Nerdist was started by Chris Hardwick and has grown to be a many headed beast.

Book Review: “Destination Truth” by Joshua Gates

by on November 10, 2011

I was going to write a review for our Nerdist Overlord’s new book, The Nerdist Way,  but something occurred to me: you’re reading this post on this site because, presumably, you’re a fan of the great Nerdist and the Industries’ doings. More specifically, if you’re reading my little ol’ posts, then you’re a fan of books and you’ve likely already picked up your copy. Hooray! My reviewing it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference then, but if you haven’t gotten it yet I’ll give you my review in two words: IT’S FANTASTIC! Pick it up, you won’t regret it and you’ll learn something! Win/win, guys!

That said, I’m presenting another book to munch on after you’ve devoured Sir Hardwick’s, and it’s by one of my favorite humans, Joshua Gates. It’s called Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter.All right, so I don’t actually know Josh Gates. That doesn’t mean I can’t claim him to be one of my favorite humans, does it? Maybe it does. Whatever, I don’t know how it works, but I’ve watched Destination Truth since day one and that basically makes us best friends now, right? Right?! Ahem. Point being, I’m a fan of the show and, maybe more importantly, of Gates’s sense of humor as host. His commentary during situations he and the crew get themselves into are snarky, generally hilarious, and, often times e,xactly what I’m thinking from my comfortable armchair.

That light tone and snark lilt throughout this book, and you can almost hear Gates narrating these situations as you read. It’s like a behind the scenes episode that you’re watching in the private, cozy confines of your brain. Gates shares tales of his travels and the exploits of his crew in both enlightening and hilarious ways.  He peppers his hilariously-themed chapters with a segment called Case Files, which is basically a monster guide that includes things like Alien Big Cats and explains that, contrary to the name, they are not felines from outerspace. (Damn.)

Long time fans will get a kick out of this, and newbies don’t need to know much about the show to dive right in. (You’ll immediately want to start watching the series from the beginning, though. You’ve been warned.) All of the humor and fun stories aside, there’s a real reason I felt compelled to write about this book. It’s probably strange that it has very little to do with one of the many harrowing, and exciting, stories Gates recounts. (Or does it?!)

Chapter 19 is called Travel Will Save You. I can’t expound its virtues enough. While it’s perhaps not the most thrilling chapter, and some people may argue that it’s not the most interesting, I assure that it’s the best. In it, Gates notes that only 25% of Americans have passports and that the 75% who don’t offer any number of reasons about why they don’t want or need to travel. Not enough time, not enough money, too much hassle — these are all things that have irritated the ever-loving shit out of me for a very long time. Gates seems to agree.

This quote from the book is something I’ve been saying for years, in one form or another, and illustrates the point much more succinctly than I can:

 

“It’s all too common to overhear someone complaining about how ‘long’ the flight is from New York to Los Angeles. Had any of us been born just a few hundred years earlier, a trip to California would have consisted of a six-month ride in a bumpyass covered wagon. Business class could be defined as not being scalped by Indians or dying from dysentery.”

 

Thank you, Joshua Gates! Seriously. Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” IN 1857, PEOPLE. Nothing has changed! It’s more than a little depressing, if you ask me.  Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter will instill in you the adventure bug that most of us need and, hopefully, open your eyes to how unbelievably easy it is to do just that: have adventures.

 

And now onto the miscellany! I thought the chapter (15) recounting time spent in Chernobyl was oddly poignant and super eerie. In all fairness, it might be because I was half watching Anthony Bourdain visit the famously melted nuclear reactor, worrying mostly about his testicles, while I was reading it.  Worst. Vacation. Ever. and Threes and the Christmas Miracle of Whore-Dice are particularly hilarious true-story-but-could-be-fiction chapters and I’ll say it again: read what he has to say about travel.

 

My favorite line from the book, aside from the above mentioned, is a tossup between “Luckily, Buddhist monks throw like little girls, and I’m able to dodge the projectile,” or “With our gear and crew atop our stupid camels, we make our way through the relentless afternoon heat and into the Valley of the Kings.”  I don’t know why those two stuck out when there are literally dozens of hilarious one-liners to choose from — the latter is particularly hilarious after the camel-hating rant a paragraph before — but I think it’s because they give a broad perspective on just how many places to which you’re going to armchair-adventure in this book. From annoyed monks to annoying camels to the roofs flying off of airplanes, you never know where he’s headed next. The fact that Gates thanks Steven Spielberg for “every movie you made before 1994 and for four of the movies you’ve made since then” and Diet Coke in his acknowledgments just makes me love this even more.

Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter is a relatively short and definitely easy read thanks in large part to Gates’s writing style and, most importantly, it’s just plain fun. Pick it up, preferably while you’re on a flight to some far-flung country, ready to embark on a brand new adventure. That’s what the spirit of this book is about, and it’ll be the only thing on your mind for weeks afterward, if you’re lucky.

Travel, people. Do it often and do it fearlessly. To quote another of my favorite phrases mentioned in the book, “Please go away. Often.”

As usual, you can find me on the Twitters, leave a comment here or email me ([email protected])! Happy reading!