious enthusiasm for life, and rewards them with insightful stories about fascinating people and places.. The stories
Pop Bop
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Pour Yourself an After Dinner Drink and Settle In

I was drawn to this book because I very much enjoyed Steve Hely's "How I Became A Famous Novelist", the tongue in cheek tale of how a callow youngster sets out to write a best seller. I figured that the same cheerful, sneakily edgy, perceptive approach would be an excellent fit for an improvisational travel memoir. I was right. This book isn't, and doesn't appear to be intended to be, inspirational, educational, culturally profound or deeply obser
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While the author wrote like a young person writes on social media, I really enjoyed his candidness and experiences. He visited many places I am interested in visiting (although I would never do the Inca Trail by bus-oops spoiler), so I loved to read about some new places I hadn't heard of before to add to future trips.
Mike Williams
This book was excellent in parts and lousy in others. I listen for enjoyment while driving and I found some parts captivating and other parts were down right boring. It also felt a bit scatterbrained. I wasn't sure in some cases how we went from one place to the next like we were just jumping through an abridged version of a longer story. Hely comes off a bit egotistical in a Bill Bryson kind of way but also a bit funny in a not so Bill Bryson kind of way. I can't decide if I would like him or h ...more
India Braver
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-read-nonfic, 2018
A funny smart book by a funny smart guy who travels from LA all the way South (like to the end of the continent, not like, Orange County.) There’s of course some interesting travel tidbits, but mostly it’s just his particular story of traveling around some pretty cool places and talking to people. Makes me hella miss LA tho and wanna reread the Savage Detectives. Like if Simon Rich tried to write a Bill Bryson book IDK
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“If you go looking for horrible things to can find them. I’m not a journalist. I decline to take that on as my job. I’m an entertainment writer, weekend library historian, and amateur explorer. My job’s to discover wonderful things”

I love this book. I love this writer. Both, intelligent AND hilarious. I sometimes feel like travel writing is over and done with, that there is little else to say about a place or describing it will never be as good as being there. But this book makes me re
Randell Green
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Epitome of a light-hearted-perfect for flights book. Abrupt ending, I wanted a little more. I enjoyed the brief histories interwoven with his experiences. 📚📚📚
Christi Barth
May 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Not as engrossing as his other book, but still a fun travelogue.
Kasey Hill
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Was looking for an adventure and this was close. Lots more history of all the areas he visited than I had anticipated, but I enjoyed it. Also enjoyed the way he retold history. Much more in depth and juicier than you would read in the history books. My favorite part is how he enjoys meeting all kinds of different people and talking with them. I also enjoy doing that on vacation. Fun and easy read!
Alyssa Campbell
May 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2016
What I expected: A series of interesting stories about Hely's experiences throughout his travel with some history for context.
What I got: A collection of not-so-credible history lessons full of crass language with maybe two sentences about his actual experience in each location.
If you want to enjoy this book you have to be okay with excessive foul language, borderline disrespectful versions of history, and travel writing that is not intended to make you want to travel. I am fine with using swe
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Entertaining and mostly funny, Hely recounts his adventures traveling south from LA to Patagonia in this off-the-cuff travelogue. There is no pretense that this is an insightful, detailed travel guide, nor a vast novel of escapism. Instead, it is simply the funny recounting of an American who is interested in seeing different parts of the world, having some unique experiences, and learning a few things about other cultures, all with a bit of satire and humor thrown in. There is a smattering of f ...more
Margaret Sankey
Feb 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Hely is a comedy writer for the Office and American Dad, so you know exactly what tone he's going to take as he spend a memorable hiatus traveling south from L.A., along the west coast of South America. With the smartassery of Sarah Vowell, but the inch-deep knowledge of someone who sort of reads a book recommended to him by a guy he met at the beach and then gets distracted by Australian surfers, hallucinogenic sessions with a shaman and a discourse about a bad movie about William Walker with P ...more
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Received and advanced copy
Just imagine.... an LA guy (formerly a Bostonite) is turned loose in the throws of Mexico, Central America and South America all to say he made it to the Southern point of South America. How could you not enjoy an adventure like this? The book kept me intrigued and entertained from start to finish. Bringing to life parts of the world I had forgotten about the intense history. I found myself jotting down titles of future books to read that the author makes reference to.
May 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
I received this book through Penguin's First To Read program for an honest review.
This is not a book I could finish. After multiple attempts at reading it-even forcing myself to read for a specific amount of time-I could not bring myself to finish the book. I started it thinking it would be a great travel memoir full of humor and insight into the visited cultures, instead it was a lot of regurgitated history about the locations and very little about the personal experience of the author. This b
Tonya Scott
May 21, 2016 rated it liked it
I won this book via Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to Dutton and Steve Hey

I enjoyed reading this book. I agree with some other readers that it was a bit boring in parts but I had myself a giggle or two in others. All in all I was happy to have read it but as a mood reader, I may have done better to read when I was in the mood for a travel book.
Pix Smith
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Even halfway through, this is a five star book. Well written, funny, and chock full of information, it's like one long coffee date with the author. Definitely worth the read, and I'll be looking at his other work as well.
Jun 17, 2020 rated it liked it
(Note: I listened to the audio book, read by the author.)

While I enjoyed this light and frothy travelogue, I don't think it is particularly life changing or one of the top reads in the genre. Technically it's a memoir of the author's 3 month journey from LA south to the tip of South America, but he doesn't dig too deeply into any emotions or have any insightful epiphanies or realizations so it's less memoirish and more just a straight travelogue. Which is fine! It was just not one that will stay
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Travel writing. I love reading it; I aspire to writing it. And this book made me think about it--

Why didn't I love this book?

And...if I didn't love this book, then what is the difference between books I adore and books I only tolerate, and how can I make sure my own writing falls into the 'adore' category?

There's no single answer. But in this case, I figured out my problem when I was nearing the end--he doesn't share the intense interest I have in the natural world. Human history is cool, but na
Tom Brown
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who loves travel writing will enjoy Steve Hely's book. He travels from Los Angeles to the southern tip of South America. Along the way, he has numerous adventures and sees some great places. I cannot say that I would like to have all of his experiences such as trying cocaine or the hallucinogen called ayahuasca. But he did see some great places such as Tikal and the Galapagos and Chile that I would like to visit some day. Hely has an breezy manner in his writing that makes it not only enj ...more
I discovered this book rather randomly. The title piqued my imagination. There were no expectations of what the book might hold, the best way to approach anything one is reading. It is always an extra plus that the writer reads their own words. They know these words intimately and the reader/writer's intonations become meaningful.

This is a good book for armchair travelers. The story is enhanced with history and background about locations, in addition to the people that Hely has met along the wa
Bedrooped Bookworms
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
This sounded like a great story, a dude travels from LA to the southernmost tip of the Americas. Sounds like a great adventure, lots of exploring and time for self discovery…mmm, not quite. 4 out of 10 for enjoyment, 3 out of 5 for readability. Way too much history, although mostly recounted in ways that aren’t totally dry, but there are gems at times that got me laughing. Guess I prefer feeling inspired in some way from travel books and this book just left me kind of disappointed in the author. ...more
The Book Grocer
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Purchase The Wonder Trail here for just $12!

As a writer for The Office and American Dad, Steve Hely has written a hilarious tale of his adventures through Central and South America with a dash of history for good measure. So enjoyable is this book that by the end, I found myself wishing I had a Steve to travel with.

Alicia, The Book Grocer
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
To use the author's own oft-used adjective, I'd like to say this book is "terrific." He's sort of a more casual millennial version of Simon Winchester, traveling around having his adventures around Latin America while giving historical and cultural tidbits as a way to give a little gravitas to what essentially is a moveable feast on his journey to Patagonia. This and MacQuarrie's "Life and Death in the Andes" have really made Latin America an intriguing destination for me. Recommend.
Mike Ely
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Entertaining travelogue by Steve Hely about a journey from LA to the bottom of South America. The trip itself was fun enough and Hely adds in plenty of facts and stories about places along the way to augment his tour. Although Steve is a comedy writer for several hit shows, the book wasn't as funny as I thought it would be. Definitely a good read though. I'm ready to travel after reading this!
Be sure to check out the excellent book recommendations at the back of the book.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've traveled many of these places so I enjoyed his narrative. Especially interesting to me was his reference to other writers, causing me to keep a running list of other books I want to read. Not your everyday travel book; perhaps a bit more honest than most.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Pretty interesting and I like that it made me look up places on a map, but ultimately I learned that men are kind of gross, which I kind of already knew, but probably didn't want to know with quite as much certainty. It was OK. Probably would recommend this more for men.
Nicole Geub
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
a fun, if sporadic, journey from LA to Patagonia. this author also read the audio book and was very good at it. very engaging and a lot of his stories were funny and down to earth. I could imagine myself in the cities and sights with him and at the bars chatting up the locals and Australians.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From a literary standpoint, this is not the same quality as my other 5-star books. However, it was such fun and I kept wanting to read it and talked about it constantly. It's probably more like 4.5 stars for me, but I fudged higher.
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