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Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist's Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World Hardcover – June 2, 2015

4.4 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Naked At Lunch

One of the Huffington Post’s 20 Notable Non-Fiction Books You Might've Missed This Year
One of Los Angeles Magazine’s 7 Books You Need to Read This June
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Week

“Smith offers lots of funny anecdotes about his first-person research. As you might imagine, the clothing-optional world is not all Adonis and Aphrodite playing volleyball.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Haskell Smith’s rollicking Naked at Lunch does its absolute best to make us feel more comfortable in our skin. In his funny, thorough account of his investigative stint as a social nudist, he deftly balances reporting, dry humor, historical context and hilarious anecdotes. . . . Haskell Smith’s enthusiasm is infectious and his subject matter will make you appreciate the cool breeze on your mostly unclothed beach body more than ever.”Huffington Post

“Smith clearly delights in talking to oddballs; he balances this nicely with a pocket history of nudist movements . . . Smith’s tone is breezy, free-wheeling, often very funny.”Boston Globe

“L.A. author Smith puts on his reporter’s hat and takes off everything else as he explores the history and sociology of nudism.”Los Angeles Times

Naked at Lunch is an absolute hoot.”—Maggie Nelson, Los Angeles Magazine (7 Books You Need to Read This June)

“Haskell Smith fully enters the land of nudism to find a world peopled by good-natured hedonists, the sort who have more in common with wine connoisseurs and foodie fanatics than with seedy perverts.”LA Weekly

“In the spirit of Mary Roach’s curiosity and humor . . . fascinating and funny.”Los Angeles Daily News

“A delightful and informative look at nudism throughout history and around the world.”Seattle Times

“[Haskell Smith is] alert to the latest schisms and controversies within the nudist world. His tone is informal and spiced with daffily well-targeted turns of phrase. But he’s also trenchant and commonsensical in his observations . . . Naked at Lunch is a perfect summer read.”Oregonian

“Mark Haskell Smith nails the many variations in the clothing-optional world. . . . The book is breezily written, warmly personal, and largely nonjudgmental.”Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Gets down and dirty with [the] history of nudism.”San Francisco Chronicle

“Hilarious, absorbing and—to adapt Blake’s comment on Milton—a sustained celebration of the invention of clothing.”—Geoff Dyer

“A strangely compelling, riotously funny traipse through the world of nudism. Mark Haskell Smith is a worthy heir to the George Plimpton school of journalism. He's not there to mock; he's there to experience humanity in all its full-monty complexity.”—J. Maarten Troost, author of Headhunters on My Doorstep and The Sex Lives of Cannibals

Naked at Lunch is a total joy. Mark Haskell Smith is a fine reporter, a trenchant cultural observer and a spectacular writer. He’s the best kind of participatory journalist; one who stands proudly with his subjects even as he stands apart from them. The naked cruise chapter is a tour de force and a worthy addition to the canon of great cruise writing. Even if you’ve never been nude in your life and have no plans to be in the future, this book will thrill you with its hilarious and outrageous stories and move you with its essential humanity.”—Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion

“Mark Haskell Smith turns out to be an ideally curious point man into the bizarre and complicated world of modern-day nudism. If there’s a funnier, more interesting book about being naked, I’d very much like to read it.”—Tom Bissell, co-author of The Disaster Artist

Naked at Lunch is insightful, brave, and inspiring. With extraordinary honesty and humor, Haskell Smith faces down social and personal inhibitions to experience both a fascinating subculture and a moving personal transformation.”—Jillian Lauren, author of the New York Times bestseller Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

“Our knight in shining lotion . . . makes some stealthy observations . . . Interspersed with his naked adventures are fascinating . . . glimpses of nudists throughout history . . . Haskell Smith can hit the David Sedaris humor sweet spot.”Los Angeles Review of Books

“Throwing both caution and clothing to the wind, novelist and journalist Haskell Smith strikes a winning combination of personal and journalistic narrative as he investigates the appeal of nudism. . . . Though he’s not above making more than a few jokes about swinging genitalia, Haskell Smith does an admirable job of keeping the narrative respectful . . . Haskell Smith’s empathy and genuine interest in nudism and its appeal make this account both informative and entertaining . . . A witty and insightful read.”Publishers Weekly (starred review and “Best Book of the Week”)

“An amusing and earnest attempt to understand the appeal of nudism. . . . With solid reporting and scholarship, Smith delves into the genesis of the global nudism movement, constantly enlivening material that could have gotten stale. . . . Smith makes you laugh and think. A thoughtful and entertaining analysis of why so many still want to ditch their clothes and let it all hang out.”Kirkus Reviews

“A lot of people will enjoy Naked at Lunch. Mark Haskell Smith’s escapades and his observances are hilarious.”Myrtle Beach Sun News

“Smith, a likable American writer who ambles a breezy path between the likes of Bill Bryson and Geoff Dyer, offers up plenty of hilarity as he prepares to embrace this subculture of ‘nakations’ and ‘clothing optional’ environments . . . This thoughtful, funny book is a plea for the middle ground. By the end of his unbuttoned adventures, Smith has widened his idea of what normal can be—and, following him into that sea of flesh, so has the reader.”Guardian

“Hilarious insight into what makes people get together and strip off . . . William Burroughs’ 1959 Naked Lunch may win when it comes to sex and drugs but At Lunch pulls its pants down when it comes to barefaced laughter.”Daily Telegraph (Sydney)

“Part social study, part history of naturism and nakedness, the book is written with a light touch and although it never becomes salacious, [Mark Haskell Smith] keeps the story interesting.”Sydney Morning Herald

Naked At Lunch is the kind of book George Plimpton might well have written if he were still alive.”Winnipeg Free Press


Naked at Lunch . . . may be the best book on naturism—and the most persuasive argument for naturism—ever written by a non-naturist . . . The book is a pleasure to read, whether or not you’re a naturist yourself.”—Naturist Philosopher

“Hilarious . . . well researched, truthful . . . Naked at Lunch will go a long way toward dispelling many of the misconceptions that mainstream, non-nudist readers have about Nudism . . . destined to become a classic of naturist literature. Many nudists . . . will find much to enjoy here as well.”—SoCal Naturist Newsletter

“Smith’s informal, often carefree tone serves him well . . . the book projects fresh perspectives throughout.”N Magazine

“Very funny stuff . . . Haskell Smith writes entertainingly.”Press and Journal (UK)

About the Author

Mark Haskell Smith is the author of five novels, most recently Raw: A Love Story, and the nonfiction book Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Vulture. He lives in Los Angeles.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; F First Edition edition (June 2, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802123511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802123510
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #326,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on June 9, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me say that I have never had the fortitude to try this, although it is an item on my bucket list. I have known several people who have gone to "clothing optional" resorts and found them to be quite relaxing. It was in that vein that I picked up this book, in order to expand my knowledge on the subject, and possibly decide that I do have the fortitude to pull it off.

The author, in a quest to discover the world of the naturist and the nudist, enters that world and explores it from, pardon the pun, every angle. He writes about the history of the nudist movement, explores various types of naturalists and examines resorts in Spain, France and Palm Springs, CA noting the differences in each and the attitude of the people in and around the resorts.

In addition, he went on a naked hike through the Austrian Alps as part of an organized, annual event and explored a famous clothing optional beach in Southern California, as well as a naked cruise aboard a major cruise ship. Along the way, he dispels many myths about the naturalist movement.

Finally, the author examines, in some depth, the puritanical attitudes that cause people in this country to seem to freak out at the thought of providing space on beaches and in parks for people that want to shed their clothes and go au natural. One interesting tidbit….3 arrests for skinny dipping in Montana can lead to a life sentence in prison. Seems a might harsh!

The author did an excellent job exploring this subject, and writes quite well. He has a unique sense of humor that caused me to laugh out load on more than one occasion, and although he is serious about the subject, he writes in a way that makes it fun to learn about. I enjoyed this book immensely and would recommend it heartily.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow, this book is really a wonderful study of nudism. It is written with a great amount of humor but definitely Does Not laugh at the nudist life style - in fact, I thought it celebrated those who practice nudism.

Well written, well researched, a delightful and informative and entertaining read.

I really like this book and I am grateful to Mark Haskell Smith for writing it!
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Format: Hardcover
This book has received a lot of great press, and I was very intrigued by it as I've always been curious about nudism. The author is a good writer with a light tone who also digs into the history of nudism in a journalistic fashion. The chapters alternate between him sharing his own experiences going nude in various environments (a nudist camp, a nudist hike, etc.) and the history of nudism throughout the ages. I skimmed over the history parts, as I wasn't that interested, but I could tell they were well researched and thorough if you are into those things.

Overall, the book wasn't as hilarious as I expected, but it was funny in spots and most important, gave me a clear idea of what it would be like to be involved in nudism. Through reading the book I was able to determine this probably isn't something I'm interested in.

A couple of interesting things he shared are:
At most nudist camps there are such strict rules against sexualizing nudism that people act totally prudish.
If you hike naked, your body is much better at naturally regulating temperature and you don't get hot.

The book ended with a good forward-thinking look at young nudists and how the world of nudism is going to have to change from the fuddy duddy nudist establishment (yes there is such a thing) if it wants to attract more young people and not die out (kind of like the Shakers).

One thing that bothered me: Throughout, the author made derogatory comments about old people with sagging bodies (because they are the ones who tend to be most involved in nudism). A few comments like this are to be expected when a person is plunked down at a pool full of seniors, but it began to grate on me as it went on throughout the book.
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Format: Hardcover
A book report? Shoot haven't done one of them since I made one up based on the inside front cover of a book we were supposed to have read in year 10. Well let's give it a go shall we?

If you're looking for a book that will inspire you to get out there and get your gear off then this isn't the book for you. But then I'm not sure that that's what the author, Mark Haskell Smith, had intended to do. The author sets out to discover various sub cultures by experiencing them, sort of a literary version of Louis Theroux if you will, and to this end immerses himself in the culture in a bid to gain a better understanding of his chosen subject.

The end result is not a book of "here's why you should do it" but more a look at here's why they, the nudists, want to do it. As those who can attest to our travel preferences will confirm Kim and I have a number of shared experiences with Mark so I can say with certainty that his observations and reports of what goes on at these venues and cruises is quite accurate, even recognised some of our friends in the book despite a name change.

In the book Mark details his experiences at a number of nude and clothing optional places around the globe, well just Europe and the U.S. but at least he got out and looked at it from more than a simple American perspective as is so often the case. His telling of his experiences covered the good and, depending on your point of view, not so good of it all in a manner that seems to reflect a genuine desire to understand the people involved.

My only issue with the book was in the style of the very first chapter, in fact he nearly lost me there, which from my reading at least had all the style of a skit from an episode of Benny Hill. However, Mark redeems himself very quickly.
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