Book: "Adventures of a Continental Drifter," by Elliot Hester (St. Martin's Press, $23.95)

Target audience: People who can see the humor in intestinal distress.

Having encountered one-too-many unspeakably rude passengers, Hester leaves his flight attendant job and goes off in search of the world that, so far, he has seen only in glimpses from the crew van on the way back to the airport. His low-budget, year-long drift takes him to tourist hot spots, but also to places rarely included in travelogues, including Ethiopia, Brunei and Coober Pedy, a remote Australian opal-mining town. To complicate things, often Hester is the only African American where he visits, a distinction that sometimes works in his favor, sometimes not.

You won't find sophisticated cultural commentary in his entertaining accounts, however, nor much of a theme to connect them, unless it's the wisdom of carrying your own toilet paper and lots of Kaopectate. It's more like a bull session around the keg, after the children are safely out of earshot, where everyone tries to outdo the others with stories of the funniest/weirdest/sexiest/most disgusting thing he's ever seen. Except that all the stories are Hester's (and many of them involve his digestive system).

-- Jerry V. Haines