Our Favourite Books | Smile, You’re Travelling by Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins’ writing is probably best described as being like a man having an incredibly intense conversation with himself. Rarely in Smile, You’re Travelling – the third and final book in the author’s Black Coffee Blues series – does it feel like he’s writing for an audience. Like the two books that precede it, Smile, You’re Travelling is not an autobiography. It’s an account of Rollins and the world around him seemingly written more to document than to entertain.
Incredibly direct and often unflinching, Rollins pours his every thought and feeling onto the page. The writing is dense and the way he portrays himself can occasionally be hard to read, but I can’t help but be drawn in every time I pick this book up. As honest a writer as he was a musician, the former Black Flag and Rollins Band frontman shares his worldview with such passion that I can never put this book (or any of his books for that matter) down.
It’s a testament to Rollins’ writing and, of course, the life he has made for himself that this is the case. His ability to engage the reader, whether he means to or not, on the most mundane topics (by his standards, anyway) make the most interesting stories in Smile You’re Travelling – like meeting his childhood heroes Black Sabbath or his travels through Africa – even more compelling.
What’s more, I never felt like I was being talked down to. That can often be the case with work of this nature, but Rollins makes it perfectly clear that, whilst his life is extraordinary he himself is the same man who would be working minimum wage had his life happened to someone else. He’s an everyman – a well travelled, well read and talented everyman, but an everyman nonetheless – and the humility he’s able to show in his writing and other aspects of his work is what makes a book like Smile, You’re Travelling one of my favourites. That’s why I believe it belongs in the Spotlight.
Smile, You’re Travelling
Using his trademark wit, insight and verve, icon Henry Rollins shares journals from his gruelling world tours of 1997 and 1998, as well as a record of the fulfilment of his longstanding dream to journey through Africa. He takes us on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, frustrations and exhilaration – from roving gangs of baboons in Kenya to haggling with immigration officials in Madagascar and his thoughts on meeting his childhood heroes, Black Sabbath – and finds a way to make his unique experiences accessible and meaningful to us all.