Book Cover
Book Cover


From the number of visual poop and penis jokes, one might be convinced that was put together by a gang of ten-year-old boys hiding out behind the house while Mom is ironing the sheets.

But in fact it was written Doug Lansky, who is not a 10-year-old boy (except perhaps at heart). He is a travel writer and former airline magazine editor who hit pay dirt with books of funny signs, and has expanded his humorous nonsense to include kitschy souvenirs.

Lansky tries to inject some value-added into this book by giving us factoids about the origins of souvenirs, the psychology of kitsch and why people buy souvenirs.  You will wonder why anyone would spend money on such crap, but you might also wonder why someone would spend $10.95 (U.S.) or $11.99 (Canada) for the book.  You could just hang out at the webstie,, where you are invited to share your own finds of tasteless kitsch in the airport gift shops and roadside filling stations of the world.

Hecktic Travels treated readers to a rant about how souvenir candies called Mozart balls ruined a visit to Salzburg. I myself  turned against Venice (in an article at Your Life Is a Trip) partly because on every corner a souvenir seller hawked men's boxer shorts adorned with a particularly impressive portion of Michelangelo's statue of David. And by the way the statue is in Florence–not Venice, so why are people buying these in VENICE? 

I will grant you that I was delighted to read in Crap Souvenirs that the deputy mayor of Florence Italy is leading an effort to charge fines to sellers of products like those featuring David's distinguished body part as "offensive to public decorum."  In Pisa fines have been levied against people selling boxer shorts with a leaning tower of Pisa that, shall we say, loses its rigidity? 

I will grant you that I felt rather proud of myself as I thumbed through Crap Souvenirs to discover that I have never bought anything remotely resembling any of these objects.

  • Cesar Chavez Action Figurine? Non.
  • Alligator claw holding a crystal candy dish. Nope.
  • Refrigerator magnet with scene of Santorini, a smiling Buddha face and a thermometer. OHI! (that's NO! in Greek)

And some tourism agencies may want equal time after seeing what is representing them.

  • Is Japan really obssessed with monkey poop candy?
  • Does the Vatican sanction a talking Pope key chain?
  • Would either Niagra Falls–New York or Canada be proud of Aliens overlooking the Falls salt and pepper shakers?

I can see that all those attempts by us travel writers to wax lyrical about just about any place in the world will be dashed to smitereens by the first visit to a souvenir shop! Which, although it makes me sound like a snob, leads me to admit that I buy my souvenirs from local craftsmen who make local crafts–in a state-sanctioned craft store when possible. So what's your idea of a souvenir and what's the kitschiest thing you own?

This post is written by Vera Marie Badertscher, who discusses books and movies that inspire travel at A Traveler's Library. She fervently hopes that you will buy books as souvenirs.

The review includes a link to Amazon to make it easier for you to buy a copy of Crap Souvenirs, or any other travel book. You should know that although it costs you no more, as an affiliate of Amazon, A Traveler's Library will make a few cents on any purchase you make through that link. VMB Thanks you!


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