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A Mad World, My Masters: Tales from a Traveller's Life

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  521 ratings  ·  34 reviews
The best-selling second volume of John Simpson's entertaining autobiography, updated with a new chapter.
Paperback, 464 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Pan Books (UK) (first published December 1st 2000)
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Natalie Vellacott
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I made it almost to the end of this lengthy auto-biographical second volume. I haven't read the first volume which probably didn't help. I thought it might be interesting and add to my knowledge of current affairs. I have often seen the author reporting for the BBC, usually from some war zone or other. Unfortunately, this account spans his entire career most of which dates back to before my time. I was hoping to read details of more recent events.

Simpson highlights an increasing apathy
May 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Its official, John Simpson is my complete and utter hero, my Indiana Jones, the person who's job I would like to have more than anyone else's (though i would be too scared to do it) and my inspiration for all my possible future career ambitions! The ultimate travel book (where hasn't this guy been to?), Simpson is brilliant at capturing scenes and bringing them to life, whether it is staying in grotty hotels, bluffing his way through immigration on numerous occasions without a passport, ...more
Jul 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A man who has reported from the frontlines of many of the last few decades hot zones. He calls things as he sees them. An old school journalist with integrity and a great ability to tell a story.
Nigel McFarlane
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a life John Simpson has led! This, the second of his autobiographies, generally consists of shorter and lighter anecdotes about his work than "Strange Places, Questionable People". As a snapshot of world history around the year 2000, it is remarkable for its optimism: with the Cold War over, and 9/11 and the Iraq War still yet to happen, John Simpson dares to muse cautiously on the end of history, the decline of dictatorships, and the flourishing of democracy. There are funny stories, such ...more
Peter Groves
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Highly entertaining and informative. Fascinating to learn that the BBC's world affairs editor has been punched by an Austrian president and a British prime minister. There is no mention of the occasion on which I helped him extract a can of Coke from a reluctant vending machine, but I guess he covered all the important stuff.
Harry Tomos
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very revealing, the face, the vocab, the perception on screen coupled with the vulnerabilities off screen, different cultures, different places yet same problems, same heartache, same moments of utter profound gasps
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Strangely addictive reading for something which ultimately seemed shallow and pointless. Was expecting better.
May 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Mid 4. Less of a personal biography than his previous publication, this is a much more satisfying read making the most of Simpson's globe-trotting exploits as a top foreign correspondent. Glorifying in the myriad of cultures and world-views around the globe, the author bemoans the move towards homogeneity through globalisation. This wonderful work collates his experiences of airports, hotels, and events witnessed, from a drugs open-air market in Colombia to a research team investigating Ebola in ...more
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
A wonderfully interesting, funny, and achingly tragically true set of stories from a most interesting character in himself. Simpson is makes it all come to life in this intriguingly categorised collection of stories, many of which interrelate and share `characters`, whether they be South American heroes who lead Simpson and his crew to the first - and only - ever filmed cocaine bazaar, risking his life and gambling hugely (by leading the BBC crews and the locals believe they were under the ...more
Tim Corke
A Mad World, My Masters is another worldly account from the determined John Simpson. I've not read any others before so wasn't sure how this would differ from that of Palin's travel journals. What separates this is the sheer quantity and quality of anecdotes that have been collated during Simpson's career as a BBC and freelance journalist/correspondent that have taken him on a journey of global events over the last 40 years.

If there's been a significant incident either in the UK or abroad, you
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it

Not enough pages I could have read double of this man's adventures.

Mr Ram Sedun smiled,working away with one hand and holding out a grubby book of handwritten commendations with the other."You don't get this in Hyde Park" Bob of Crouch End had written in it, accurately enough.
Beside this was a mysterious message in a different hand: "Watch out for the ear-treatment though" The ear-treatment arrived beside me at that very moment...

Part of a very humorous tale from Delhi.

As i said Not enough
Feb 21, 2010 rated it liked it
This volume by the long-term BBC correspondent is mostly anecdotes from his working life, with each chapter covering a theme, such as travel, villains etc. Simpson comes across as someone who enjoys the finer things in life, but is happy to forego all of them if it gets him a story. I'm not entirely sure if I'd like the man himself, but there's no denying that he's a good raconteur, with many stories to tell from his long and interesting career.
Drew Pyke
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Read this hoping for some insight into the profiles of the dictators of the day (Gaddafi, Hussein etc) which he did offer in some degree with strange anecdotes. Simpson is a trustworthy reporter and this book is a half decent guide if anything what reporting on the front line is really like. He was pivotal in the Afghan & Iraq war coverage.
Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Simpson was, and may still be, the leading correspondent for the BBC. Here he sets out his views on many subjects, the most interesting of which for me was his opinion of the Red Cross. He hates it due to its record of inspecting concentration camps during WWII and doing nothing.

The other pieces are also worth reading. A very good collection of journalism.
Dec 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book got me super excited back in my I-really-want-to-be-a-photojournalist stage, and definitely helped fuel that fire. If anybody is very into travel, world politics, or current events, it's really fun and engaging.
May 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a really great read, especially liked the part when Osama bin Laden tries to get some Afghani tribesmen to kill John Simpson for 500 dollars and they all just look at bin laden as if he was an idiot! Bin Laden then walks away crying!

Great book!
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
enjoyed it immensely - both it and strange places questionable people i read when travelling nearly 10 years ago.
and i mix them up, i was amazed at JS losing his passport so many times...
shortly after than my colleague who lent me the book lost his passport!!
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
very informative - he's been to all those places we've been hearing about on the news since we were kids. very well written... it's like you're sitting in the living room on the couch with him telling you his stories.
Alex Lobo
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'd love to read this one again:)
Arsine Khatchaturians
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I think John Simpson is such an honest writer, love his books.
Harlan Wolff
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very pleasant journey into Simpson's world. He is a remarkable man with a remarkable life. A witty and charming memoir and well worth a read.
Dec 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic stories about some of the most dramatic events and places of the twentieth century, brilliantly described by foreign correspondent, John Simpson.
Rahul Singh
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
A very entertaining, anecdotal read...
Pete Hardy
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
A fascinating read and although elements of pride creep into the stories you really can't blame him for it. Sometimes dull when talking about antiques, but it can be forgiven.
Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
For learning the reality of parts of the world we're led to believe are hell on earth. All the John Simpson's are an education.
Maysaloon Abu-Zaglan
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
one of the interested books , makes you go there where events happened , you have fun and joy reading it ..
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've always quite liked John Simpson, but after reading these anecdotes from a life in journalism I've promoted him to Greatest Living Englishman status.
Sandy Brogan
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves
John Simpson, what a great life he has had in his career. Great read.
Apr 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Witty, but not as insightful as I thought it would be.
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John Cody Fidler-Simpson CBE is an English foreign correspondent. He is world affairs editor of BBC News, the world's biggest broadcast news service. One of the most travelled reporters ever, he has spent all his working life at the corporation. He has reported from more than 120 countries, including thirty war zones, and has interviewed numerous world leaders.

Simpson was born in Cleveleys,