Thank you for visiting my website. World travel has been a huge part of my life since I was twenty years old. After all of these exotic experiences, I wanted to share it in some form. Combined with my interests in history and satire, what was the best way to accomplish this task? A novel!
He’s seeking a place to belong. His only tool is philosophical satire…
Thomas Gephardt loses no love for his rural Indiana home. Struck with raging wanderlust, the small-town college student heads for France armed with nothing but a thirst for stimulating conversation. So starts Thomas’s ego-bruising first leg of his ill-fated quest for cultural perfection.
Struggling to fit in at the catty French cafés, Thomas expands his search to the bustling city streets of Japan and the quiet devotion of an Israeli Kibbutz. But after each stopover leaves him with more questions than answers, he worries no location will check every box on his ideal society list.
Throughout his explorations, Thomas attempts to probe deeply into his experiences and to ponder big questions: What is the value of foreign travel? What is unique about each of these three cultures? How is each country shaped by its history?
Will Thomas find his far-flung utopian land, or is this American expat lost in transit?
The Perfect Culture is a darkly satirical standalone travel novel. Thomas has a variety of experiences - he is seen as a "quasi-alien" in a French restaurant, he wonders if he can meet expectations as a "talking monkey" in Japan, and he is informed that, unlike in The Big Lebowski, he definitely cannot roll on Shabbos in Israel.
If you enjoy candid cultural commentary, unique and extensive internal reflections, and detailed descriptions, then you’ll love Brent Robins’s international lampoon.
Buy The Perfect Culture for a tongue-in-cheek ticket to ride today!
The yellow Order link takes you to several options, including Amazon. The Amazon listing is labeled "Kindle", but if you click this, you can also buy the paperback (and audiobook). Above, the cover on the left (or on top if you're viewing on the phone) is for the ebook and audiobook. The cover on the right is for the paperback. The blue order link takes you to Google Play, which is a cheaper price. Overdrive also has an app (click here) for audiobooks if you'd like to borrow it from the library. If you prefer to support indie bookstores, click on the indies link.
"On the bright side, his college classes had given him a greater theoretical awareness about lands beyond American borders, but Thomas strongly preferred to have real, tactile experiences of these places. Showing would be far more meaningful than telling."
"Everything will not be easily comprehensible from day one here. This may truly be like the real-life version of a French film where the plot is not easily defined, and at times, I get very frustrated from the lack of clear meaning and direction. But some of these vague French films have been ultimately satisfying when I persevered through them. Hopefully this experience will also be that way."
Vladimir by Alexander Nakarada | https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com
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Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Audiobook Sample-Chapter One Narrated by David George
"As the founding director of global education non-profit organization, I place great value on the theme (which is reinforced throughout the book). Travel can enrich you by exposing you to new experiences and different cultures. This traveler's journal makes the point that collecting passport stamps from visiting new places can be so much more valuable than collecting a bunch of trinkets and souvenirs. This book was a fun read and can serve as a helpful resource for any study-abroad student or first time international traveler."
-Dr. Yvonne Marie Andres, Founding Director of Global SchoolNet
"Full of wry humor and sharp wit...Thomas’s evocations of different cities, his reflective, humorous inner dialogue in the middle of real conversations, and his unique take on people and places make the reading a real delight...Robins’s atmospheric settings and unique storytelling combined with brisk narrative and vibrant prose make this novel appealing to fans of both general fiction and travel fiction... this charming novel will make the reader wish for a sequel featuring Thomas Gephardt."
-The Prairies Book Review
"This book shines a light on the significance of immersing yourself in other cultures and overcoming the cultural faux pas which we inevitably commit when traveling. Robins conveys all of this through humor, empathy, and by using a protagonist who is easy to relate to. Therefore, readers ought to find this one a compelling read...The novel will encourage young readers to pack a bag and leave the perimeters of their everyday lives, and even for me, as a thirty-something-year-old to take a sabbatical and be Thomas again for a year."
-Independent Book Review
"Having traveled to some of the countries explored in the book myself, Thomas’s experiences resonate and it is obvious that Brent has written the book after researching customs and people. Brent’s swift and engaging writing style and story ultimately present the fact that global travel is a must for every person where possible. It not only opens up the mind to new possibilities but also makes us realize how similar we all are in spite of superficial differences, which is a crucial lesson for anyone to learn. I would highly recommend this book."
"Thomas’s adventure is thrilling and thought-provoking at every turn. This may be the least expensive world trip that a reader could buy. The Perfect Culture is vivid with the tastes of exotic foods, the nuances of how people interact and the ways in which travel changes a person...Just like Thomas, the reader will feel like a new person by the end."
I currently live in the Cleveland, Ohio area. I have many diverse interests, such as reading, singing (choir and karaoke), exercise, and movies.
I grew up in Northwest Ohio (near Toledo), and in the U.S., I have also lived in Ann Arbor, Austin, and Washington D.C. (metro area). I have lived in four countries overseas and visited forty-two others. I usually take one international trip each year. In 2018, I really went off the beaten path, sojourning to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. In 2019, I traveled to Iceland, which is a more conventional tourist stop. It was definitely a great time; I love the Nordic countries! I hope to travel again internationally as the world returns to normal.
1) Do you see Thomas as a fair-minded protagonist? Does he make an earnest effort to understand each place, or does he jump to conclusions too quickly?
2) What is the main message that you took away from reading the book?
3) Would you place this novel within the "humor" genre? Why or why not?
4) If you had to list other genres for this novel, which ones would you choose?
5) What did you think about the writing style? How does it compare to some other novels that you've read?
6) The back text describes this novel as "Bill Bryson meets J.D. Salinger". Why do you think that the book is described this way? Is Thomas a twenty-first century Holden Caulfield?
7) Which section of the book was your favorite? Least favorite?
8) The novel primarily takes place in France, Japan, and Israel. Which country sounds the most appealing to travel to? Which country sounds the most appealing to live in?
9) If this novel were made into a movie, who should play Thomas?