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Lake of the Ozarks: My Surreal Summers in a Vanishing America

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  741 ratings  ·  122 reviews

Before there was "tourism" or "leisure time;" before souvenir ashtrays became "camp" and "kitsch;" before Goofy Golf became an "attraction" and today's colossal theme parks could even be imagined, there was "Beautiful Lake of the Ozarks -- Family Vacationland," where to this day the ashtrays remain devoid of irony. It was here, at Arrowhead Lodge at Lake of the Ozarks, whe
Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 2019)
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3.77  · 
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 ·  741 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Emmy Award winning CBS Sunday Morning correspondent, Bill Geist, writes a humorous and often poignant coming of age memoir about the summers he spent working at his uncle’s resort in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.

Geist’s experiences harken back to a time before cell phones, computers, microwaves, and “political correctness” existed. It’s a nostalgic look at a “simpler” time with likable, eccentric characters and youthful antics… and it’s a light, enjoyable read!
Scott  Hitchcock
This couldn't be less interesting and boring. I took a shot figuring I didn't know a lot about the area and that there might be some interesting route 66 type stories but at last a resounding no.
J. April
Actual rating 2.5. I received an advanced reader copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway.

Lake of the Ozarks is a time hop. The reader is transported to the 1960s, peering into the past as though through a portal into the author's summers spent in the Ozark mountains. The sense of nostalgia is contagious, and I found myself smiling back upon memories that weren't at all my own, but were universal in their themes: growing up; the freedom of being away from home for the first time, and the
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This light, entertaining book is perfect for reading on a summer afternoon. Turn on the electric fan, pour a glass of lemonade, let go of today's concerns, and let Bill Geist amuse you. From reading other reviews, I am going to take a guess that if you enjoyed his pieces on Sunday Mornng, you'll enjoy the book, and if not, not. It doesn't pretend to be great literature. It's simply fun. Probably I should give it 3 stars, but dang, I needed some mental refreshment today, and the book delivered!
Jul 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Audiobook. I think the humor better translates when read - the narrator was kind of flat. This reminded me of Caddyshack and other 80’s summer movies of debauchery and shenanigans.
Jul 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brought back memories of a place that no longer exists but holds a special place in my heart as we currently enjoy the next generation of Lake of the Ozarks. It’s one man’s story and know there are many more from the many old resorts that families enjoyed back in the day.
Terry Enright
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You know how there are different types of great days? It could be gorgeous weather and a family trip to the beach. It could be hanging with friends at a sporting event that turns out better than planned. Or it could just be hanging with a buddy, sitting on a porch watching the Sun set, while tossing back a few cold ones. Well "Lake of the Ozarks: My surreal Summers in a Vanishing America" is the latter. It's like hanging with a friend, sharing easy banter, and enjoying it as much as anything el ...more
Michael O'Leary
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes it is simply great to read a book that's just plain fun, and makes you laugh almost on every page. Lake of the Ozarks is the hilarious chronicle of Bill Geist unique coming-of-age in a different place, the Ozarks, and a different time. This is a quick read, charming, witty, and thoughtful...just plain memorable.
A brief description from the publisher:
Before there was "tourism" and souvenir ashtrays became "kitsch," the Lake of the Ozarks was a Shangri-La for middle-class Midwestern fami
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Flat, not so funny or clever reminiscing book that would have been better if Bill Bryson had written it. In fact I’m pretty sure he had a very similar memoir. I had expected a better experience.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the perfect book for Baby Boomers who remember going to a resort on a lake for summer vacations with their family. These establishments were everywhere in this country. Younger readers probably have never experienced such an establishment. For reference they should stream the movie "Dirty Dancing." Then they'll get the picture.

Bill Geist may be in ill health now, but he can still churn out a laugh out loud memoir of his summers working at his uncle's Arrowhead Lodge on Lake of the Ozark
Eliza McNitt
Hailing as I do from Missouri, I was almost giddy with excitement to crack open this nostalgic collection of anecdotes from one of the state’s biggest attractions. The author is a famous TV news journalist so I what could go wrong? Plenty, let me tell you. The book promised to be a fun recollection of the author’s summers working at his uncle’s motel on the shores of the Lake in the 1960’s. Instead, it can best be described as a flaccid collection of pointlessly dull stories that lurches drunken ...more
I went into this one expecting a wacky tale of a family vacation gone awry - something akin to Jean Shepherd's Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss, but instead I got rambling, unfocused reminiscences of Geist's time spent trying to get laid whilst working at a seedy resort. The essays lacked the warmth and humor that this type of book requires, and it seemed that Geist himself was not very interested in the people about whom he was writing.

But, my husband loved it, so maybe it was just me . . .
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Fun read. The author grew up in Champaign and spent summers working at a family hotel in Lake of the Ozarks. Full of quirky funny stories and lots of nostalgia -- you can see how Geist's upbringing influenced his later work as a journalist.
Linda Quinn
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really fun memoir for anyone who grew up watching Dirty Dancing or Caddyshack. Bill Geist puts you right back into those days when lake resorts ruled and 42 room motels were the place to be.
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carol Irvin
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed reading about the good old days! And I love Bill Geist😊
Deborah Martinez
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this, and laughed out loud multiple times.
Anne Fischer
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED this book!! I’m from Missouri and spent many summers as a child at the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks. As an adult,
my husband and I built a vacation home at the Lake. Lake of the Ozarks is our happy place.
I hold fond memories of Arrowhead Lodge
and was so disappointed when it’s doors were shuttered. It then broke my heart when the building was demolished.
The Lake continues to be populated with quirky locals; that’s part of its charm. We walked into a restaurant a few years ago a few miles
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bill Geist spent his summers at the Lake about 15 years before I was born, but it was great fun to read his stories about a place I know so well. Arrowhead Lodge, the Larry Don, Max Allen’s Reptile Gardens...Jeff City makes a couple of cameos, too. Altogether enjoyable way to pass a few hours!
Matt Fitz
I like Bill Geist. He's a funny man. I grew up in the St. Louis area in the 70s and 80s and Lake of the Ozarks always held a flyover kitschiness to me even as a kid due to all the family and personal friends who owned and gave the funny, hillbillyish, post cards and wooden chotschke gifts with folksy Ozark wisdom and euphemisms written in that quintessential "hillbilly font" meant to look like the words were carved or hatcheted into wood. (toothpick holders, weather forecasters, gone fishin' sig ...more
James Hallmark
I try to read a “summer vacation” kind of book each summer. This looked kind of interesting. Bill Geist has a fun reputation. He wrote a clever column for years for the New York Times. Did cutesy pop culture stories for years for CBS morning shows. I thought this would be a good one. I like Geist! But for me this book fell flat. It is his reminisces of working at an old school lodge at Lake of the Ozarks when he was in high school in the 1960s. Very stereotypical summer job/summer lake stories. ...more
Bill Geist is a guy I would love to meet in real life and just sit down and listen to him talk for an afternoon. The man entertains me with his nostalgic stories. I believe we are close to the same age so when he talks about his childhood and teen years, I'm right there.

This book is a memoir of the summers he spent at his Aunt Janet and Uncle Ed's Arrowhead Motel on Lake of the Ozarks. He may have been a relative but nepotism never reared it's ugly head. Bill was a poorly paid bellhop/dishwasher
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This was a really fun listen about a bygone era in America. It had become more difficult for me to listen to memoirs like this without thinking how much we romanticize this time period that was less than ideal for so many people. That being said, it is nice to think back to the days when drive-in theaters were common, a college kid could earn enough over the summer to pay for their education without student loans, and kids could get into mischief without it resulting in criminal charges.

Bill Gei
Craig Amason
Jul 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I was drawn to this book primarily because we recently moved to Missouri and because I visited the Lake of the Ozarks just a few months after settling here. I didn't know anything about Bill Geist as I never watch Sunday Morning on CBS. I may have read his columns before but am not aware if I have. I can relate to many of the references Geist makes to growing up in the 1960s and 70s, although he is a bit older than I am. Some readers will no doubt be put off by the political incorrectness of the ...more
Enjoyed listening to this book about Lake of the Ozarks and Arrowhead Lodge. He told of the escapades that young college-age kids would encounter/create in the 1960's on a summer job away from mom and dad. He spent a fair amount of time talking about chasing girls and hopefully losing his virginity, which he never did cover in the book. So, this seems pretty normal for a college guy in the 60's. Since I vacationed there as a child in the 60's, I really enjoyed hearing about his experiences. He a ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was just a rollicking good time. Those years of escaping from your parents but still being somewhat supervised, away from your safe hometown and into a dream world of sorts. Travel in the Sixties was an entirely different ballgame, and Bill Geist bounces us around into the antics with his friend both behind the scenes and in the public areas at his freewheeling aunt and uncle’s 41-room Arrowhead Lodge in Missouri. Bill Geist can spin a yarn, as CBS later recognized, and his stories of ...more
Shelly Crawford-Stock
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Filled with good memories and humor!

As a person the grew up very close to Champaign (Bill’s hometown) and vacationed at Lake of the Ozarks almost every year growing up I was excited about this book and the potential parallels. Granted the author’s experiences are about 15 years earlier than mine, however his descriptions of places and people took me back to the early years of my vacations. I’m grateful as Lake of the Ozarks looks little like it did back then. With new roads and routes it’s easy
Jun 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: with-my-ears
An amusing look at the author’s coming of age during summers spent working at his aunt and uncle's resort, before graduating from college and going off to serve in Vietnam. It was a different, much more misogynistic time and Geist reminisces about his relationships with the young women who also worked at the lodge. He still remembers these events as funny, even as he acknowledges how mores have changed. Geist narrates the first and last chapters — not sure why the decision was made to use a prof ...more
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
OMG - the things that trigger memories. I looked at the picture of the lodge and it all came rushing back: the vacations, the drives, the hikes and excursions, the tourist thing; before every town had the same stores: no McDonald's, no Walmart, no Amazon delivery.

Every year, we would go on a two week trip to mountains or sea or lake. This book brought back the smells, the food, the feeling of sun roasting your skin before melanoma, the feeling of childhood.

Best quote:
..the passage of time take
May 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had some good moments (the descriptions of Uncle Ed, throwing yourself a fake 21st birthday party to be served alcohol even though you're really underage), but at the end, I was a little disappointed. I found myself wanting to go back and watch some of Geist's stories, like hearing the inspiration for a story about an ironing competition. I would think his experiences would be enough to write several books; I was not aware he served in Vietnam. I wondered what the purpose of the book was; I am a ...more
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“Most, perhaps all, of us were from middle-class families and trying to pay our way through college. Waitresses could clear from $1,000 to $1,500 for the summer, bellhops $800 or so. Now this may not seem like a lot, but at the University of Illinois in the sixties my tuition for a semester was—parents, do not commit hara-kiri—$135.” 0 likes
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