Book Review of Babylon By Bus

Image from Grantland.com & Mario Zucca

Image from Grantland.com & Mario Zucca

While browsing the internet one day during work, I stumbled upon a friend’s post on Facebook to a Grantland article. It was a long-form piece and something that I mindlessly snoozed the tab until later. This was my first introduction to Jeff Neumann & Ray LeMoine, the main characters in Babylon By Bus – my review of Babylon By Bus follows.

Yankees Suck Original Shirt

Yankees Suck Original Shirt

Ray is one of the main instigators in the entire Yankees Suck t-shirt that was created in the Fall of 1999. Week after week, sales increased to the point where the group of guys bought their own screen printing shirt and some warehouse space outside of Boston. From the Grantland article, things spiraled nearly out of control between various members of their original group.

Annotation from Grantland Showing Babylon By Bus

Annotation from Grantland Showing Babylon By Bus

Luckily a clicked on one of the annotations in the Grantland piece to find this book.


While sitting on a rooftop in Brooklyn the day after the Red Sox lost a heartbreaker to the Yankees in the 7th game of the 2003 American League Championship Series (ALCS). This is when plans were made to meet in the Middle East and proceed into Iraq by bus to help people.

The book is written in an informal style, almost as if Jeff and Ray are telling you their stories face to face. But, there are still enough details for you to imagine a place like Sadr City and other places outside of the Green Zone.

Ray and Jeff on a rooftop in Iraq (courtesy of Outside Magazine)

Ray and Jeff on a rooftop in Iraq (courtesy of Outside Magazine)

Without spoiling too much of the book, Jeff and Ray make it out to Baghdad and are connected with a group of clowns whose mission is to help the people of Iraq smile more with their skits. This is essential what sounds like a party hostel, but located in Baghdad. Everyone coming back with drugs that would normally require a prescription in the USA – Valium being the favorite.

From here, our two characters manage to secure positions working inside of the Green Zone as their funds dry up. Sometimes you’re left thinking that their time in Baghdad will be tragically cut short and the rest of the pages in the book will be blank. But, with enough perseverance they manage to receive some monetary aid, housing, and other fortune to help they impact as many people in Baghdad & Iraq as possible.

The story is well written, creating laughs and painting a great picture throughout the book. Whether you’re in the club with the guys or out on an aid run, you feel like you’re there.

The book eventually takes you back to the USA with the guys and continues for a brief bit of time after their humanitarian tour in Iraq is over.

Siege of Sadr City Map (courtesy: Wikipedia) - This shows how close Sadr City and the Green Zone were located to each other.

Siege of Sadr City Map (courtesy: Wikipedia) – This shows how close Sadr City and the Green Zone were located to each other.

The most important takeaway of the book is that if you want to create change or help people, you have to just get out there and do it. Don’t wait for people to give you permission because it will be too late by then. Jeff and Ray are normal guys that were looking for a change of scenery and a way to help others. And they did just that on their own volition.

All-in-all, the book is extremely entertaining and gives you a different perspective on the war in Iraq than CNN and other major news outlets.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Cory

Life-Long Learner, Explorer, & Web Developer. Currently a Software Engineer at Jazz.