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The Hobo Handbook: A Field Guide to Living by Your Own Rules

Got this form a friend who knows how much I like to travel. This is a neat little guide to how you can maybe drop out of the rat race. It’s got a scary quiz in the first few pages where you answer a few questions about your personality and your comfort level with various things and then Mack gives you advice on whether you’d be good at being a hobo [for me: no]. Which is fine, I guess, assuming hobo means riding the rails. And at some level this book is good at giving you various hobo options that aren’t just freight hopping but it seems to suffer from a lack of focus. The prime example sidebars of the “Did you know X was a hobo?” are all about drifters and freight hoppers and most of the book caters towards people riding the rails with some not-too-veiled snootiness towards people still stuck in “the rat race”

And yet, at the same time, I don’t get the feeling that Mack has actually done any of this. While I’m sure he’s traveled at times and stayed in hostels or with friends and maybe met other travelers, there is no first person commentary about any of the things he suggests [making stew from squirrels, avoiding the bulls in train yards] and so instead of a guide to doing this sort of thing for real, we get more of a well-researched “this is what I have learned form other people” approach without really even citing those people. All in all while I liked reading this book, I learned very little from it except that Mack is probably a good researcher and reads the same websites that I do. The graphic design which includes pages designed to look thumbed over and messy (and the occasional black on grey text) doesn’t really add much and in fact makes the book sometimes difficult to read. All in all an okay book for someone who knows nothing about hobo culture, I’d skip it otherwise.