the decline of Lonely Planet

Through my websites, people have bought hundreds, perhaps thousands of Lonely Planet guidebooks. They reinvented the genre, in my opinion. Never buy any other company without first comparing against LP.

Sadly, for the past 6-7 years I’ve started to notice problems.

LP author Thomas Kohnstamm has a new book coming out this week:

A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism

THE Lonely Planet guidebook empire is reeling from claims by one of its authors that he plagiarised and made up large sections of his books and dealt drugs to make up for poor pay.

Thomas Kohnstamm also claims in a book that he accepted free travel, in contravention of the Melbourne-based company’s policy.

His revelations have rocked the travel publisher, which sells more than six million guides a year – guides that generations of tourists have come to rely on.

Mr Kohnstamm, whose book is titled Do Travel Writers Go To Hell? said yesterday that he had worked on more than a dozen books for Lonely Planet, including their titles on Brazil, Colombia, the Caribbean, South America, Venezuela and Chile.

In one case, he said he had not even visited the country he wrote about.

“They didn’t pay me enough to go Colombia,” he said.

“I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating – an intern in the Colombian consulate. …

These days I am more likely to buy from other companies: Moon and Footprint, for two.

BBC recently purchased controlling interest in Lonely Planet. BBC has their own problems, however. I’m not sure LP can recover.

growing up in the 1950s

I enjoyed the last audio book by Bill Bryson so much — A Short History of Nearly Everything — that I followed up by listening to his latest book:

A Memoir

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir

It’s back to the much loved Bryson comedy. But this time, the funny stories are nostalgic commentary on growing up in American in the 1950s.

He recounts meeting the infamous Stephen Katz, for the first time.

I loved the book. Bryson is a few years older than myself. But some of the experiences paralleled my own upbringing in Calgary, Canada.

A Shorter History of Nearly Everything

Brian recommended this book, one I had years ago dropped like a hot potato after learning it was not a funny travel story.

One of my favourite writers, Bill Bryson, had switched to science.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything

At the library, I got the 6hr abridgment on CD read by the author. Excellent. In fact, an abridgment may even be better for this text. Bryson should have called it A Shorter History of Nearly Everything.

… explores the history of biology, botany, and zoology, and traces life from its first appearance all the way to today’s modern humans, placing much emphasis on the development of the modern Homo sapiens. All along the book, humorous stories about the scientists behind the discovery and their half-crazy behaviour is given. Throughout the book, there are many reports on the way humans change the Earth’s climate and destroy other species, as well how the Earth was and is a very destructive planet itself, briefly touching about earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and mass extinctions. His tendency to look for big explosions and awe-inspiring devastation takes him to the most destructive disasters in the history of the world, from Krakatoa to Yellowstone National Park. ….


Brian learned how LITTLE we actually know about “everything”.

I was most struck by how much confusion was caused when scientists started analyzing DNA in human fossils. One group of people living in Australia, for example, were “impossible” by all known science.

I highly recommend it.

Tim Ferriss – The 4-Hour Workweek

You’re the right track, Tim. Keep going.

Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

Timothy Ferriss, nominated as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People of 2007,” is author of the #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek.

He has been featured by dozens of media, including The New York Times, The Economist, TIME, National Geographic Traveler, CNN, CBS, and MAXIM. …


Check his blog: Four Hour Work Week

Hitler’s lost sub – Shadow Divers

A FANTASTIC story, as dramatic and compelling as any high altitude mountaineering epic.

I had no idea deep wreck diving was so thrilling.

Hitler’s Lost Sub was a NOVA TV special first aired in 2000:

In 1991, professional diver John Chatterton discovered a sunken German U-boat from World War II, lying undetected only 60 miles off the New Jersey shore, its unexploded torpedoes and the bodies of its crew still aboard. This two-hour special follows Chatterton and his dive partners in their dangerous quest to identify the missing U-boat, a pursuit that takes six years and costs three lives. The U-boat’s history involves unusual coincidences and a startling twist of fate. …


Of course Hitler lost hundreds and hundreds of submarines, but this one has a particularly compelling story.

Highly recommended too is this book on the adventure:

Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II

The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II

Actually, there is a follow-up book contesting the book I read: Shadow Divers Exposed: the Real Saga of the U-869 by Gary Gentile. I will not read that one. Sounds to me it is dull, badly written and perhaps a work motivated by jealousy.