Book Review: Baboons for Lunch and Other Sordid Adventures by James Michael Dorsey

Book Facts

Title – Baboons for Lunch and Other Sordid Adventures

Author – James Michael Dorsey

Published – 2018


Author and explorer James Michael Dorsey has spent two decades visiting the world’s most remote tribal cultures. In BABOONS FOR LUNCH and Other Sordid Adventures, he tells his remarkable travel stories in rollicking accounts that keep readers off balance and eager for more.

Many stories are funny, others are poignant, and quite a few are heart stopping, while others are unique insights into remote ways of life most of the world does not know exists.

In this book the reader will climb a remote volcano in Ethiopia, cross the Sahara Desert with nomads, undergo a tribal exorcism, and visit shamans, healers, witch doctors, and holy men.

This is not your average travel book, but an entree to some of the world’s remote corners and people.


Overall Rating – 4/5 

This was an intriguing concept to me. Each of the short stories in this book features a small tribal society somewhere in the world. Most of them are set in Asia, South America and Africa. This is a memoir style compilation of Dorsey’s travels. They seem to be set over a lifetime and are not in chronological order. Instead he organizes them by theme, such as ‘Adrenalin’ and ‘Emotional Journeys.’

Since these stories are all first person experiences of his, the point of view is limiting at times. For the most part Dorsey didn’t speak the native languages and many times didn’t have a translator. A recurring theme throughout many of the stories is how odd he is to all of the native people because of not only his whiteness, but also his considerable size. It is amazing to me that he was able to get an in with some of these very closed off tribes, which makes it all the more interesting to read about them.

I often skip introductions in books, but I recommend reading this one. It gives a good sense of who Dorsey is and what to expect from the book. My favorite line from the entire book is in this section;

While I would not want to trade places with someone who lives in a mud or grass hut, I have yet to meet a person who lived in one who would prefer my life to their own. (xiii)

I like this line, and he reiterates it at the end of the book as well. I think this is such an important thing to keep in mind when exploring cultures that are different from our own. It’s easy in the United States to get caught up in our consumerism and not understand why someone wouldn’t want all of the amenities we have access to. Neither is better or worse. They’re just different. Dorsey tries to keep a worldly view when talking about the different places he’s gone. He rarely passes judgement on anybody, except for this oddball line;

I was in old spear-and-loincloth Africa… (45)

Wait, did he really just say that?! Based on the rest of the book I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that this was meant as a joke. He uses humor throughout, though it doesn’t really mesh with my sense of humor. The book starts with him throwing poop at baboons if that gives any indication.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book. It was a quick read and it was super interesting to read about all of his adventures with these little known civilizations. Naturally, I enjoyed some of them more than others, but there weren’t any that I outright did not enjoy. The stories are a combination of funny, heart-pounding, and emotionally compelling. This one is definitely worth a read.

Further Reading

Traveler’s Tales

This is the company that published this book. They exclusively publish travel books including single author narratives, themed anthologies, and travel guides. They have an entire category dedicated to women’s travel including guides that consider specific challenges women may face when traveling, female authors, and an annual publication of The Best Women’s Travel Writing. I’ve just ordered a few of their publications to read next.

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