Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

Book review: 'My Couch is Your Couch'

  • 0

 Author:  Gabriele Galimberti; c.2015, Potter Style $22.50; 176 pages

 The extra chairs will never fit.

Because of that, you’re not sure where you’ll squeeze ten guests at a table that holds four. You could move the TV, but the bathroom door’s in the way. Move the recliner to the bedroom, but that’s a pain. And yet, as you’ll see in “My Couch is Your Couch: Exploring How People Live around the World” by Gabriele Galimberti, at least you have those things to move.

Five years ago, with wanderlust in his heart, Galimberti decided to travel. He’d been “thinking for a long time about using couch surfing as a way to do so” when an Italian magazine asked to follow his journey.

“I was excited — and, at the same time, terrified,” he says.

Couch surfing, he explains, is a definite adventure. The good news: as a “basic rule,” overnight accommodations are free. The catch is that you sleep on strangers’ sofas, and you sometimes don’t know where you’ll spend the next night. Galimberti, for instance, says he’s slept in open-air lofts, and he’s spent his zzz’s “in a private room in a princely villa…” — spots chosen not for location or the look of a host’s home, but on the people “who inspired me the most on a human level…”

People are also reading…

In Botswana , he stayed with a spiritual man whose “humble but dignified” home sported a satellite dish but no indoor plumbing. In Jakarta , Indonesia , he bunked with a journalist who reported on the terrorist events in her country, though “fortunately, not all serious.” A Mexican couchsurfer put Galimberti up in a neighborhood that was iffy; he stayed with an Ethiopian host in a 100-square-foot home; and in China , where language was an issue, he learned that cleanliness “required… courage.”

Galimberti couch surfed in Thailand at the home of a transgender woman and, later, with two gay men. In Germany , he stayed with a couple in their castle. Five minutes after he met his Chilean host, the host went to work; that was “blind trust,” says Galimberti, but then again – “there was nothing there to steal…” In tropical Fiji , he stayed in a home made of metal sheeting with no AC, and in Colombia , he found love.

At first blush, it appears that “My Couch is Your Couch” is more of a travel book.  Galimberti went around the world for two years on a budget of some $45,000, and wrote about it. Yep: travel.

But I saw this lavishly illustrated treat in a different way: it’s a book that will make you thankful. There are a lot of have-nots in the world, and Galimberti, in both illustration and anecdote, introduce them in a dignified way – just as he presents the people who have enviable lifestyles. The former definitely struck me more than the latter, however, and I couldn’t stop looking at those pictures.

And so yes, this is a travel book but there’s something subtle in here that goes beyond globe-hopping, something you must see to understand. And if you need a reminder to be appreciative, reading “My Couch is Your Couch” definitely fits.


Stay up-to-date on what's happening

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Few rock 'n' roll legends have had as enduring an impact on multiple generations as Jim Morrison, whose death 50 years ago next month at 27 made him an even bigger cultural icon than when he was alive. Yet, while his six-year tenure as the deep-voiced front man in The Doors created a quintessential template for brooding, bad-boy rock singers clad in leather and oozing primal sex appeal, ...

You may know Huma Abedin as Hillary Clinton's longtime close aide and a top advisor of her 2016 presidential campaign. You almost definitely know her as the ex-wife of Anthony Weiner, former congressman and currently registered sex offender, whose habit of sexting with minors may have indirectly sunk said presidential campaign. Abedin would like to reintroduce herself, in her own words. ...

Steven Rogers’ new book, “A Letter to My White Friends and Colleagues: What You Can Do Right Now to Help the Black Community” begins with what he considers the three most descriptive newspaper headlines of 2020: “Breonna Taylor Was Shot and Killed by Police in her Own Home,” “Ahmaud Arbery: Father and Son Charged with Murder of U.S. Black Jogger,” and “George Floyd’s Death Was Murder.” A plea ...

"The Cape Doctor" by: E.J. Levy; Little, Brown (352 pages, $25.95) ——— When we consider the differences between men and women, thinks Jonathan Perry, the remarkable doctor of E.J. Levy's new novel, we lose sight of similarities too easily. "Once the skin is peeled back, the distinctions are few," Dr. Perry says. "Save for the reproductive organs, one cannot tell man from woman — one cannot say ...

Here are the bestsellers for the week that ended Saturday, June 12, compiled from data from independent and chain bookstores, book wholesalers and independent distributors nationwide, powered by NPD BookScan © 2021 NPD Group. (Reprinted from Publishers Weekly, published by PWxyz LLC. © 2021, PWxyz LLC.) HARDCOVER FICTION 1. "The President's Daughter: A Thriller" by Bill Clinton and James ...

LOS ANGELES — Over his three-plus decades running police departments in Boston, New York City and Los Angeles, Bill Bratton branded himself as America's top cop. At the time, that was generally a good thing: He won accolades for overseeing big-city police departments during a historic decline in crime throughout the U.S., ushering in changes that reshaped how the job is done and confronting ...

"Ivory Shoals" by John Brandon; McSweeney's (250 pages, $26) ——— In a recent interview with his publisher, McSweeney's, John Brandon explained that writer Tom Franklin once told him on the subject of creating convincing historical fiction, "If you don't know what was involved in going to the bathroom, you're not ready to write scenes in that time period." The earthy vividness with which he ...

"Strange Flowers" by Donal Ryan; Penguin (230 pages, $17) ——— "Strange Flowers," Donal Ryan's slim, quietly powerful fifth novel, begins with the first of three disappearances. Moll Gladney, a young woman in her early 20s, raised "without boldness or cheek or any impudent forwardness," is suddenly gone from her parents' little cottage in County Tipperary. Last seen boarding the bus bound for ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News