The Lunatic Express

The Lunatic Express

Discovering the World-- via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes

Book - 2010
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Indonesian Ferry Sinks.  Peruvian Bus Plunges Off Cliff.  African Train Attacked by Mobs.  Whenever he picked up the newspaper, Carl Hoffman noticed those short news bulletins, which seemed about as far from the idea of tourism, travel as the pursuit of pleasure, as it was possible to get.  So off he went, spending six months circumnavigating the globe on the world's worst conveyances: the statistically most dangerous airlines, the most crowded and dangerous ferries, the slowest buses, and the most rickety trains.  The Lunatic Express takes us into the heart of the world, to some its most teeming cities and remotest places: from Havana to Bogotá on the perilous Cuban Airways.  Lima to the Amazon on crowded night buses where the road is a washed-out track.  Across Indonesia and Bangladesh by overcrowded ferries that kill 1,000 passengers a year.  On commuter trains in Mumbai so crowded that dozens perish daily, across Afghanistan as the Taliban closes in, and, scariest of all, Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., by Greyhound.

The Lunatic Express is the story of traveling with seatmates and deckmates who have left home without American Express cards on conveyances that don't take Visa, and seldom take you anywhere you'd want to go.   But it's also the story of traveling as it used to be -- a sometimes harrowing trial, of finding adventure in a modern, rapidly urbanizing world and the generosity of poor strangers, from ear cleaners to urban bus drivers to itinerant roughnecks, who make up most of the world's population.  More than just an adventure story, The Lunatic Express is a funny, harrowing and insightful look at the world as it is, a planet full of hundreds of millions of people, mostly poor, on the move and seeking their fortunes.
Publisher: New York : Broadway Books, c2010.
ISBN: 9780767929806
Characteristics: 286 p. :,maps ;,22 cm.


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Aug 16, 2018

The Lunatic Express - An appropriate title in some ways. While I could not imagine putting myself at such risk (or my family certain consequences of my choices), I could see why Hoffman chose his lifestyle . . . up to a point. Yes, his life was exciting and dangerous and he got in touch with humanity in ways that most people never do. Yes, Americans are spoiled and selfish and self-centered, but when it all comes down to it, who does he share his life with? He himself questions his motives, did his daughter understand him after spending time with him?
After so many stories, it just seemed to me that he was risking his life for another and greater jolt of adrenaline . . . will I survive this plane trip? this bus ride? this ferry ride? And despite the fact that he did have a wonderful opportunity to see a side of life in Kandahar, his presence alone put another human being in danger. He asked the man, his guide, basically, if he (the guide) felt safe? The response was not when he was with Hoffman.
In this reviewer's opinion, entertainment is no excuse to place other people's lives at risk. Perhaps, this book was intended for purposes beyond entertainment and I just missed the point.

multcolib_darceem Aug 20, 2014

A wildly entertaining and treacherous journey around the world traveling as most of the world experiences travel: hot, sweaty, crowded, unreliable and life-threatening. Along the way, Hoffman reflects on how different cultures either connect with or isolate themselves from other people and how sometimes it’s only through traveling that we can find our way home.

KCLSLibrarians Aug 04, 2014

Carl Hoffman wants to experience travel the way most of the world's poor experience it. He endures seemingly endless miseries, but along the way he discovers a sort of grace when acceptance is the only respite available.

Mar 16, 2012

Journalist Carl Hoffman takes us on a tour of the world’s developing nations via public transport. Whether by bus, boat, train, airplane or taxi, we meet the human face of the Third World. The voyages are often slow and dangerous, but it is the kind and generous spirit of Hoffman’s traveling companions that make this book a delight.

Jun 25, 2011

anyone that's spent time in some of the more populated cities of the planet or has any interest in the lifestyles of those who don't ride around in hummers would enjoy this book. hoffman finds opportunities to reflect on his own life while genuinely accepting those of others. i breezed through this book and found myself remembering many similar moments either in the same locales he described or ones that were highly reminiscent.


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SPPL_János Mar 22, 2018

"In America, the richer you were the more things you had and the bigger they were—but money didn’t just buy things... More than anything else, money bought insulation and protection. From wind and rain and heat, from other people, from noise, from pollution."

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