Possibly the best “travel” book I’ve read – The question is are you experienced enough to read it?
Last week I mentioned some books in my article on secondhand bookshops and the nicest bookseller in the world. A few people asked about them so I thought about adding a small supplemental review of travel books I’ve read while in Nepal. Starting with one of my favorites “Are you experienced” by William Sutcliff.
There are three very important considerations before even remotely thinking about reading Are you experienced:
1) Are you British? Or do you get the British sense of humor? If not, then Are you experienced may not appeal to you as much. Indeed, you might even find parts of it offensive or irrelevant in terms of the British slang used throughout the book.
2) Have you traveled for over a few months? If not, you may not get this. If yes, read this book and relive your journey with a giant smile of recognition.
3) If you have loose bowels don’t buy this book. It can cause uncontrollable laughter and unfortunate accidents.
If you are of an open mind and can accept the above, then just go for it and get the book!
What’s the book Are you experienced all about?
Sex. Well, not really, but yes it’s basically about a reluctant backpacker only going to India so he can try to sleep with his best mate’s girlfriend. And no, it’s not a tacky
book, it’s side splittingly funny.
A sudden reluctant backpacker thrown into the horror’s of India at the heated suggestion of a charming girl. Dave (no relation), is forced to come to terms with “finding himself” rather than Liz’s bed. The reason is simple. Once Liz lands in India she quickly becomes one of those annoying travelers who becomes Indian. Or, at least thinks she does.
Enter the all-knowing Jeremy who’s “lived” India already, and Dave soon hates Liz and her new mentor with utter sarcastic wit.
Meet every backpacking, hippie, traveler stereotype you can think of
Public school boys (rich kids), girls in crises, horny guys, hippie travelers, meditating all shagging gurus, annoying beggar kids and the odd stoner all make appearances here. As do self doubts, bad sex, worse sex, no sex. Projectile vomiting, and one of the best toilet scenes ever written. Thanks in part to a possible dog burger.
Throw in the dark serious underlying storyline of shallow human nature while traveling to discover oneself when all you do is go back home anyway. Made perfectly clear by a chance, and a not very welcoming, run in with a journalist and you have an amazingly accurate take on the travel culture of today.
Gaseously funny reading
At a mere 235 pages many fans of “are you experienced” read this in one sitting. And, it’s not hard to see how. If you get the humor then it’s very very hard to put down.
One of those books that make you not ashamed to sit in a corner, alone. And then burst into outrageous guffaws of recognition, belly laughter, and if you are not careful a possible flatulent accident (I still blame the Nepalese samosa).
Hard to follow up book
I am now reading a rather famous “backpacker” type book that was made into a movie quite a few years ago. It pales in comparison to “Are you experienced”. I don’t know whether this is due to the amount of time I’ve been traveling, or due to the enjoyment of William Sutcliff’s sense of humor which I prefer.
“Are you experienced” is simply put, one of the most humorous travel books I’ve ever read.
Have you read this book? What did you think about it?
If you’d like to buy this book, please consider purchasing it through my Amazon affiliate stores below: I get a tiny, tiny commission of about USD$00.14. Maybe enough to one day save up and buy a Kindle so I can keep these books with me as I travel.
Are You Experienced? (Amazon USA)
Are You Experienced? (Amazon UK)
For all other regions please check your local listings
If you’d like to read some more travel reviews on books, movies and guides I’ve read then please visit my travel book review section.
Have you read this or another really good travelogue? If you have, can you leave the name of the book in the comments, I am always on the look out for good travelogues!
This is an additional travel book review based on books I’ve read throughout my journey
18 Replies to “Are you Experienced? by William Sutcliffe: travel book review”
Agreed, it’s definitely a classic. (I bought and read it while in India, some years ago; it was posted home to rest in my parent’s attic, along with other gems I’ve acquired over the years).
… 14 cents – now that’s an earner ;)
Glad you enjoyed it Michael. Yep, 14 cents. Selling 3rd party books via Amazon is not the best way to monetize anything. But it should/will deliver a Kindle which I think is the only viable way I can have my own attic of these books rather than selling or giving them away.
I love travelogues! I can’t help myself. I recently read a book called “Fast Times in Palestine” which I enjoyed very much (one of the beautiful things about the Kindle are the free books which come up and introduce new authors). This book is only semi-travelogue and memoir, but also a look at what’s going on in Palestine from the point of view of an American woman who lived there. I really enjoyed getting the perspective which was way outside the mainstream western media. It taught me a lot and was an enjoyable read at the same time.
BTW, if you don’t have a Kindle I highly recommend it!
Good point about the free books on Kindle. I’ve read some terrible travelogues too though. I won’t be mentioning them. Just because you walked the Sahara or bicycled through Africa doesn’t make it a good story.
You might like Mayada, Daughter of Iraq: One Woman’s Survival Under Saddam Hussein.
Sounds like a good book. British humour is certainly not understood in many parts of the world. Monty Python has helped a lot in spreading it. And hopefully, Americans now have an idea of what it’s like
Give it a shot Michael, it’s an easy fast read. Well worth spending and afternoon with.
Re Humor and language I’ve had my comments banned for using some British slang on occasion. I trust you’ve seen Faulty Towers?
Sounds like a good read. Would like to find out if he did snag the his bestfriend’s girl in the end. Thanks for recommending, Dave. :-)
Not everyone likes the ending, but I think it’s rather just! :)
Now I feel a bit naked for mentioning India to you within the past day… but I love India and I’d probably read this just because it takes place there! j/k Not a big fiction reader type.
A friend recently sent me a fattie of a book- “The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy” (that’s been made into a movie, although very badly…couldn’t hang on to even the middle). But the book is wickedly brilliant! The stuff that comes from this writer’s brain is just beyond imagination.
Well, so long as you don’t “become Indian” when you visit India then I’m hedging all bets that’s you’ll like this book. Makes for a good read while you’re waiting for those actors at the side of a film set!
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is indeed a travel book! Agreed about the movie. If you get access the BBC television series version is not too bad!
Thanks for the review Dave. I’ve heard of the book but not read it. After your review, it’s definately on my next batch of travel books to read, especially since it’s seems funny and pretty short.
Dave, I can not believe I have not read this classic travel book, as it really seems to be a great read! What a miss! And I am a British, on the top of all and def meet all of the criteria for qualification of ability to read it :) I am going to order it right away! Thanks a lot!!1
don’t know if you remember me; we were living in the same guest house in KTM. I was the Swiss-not-in-the-army working in Ramechhap. Been reading your blog since then, which is great, but never got round to posting comments. Anyway, I got this book on your recommendation, and I have to say that it provided a really nice break from studying for my upcoming exams. Thanks!
Yes I remember you very well! Glad you have been reading along and enjoying it here. Hopefully it’s bringing back some good memories for you.
Good to hear you found “Are you experienced” provided a nice break from your studies. I still haven’t made it through all those movies! I’ll drop you an email in a few minutes.
Definitely now on the to read list :) Thanks!
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