The Ugly American

by William J. Lederer

Book cover for The Ugly American

The multi-million-copy bestseller that coined the phrase for tragic American blunders abroad.

In the episode that lends the book its title, the "ugly American" is Homer Atkins, a plain and plain-spoken man, who has been sent by the U.S. government to advise the Southeast Asian country of Sarkhan on engineering projects. When Atkins finds badly misplaced priorities and bluntly challenges the entrenched interests, he lays bare a foreign policy gone dangerously wrong.

First published in 1958, The Ugly American? became a runaway national bestseller for its slashing exposé of American arrogance, incompetence, and corruption in Southeast Asia. In linked stories and vignettes, the book uses gripping storytelling to draw a devastating picture of how the United States was losing the struggle with Communism in Asia.

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  • On May 05 2017 dugnforthunt (USN) read this book and commented:


  • On Feb 26 2015 ryancalvert (USMC) read this book
  • On Jan 02 2013 colleen (USA) read this book
  • On Dec 10 2012 colleenfl read this book and commented:

    READ 1.21.12

  • On Apr 07 2009 mariyta read this book
  • On Mar 25 2009 Tom Copeland (USCG) read this book and commented:

    I expected to dislike this book just from its title - I thought it'd be all about how bad Americans are, etc. To the contrary, it weaves together a bunch of vignettes about several different Americans and their actions in and around a fictional eastern country. The scenarios and characters are reasonably believable, although the truly ugly Americans might be a little overdone. Definitely a classic about the difficulties of spreading democracy and fighting totalitarian ideologies - those tasks are hard enough without shooting outselves in the foot.