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Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams
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Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  2,352 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
It all started when Douglas Adams demolished planet Earth in order to make way for an intergalactic expressway–and then invited everyone to thumb a ride on a comical cosmic road trip with the likes of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and the other daft denizens of deep space immortalized in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adams made the universe a much funnier place to inh ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published March 29th 2005 by Ballantine Books (first published October 6th 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Astrid
May 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Besides Humphrey Carpenter's Tolkien-biography this is without a doubt one of the best biographies I have ever read - if it isn't actually the best.
Nick Webb has caught the mood and mannerism of Douglas Adams to perfection, and anyone who's read Hitchhiker's or any of his other books will recognize the whimsical and charming humor inside this one.
Wish You Were Here toes the line between what is personal and what is too personal to tell in a biography, but never once does the author cross it and
...more
Krissa
Mar 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chris
This isn't just a must-read for Adams fans, it's also a must-read for writers or any other creative type who enjoys the sweet torture of procrastination - Adams was a master of the genre.

I'm not much of a biographies person but this one is almost like hanging out with Adams, he's that well captured.
Michael
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Douglas Adams is one of my favorite writers, and I've been a fan of his books since I was about 12 or 13. Ironically, I was introduced to his first book (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) by my older brother, who has no sense of humor whatsoever.

I read this at the same time as reading another Douglas Adams biography, called "Hitchhiker", written by M.J. Simpson. The reason I did this is I wanted to get a more complete sense of the life of my favorite humorist from more than just one viewpoin
...more
Kathy
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-nonfiction
2.5ish.

Full confession: I was one of those school kid nerds who discovered Adams' work and completely fell in love with it.

I picked this up on impulse at the library and, sadly, struggled to get through it. There were lots of great stories about Adams (the author was a friend of his) but there were. So. Many. Names. I think if I had been familiar with 70s-80s famous media Brits I would have enjoyed it more. As it was, I kept stumbling and pausing, "Should I know who this is?"

Still love Adams'
...more
Jason ("jcreed")
A bit rambly but enjoyable.

Personally I find it extremely heartening that one of the funniest, most capable writers of the last few decades was beset by crippling self-doubt as to his abilities or chance of success in the world. Add to that the fact that are plenty of people who just as vastly overestimate their talents, and it just goes to show you never know.

The biography is quite tolerable until the omg-he's-the-greatest quality of it gets to you. It's not like the level of admiration increas
...more
Giddy Girlie
Jun 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another thrift store find... and a fantastic one at that! Douglas Adams was a difficult genius and Nick Webb did a wonderful job of telling the story in a very even-handed manner. He admits Adams's shortcomings as well as some of his unpublicized triumphs. Webb's writing is also great. A biography has never been so fun! He has a quirky humor, much like Adams, that makes it an enjoyable read. The only bummer is that the book was published before the movie was released - I would have loved to hear ...more
Amber
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very comprehensive book, and very entertaining to read. It made me like Douglas Adams all the more, and really makes me want to go back and reread everything he's written! It took me an unusually long time to read for some reason (not a quick read), but I enjoyed every minute of it.
Michael
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0_non-fiction
Douglas Adams, and his ideas, were so much more than just Hitchhiker's.
Danny
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a huge fan of biographies in general. Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors, and I certainly learned a lot about him while reading this, but I can't say that it added much to my appreciation of his novels, or of him as a person.

The author is British and the book was written over 10 years ago, so there was quite a wide cultural gap for me to leap as an American in 2017. References to British celebrities/actors/writers (from the 70s and 80s, mostly) abound that probably would have b
...more
Teresa Fannin
I read the Hitchhiker books long ago, but was not aware of this book until it popped up on BookBub and I downloaded for free. I found it to be almost a hagiography of Douglas and all I could think of was that if there wasn't a Douglas Adams, someone would have invented him. I understand what he brought to the world of sci-fi that was not there before, but he was certainly not alone!

Yes I think the Hitchiker books were fun, brilliant even, and I enjoyed Dirk Gently. With this book, after a while
...more
Karen
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I thoroughly enjoyed this biography, and I may have to go back and reread Adams' books now.
Janet Phillips
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent biography

This biography avoids the usual problem with biographies of having a sad ending by dealing with the death of the subject up front at the beginning. Of course, it helps that the subject sadly died very young so there were no years of decline to write about! Douglas Adams comes over as a nice and intelligent person.
Govinda Parasrampuria
I picked up this one because I am a big fan of Douglas' books. I've read the H2G2 "trilogy", Last Chance to See and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.
I thoroughly enjoyed all of them, and I've never laughed the way I laughed while reading H2G2. It's just so damn funny.
He was a visionary, way ahead of his time.
He was an outspoken atheist too.
So, it goes without saying I have a lot of respect for Douglas.

But this book, for me, was kind of a let-down. Although it details his life in painstaki
...more
J.J. Toner
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful account of the life of Douglas Adams, a man of boundless energy and imagination who inhabited the wastelands between real science, science fiction and humour, and lived his life with a childlike sense of awe. He will never be forgotten. As for Nick Webb's book, it is stuffed full of detail and amusing anecdotes. He takes us close enough to Douglas to get a strong sense of his drive, his passions and his demons (writer's block, mostly) without intruding too far into his soul. Nick Web ...more
Tracey
Nov 17, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libraryread
It's more of a theme-based biography than strictly chronological & very British (I have got to start using the word "kipple"!). Mr. Webb was also an acquaintance of Douglas & as well as being the "official biographer", he was able to bring some of his personal insights to the work. I learned more about his family background that I remember reading in either the Gaiman or Simpson bios - the section of pictures (if a bit too small) was a lovely addition, as was the list of Douglas' favouri ...more
Elizabeth
May 16, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: die hard HHGTG fans
Painstakingly researched, and affectionate. Webb acknowledges his seriously pro-Douglas bias, but he makes many excuses for Adams' personality challenges which are a bit grating to read after a while. The early parts of the book are the strongest, focusing on things that happened and anecdotes. I consider myself a great admirer of his work, but not a fanatic, so I was happy to learn about the childhood and adolescent circumstances that shaped one of the funniest English modern writers. The latte ...more
Scott
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic! It takes a little while to get going through some slightly dull plodding about at the start discussing Douglas Adams' family, but it really hits its stride once the great author gets into the picture. Very intelligent and often funny (maybe a bit too much America-bashing from author Webb, ironic as Douglas loved America), this book is straightforward for about half the pages and then goes off the rails in different directions about Adams' life. Appropriate, though, given how full of i ...more
Richard Barnes
Solid and fun to read but nothing terribly new revealed here, at least not to anyone who's read other biographies of the great man. The obvious comparison is MJ Simpson's "Hitchhiker" - which is less full of personal anecdotes but perhaps more detailed.

What lifts this is Webb's personal connection with Douglas so much of this is first hand stuff from someone who was a friend rather than just recounts from other people.

It slips back though because there's not really any great insight to his actua
...more
Prateek
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: collectibles
I admired Douglas Adams' writing from page one of the h2g2 books... After all, his phenomenally profound, witty, and irreverent writing prompted me to start reading again...

Little did I know then, that, for many reasons I'd come to admire the man himself.

This is the first biography I've ever completed (or wanted to).

A candid, funny, and intimate insight into Douglas' life, wish you were here made me want to read each one of his books again, so I could delve deeper into how he perceived the wor
...more
Naomi
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-books-ever
I was surprised constantly through out this book. I really enjoyed reading this book and was very happy to find out about one of my heros, this book made me laugh, cry, giggle like a kid!! It was happy, sad and enlightening and it surprised me in places. I think knowing his work made me enjoy learning about the man behind the answer to life the universe and everything and has made me dust of my old copies of the hitchhikers four book trilogy to reread. But you most definitely don't need to be a ...more
Arminzerella
Jan 03, 2009 marked it as not-going-to-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I made it through the introduction and the first chapter or so (about 50 pages in) before deciding that this wasn't going to work for me. Maybe if Douglas Adams had written it...

What I really wanted to hear was more of his stories, and this was, perhaps, too comprehensive. Let's go back in time and set up the family, talk about how who begat who and all of the myriad relationships. Skipping ahead might have served me better, but I'd already invested my hour or so, and I wasn't interested anymore
...more
m_miriam
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
While interesting, I could not relate to Adams as described. I have little patience for thoughtless and selfish men, particularly white ones of Adams' generation. I appreciate that underneath it all, Adams was well-meaning and caring, but that doesn't make-up for repeated unintentional hurts. Also, the book should have ended a good fifty pages earlier. Learning of the drama involved in his tech venture was neither particularly informative or interesting.
Iain Turnbull
Frankly, this was quite disappointing. The subject matter was certainly interesting, but the author's style is appalling - it reads like it was written by a schoolboy at times, with a plethora of completely pointless footnotes. It's also obvious that the author was not nearly detached enough from his subject, and it was more like someone regaling you with tales of an old friend, rather than a subjective biography.
Caryn
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked it. It did a good job of showing where the zaniness came from, but also told a lot about him that couldn't be inferred from his books. I hadn't realized he was such a bad procrastinator - it's a good measure of how valuable he was to his publisher that they'd go to the lengths they had to, to get him to write something! I'm glad they did, though, and I'll always be sorry he didn't get a chance to delay his way through more books.
Jeff
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Anyone who has enjoyed reading Douglas Adams' books should strongly consider reading this witty, intelligent, and sensitive biography of Douglas, by Nick Webb, who clearly knew the man well, and loved him for both his brilliance and his quirks. I believe Douglas would be proud to know what an amazing impression he made on so many during his life, and this biography is an excellent testimony.
Brett Dewey
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
A loving, yet painful tale of creativity, self-doubt, procrastination and distraction. Interesting for writers as this is not only a biography but also a blow-by-blow exploration of DA's publishing relationships. Webb knew Adams and in his research got many of those key to his life to tell affectionate tales of a very creative and, of course, flawed man.
Ris
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A few moments of hilarity and Adamsian anecdotes among somewhat painful descriptions of the publishing & tv/movie producing processes. All probably quite accurate, but I guess I was hoping the entire book would be as funny as Adams's fiction was. Very insightful as to how such an imaginative artist interacts with corporate entities.
Beth
Aug 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
I still have the last 2 books of the trilogy in five parts to read and now that I've read this, I want to go back and re-read the first three consecutively before finishing out the series. Having some insight into how his writer brain worked wants me to not only refresh my brain on the H2G2 series but read everything else he's written!
Beth
This is an interesting book, and a must read for any Douglas Adams fan by a longtime friend. It's not chronological, but still organized in a way that makes sense. Behind the scenes anecdotes of everything from H2G2 to Last Chance to See to Starship Totanic.

Also features the best explanation of evolution I've see outside of a biology textbook.
Brian Steed
Nick Webb is a fine writer. I can’t find anything else by him on Amazon, so I’m assuming this is his first book. He should do more biographies. I loved the observant and well-phrased asides he scatters throughout the book. He seems as genuinely fascinated by the natural world, literature, and technology as Adams was.
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16302898
NICK WEBB was a publisher for nearly thirty years before, perversely, turning to writing. He commissioned The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while he was an editor at Pan Books, and remained good friends with Douglas Adams until the end of the author’s life.
More about Nick Webb...

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“long middle finger resembling a twig that it could use for probing for grubs. There is a telling example of convergent evolution when an unrelated species (the Long-Fingered Possum from Papua New Guinea) devised a similar strategy to address the same problem. (Douglas was very intrigued by the implications of convergence. What need is there to posit a designer if the operation of random forces, constrained by the reality of the world, produces the same elegant solution, as if there were no choice in the matter?) We monkeys have” 1 likes
“You can forget Proust and those stupid cakes. Beatles’ songs are more potent.” 0 likes
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