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Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  13,170 ratings  ·  1,536 reviews
Although his career as a bestselling author and on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart was founded on fake news and invented facts, in 2016 that routine didn't seem as funny to John Hodgman anymore. Everyone is doing it now.

Disarmed of falsehood, he was left only with the awful truth: John Hodgman is an older white male monster with bad facial hair, wandering like a privilege
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 24th 2017 by Viking
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Kate Alexander It is definitely E.B. White.

Hodgman lives in Brooklin, ME, and that's the hometown of E.B. White. Hodgman also describes, on page 204, a "famous phot…more
It is definitely E.B. White.

Hodgman lives in Brooklin, ME, and that's the hometown of E.B. White. Hodgman also describes, on page 204, a "famous photo of the famous writer at work. He is sitting at a manual typewriter in a plain shed, a bare plank for a desk and not even a window so much as a square hole in the wall open to the water and sky."

You can find that photo here:

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book is a bit uneven. John Hodgman reminds me of your single uncle (probably your dad's youngest brother) that you can't escape at Thanksgiving, who thinks of himself as a bit more interesting in his youth than he really was, but who has enough money to spend to have stuff to talk about.

So the stories vary.

The pot stories are pointless. The whole point seems to be, see, I also smoked the pot. Alongside a story near the end about getting drunk after a college appearance. Okay.....

I started
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
John Hodgman gave me an ARC of his new book the other day at the library, and I pretty much immediately devoured it. I found it both genuinely funny and funnily genuine, and like the humor of his podcast that I very much enjoy, I thought its great honesty gave it real punch. Hodgman's observations about my home state, Maine, are insightful and relatable, and his owning up to his own privileged existence throughout the volume mirrors his admission of his experience as someone "from away," and mak ...more
Allen Adams

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.

Not in the case of John Hodgman, though. His latest book – “Vacationland: True Stories of Painful Beaches” – is a massive departure from his previous three books, a bestselling trio constructed entirely out of fake facts and imaginary trivia.

See, the stories in this book are true … and hilarious.

“Vacationland” is divided more or less evenly between Hodgman’s earlier days spent in western Massachusetts and his more
Calling it quits, DNF @ 46%

Okay, to be honest, in no small part did I pluck this off a library shelf display due to the subtitle 'True Stories from Painful Beaches'. Clearly, my problem taking that literally. I was imagining all kinds of fun incidents revolving around sunburn, jellyfish, sea urchins, etc. To this point the closest thing to a beach is a stream bank and pot-induced cairn building--totally dude.

I guess one of the bigger problems I have is the consistent self-deprecating manchild a
Matthew Quann
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, memoir
I found it nearly impossible not to compare John Hodgman's essays with those of David Sedaris. Hodgman seems inspired, in part, by Sedaris' wry observations and dry humour, even if he is never able to reach the heights of Sedaris. The two authors are quite dissimilar in personality and writing, but the style of the book itself is what Hodgman seems to have used as a framework to build his own collection of essays.

Unfortunately, the stories collected in Vacationland are supremely off-balance. Lis
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it

Writer, humorist, podcaster, PC guy, and Daily Show contributor John Hodgman is back, and he's telling (almost) the whole truth. In this collection of funny and reflective essays, Hodgman explores the existential symbolism of his patchy beard, how to navigate the social and natural wilds of Maine, and how even the weirdest dads have some "cool" cred. It's funny, and it's wrought--life is short, and Hodgman's book never lets you forget his (and your) impending demise.

I was predisposed to love thi
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hodgman is much more comfortable telling stories that abound with bald-faced lies. So, it is with an act of courage that he has decided to share truthful stories about himself. He recounts aspects of his life growing up in rural western Massachusetts, inheriting his family’s home, and then, eventually moving to Maine. He is feeling the steady creep of growing older (i.e., his musical tastes are becoming ‘dated’ despite actively making playlists of trendy artists featured on NPR). His reflections ...more
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I laughed out loud 4 times, if that's an indication.
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, essays
Plainly put, John Hodgman's Vacationland is great. It positively exudes Hodgman-yness. Yes, I had to check the cover repeatedly to make sure it hadn't grown an alarming goatee/mustache combination! Straight Talk: If you are a John Hodgman fan you will like this book; If you aren't, you wont. I am and I did and I regret nothing!

FULL DISCLOSURE: I received an ARC of this book from Viking/Netgalley in exchange for an honest (though possibly biased) review.
Peter Derk
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good, but uneven collection of stories. Three very memorable ones involving becoming grown-ups, picking on other people, and a time when Hodgman took one for the team and hung out with some folks he might not have wanted to, but he did it for their sake. That makes it sound much less sweet and self-deprecating than it was. It was quite sweet and self-deprecating.

His essay about his two vacation homes didn't quite land. It started pretty funny, talking about what a problem/non-problem it is to
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, audiobooks
I listened to this as an audiobook, which I highly recommend, because Hodgman's delivery adds a lot. It's the first book he's written that's an actual memoir, and it's terrific. It's not just funny, but it's insightful, charming, and self-aware. I think that even people who aren't already fans would enjoy it.
John Tankersley
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
As we age, we become more sentimental. As he ages, so goes John Hodgman's writings. A memoir of a man struggling to keep his privilege in check from a man who grew up as the beneficiary of an unequal society. It was a real pleasure to hear his own internal monologue on raising his kids, struggling with his privilege, and being entertaining while he does it. This book seems like a less articulate dominant group response to BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME--but from a very different perspective.

I hope Jo
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
What. A. Delight.  I have been watching John Hodgman in various things for years but didn't really know anything about him so this was so much fun to read.  The essays varied in topic and I really got a rounded view of who John Hodgman is.  My roommates ended up reading most of the book with me because I kept having to share the best passages with them (which were the majority of the book).  It is so well written and I can't explain how much fun I had reading this.

I did take points off, though,
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a weird dad myself, I am the prime market for Vacationland but I can honestly say that this book connected with me deeply and in unexpected ways. It is a brilliantly disguised meditation on aging, on privilege, and on identity.
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
Honestly, I never really liked John Hodgman. Until this book. I listened to the audiobook, and he made me laugh out loud through the entire thing. Well, not the part about his mom who died, that made me cry, but the entire rest of the book was so entertaining and self-aware and hilarious. Great essays and insight and necessary reading if you love the East Coast.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This was kinda funny. But I would definitely classify this guy as a "little shit."
Pop Bop
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
He's Such A Tease

Like Calvin Trillin, (who may be a bit more urbane and "citified" compared to Hodgman's more rueful suburban everyman persona), John Hodgman often feels like he's ever so gently teasing the reader, even as he amuses.

In this collection Hodgman declares that he's pretty much burned out and used up, such that these pieces are sadly all that he has left. Maybe it's time for a retrospective and a little bit of a summing up. There's that tease, and a slyly false self-deprecating air t
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Former deranged millionaire John Hodgman has run out of fun false facts and has decided to instead to get very, very real. In a collection of essays that span his migratory patterns across New England, he has pieced together a deeply personal memoir from reflections on his life. We visit western Massachusetts to learn deference to The Dumpmen and the rock-stacking river witches: we travel to the cruel beaches of Maine to contemplate privilege, aging, and the craftsmanship of boats. As a follower ...more
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction, essays
If you know who John Hodgman is and generally enjoy his dry sense of wit, then this book is for you -- congratulations. It's a loose and shaggy collection of reflections thematically connected through vacation homes in Massachusetts and Maine. If that sounds like an amazing feat of NPRish navel-gazing white privilege thematic stunt-work, well, Hodgman is certainly hep to that. His self-deprecation extends and stretches throughout the book in numerous asterixes noting the absurdity of his milieu ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
The writing is OK, but the stories are warm and charming and sometimes funny. He also does a great job of reading this himself. 3.5⭐️
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I don't know how well you know my book purchasing and reading habits. You're certainly not expected to know them. You came here for a light summation of a John Hodgman book and you're getting what seems to be similar to the preamble you find on recipe blogs, where before you can learn how to make that tarragon chicken dish in three easy steps, you must slog through an interminable story about how the blogger's big brother left her at the candy store by accident when she was four and now the only ...more
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm glad my sister recommended this to me. I wouldn't have checked it out based on the cover (I know, I know) and I wouldn't have realized that John Hodgman was the same guy who played the PC in Apple's PC vs. Mac ads, or that he'd been on The Daily Show. He's a great storyteller. Having just finished David Sedaris's Calypso, I was suffering a bit of humor withdrawal because I always get a bit attached to everyone in his family. Hodgman's book was a great salve for this... not because he gave me ...more
Just look at this pretty cover! Admittedly, I hadn’t previously heard of John Hodgman. After a quick Google, I realized I knew him not from The Daily Show (because I never watched) nor from NPR’s This American Life, but from the “Get a Mac” Apple campaign several years ago. 🤦🏼‍♀️

I like this brand of dry, offbeat humor (think watered-down David Sedaris), and quite enjoyed the audio version, narrated by the author.
Conor Ahern
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really love John Hodgman. I was walking along Court Street this weekend, on a perfect autumn day, listening to this book and thinking about the time I drunkenly slept in his friend Jonathan Colton's bed, thinking that I wish I knew this man, but being happy enough that I get to appreciate his wit and wisdom from afar.
Angus McKeogh
Read these two connected books out of order and honestly glad that I did; otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have read the second after the first. Not as fun or as funny as Medallion Status.
Nate Hawthorne
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
John's stories are insightful and funny. He is fantastic at what he calls "privilege humor".
TJ Wilson
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
It’s beauty lies in its muted but hilariously stylized content. Each essay builds and builds until profoundness territory. That’s the mark of a good book and good writing.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Mr Hodgman turns away from fake trivia (as funny as those books were), and takes on the serious & profound. Wonderful stories about his time bouncing around the northeast USA, and growing up an only child. Equal parts touching & comedic, something for everyone. ...more
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you grew up riding the Red Line to Harvard Square in your teens, then spent your 20s in Western MA and now vacation in Maine... This is a really really really really really good book. Go read it now. Like..right now.
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My friend Carolyn introduced me last year to the Judge John Hodman podcast and I instantly fell in love. Hodgman's humor is wry, dry, and laden with a heavy dose of realist perspective and self-knowledge that few people seem to have. Hodgman is fine with people being selfish, they simply need to acknowledge the fact that they are. Own up to what you are, and the world will respect you for it. Be generous. Be mindful of the work you leave for others. Be true to yourself.

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Before he went on television, JOHN HODGMAN was a humble writer, expert, and Former Professional Literary Agent living in New York City. In this capacity, he has served as the Humor Editor for the New York Times Magazine, Occasional Flight vs. Invisibility Consultant on “This American Life,” Advice Columnist for McSweeney’s, Comic Book Reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, and a Freelance Jo ...more

Articles featuring this book

The comedian is back with a look at midlife fatherhood, life in the state of Maine, and the perils of facial hair in Vacationland . Here Hodgman...
16 likes · 8 comments
“This country is founded on some very noble ideals but also some very big lies. One is that everyone has a fair chance at success. Another is that rich people have to be smart and hardworking or else they would´t be rich. Another is that if you´re not rich, don´t worry about it, because rich people aren´t really happy. I am the white male living proof that all of that is garbage. The vast degree to which my mental health improved once I had the smallest measure of economic security immediately unmasked this shameful fiction to me. Money cannot buy happiness, but it buys the conditions for happiness: time, occasional freedom from constantly worry, a moment of breath to plan for the future, and the ability to be generous.” 20 likes
“...normally I consider nostalgia to be a toxic impulse. It is the twinned, yearning delusion that (a) the past was better (it wasn´t) and (b) it can be recaptured (it can´t) that leads at best to bad art, movie versions of old TV shows, and sad dads watching Fox news. At worst it leads to revisionist, extremist politics, fundamentalist terrorism, and the victory-in Appalachia in particular-of a narcissist Manhattan cartoon maybe-millionaire and cramped-up city creep who, if he ever did go up to Rocky Top in real life, would never come down again.” 14 likes
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