Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Beginner's Guide to Paradise

A Beginner's Guide to Paradise by Alex Sheshunoff
Penguin: 9/1/15
eBook review copy; 464 pages

ISBN-13: 9780451475862

A Beginner's Guide to Paradise: 9 Steps to Giving Up Everything by Alex Sheshunoff is a highly recommended humorous, anecdotal travelogue. This is the guide for those who want a hilarious look at someone who drops everything to move to an island.  He  lists the nine titular steps as: 1. Pick an Island; 2. Ask some Questions (but not too many); 3. Adjust Loincloth; 4. Find a Safety Pin... 5. And some Lucky Strikes; 6. Study the Art of the Rope Ladder; 7. Do as Chief Chuck does; 8. Reflect, Briefly; 9. And Hope for the Best.

After having a quarter life crisis, Alex left his dot com start-up business in NYC, broke up with his girlfriend, packed up 100 books he felt he should read, and took off for a South Pacific Island hoping to find paradise. He visits the islands of Yap, Pig, Palau, Angaur, and Guam. At the beginning of each chapter is a short, humorous "What You Can Expect to Learn in This Chapter" section that can take the form of quizzes, anecdotal information, or questions that will be answered in the chapter. For photos and much more information visit his website:

Alex didn't have much of a plan before he took off to discover paradise so this travelogue is more of a travel misadventure full of happenstance and surprises as he tries to negotiate his way among the islanders and find a place for himself. While nothing really startling actually happens (except for the turtle incident which some readers might want to skip) Alex tells the story of his travels and adventures, such as they are, in a self-deprecating humorous style that should keep readers entertained.  In the end he does, in fact, wear a loin cloth, find love, build a house, and diaper a baby monkey. While doing all of this there is a generous amount of humor along with some personal reflection.

This is a seriously funny book perfect for a relaxing night of escapism. The writing style flows smoothly in an almost conversational-story-telling style. Sheshunoff is not trying to change the world or come up with some profound thoughts during his navel gazing adventures (the book will explain that). He just needed a vacation and took it a little further than most of us would have done.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Penguin books and Penguin First Reads for review purposes. 

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