August 7th, 2010

Rose-coloured reviews *The Book of Awesome*

I got The Book of Awesome as a gift, but I was already aware of it because Fred pointed it out as very similar to our penta-annual (that’s the word, right?) listing of 1000 Things We Like. I was happy to read the book to help fill the time until Fall 2012, when we do the third thousand!

Neil Pasricha’s book is based on his blog, which is very close to our concept except a) it’s all one guy, not a collective liking team (as far as I can tell), and b) he writes little blurbs about how the good thing works or, often, the bad thing that is avoided/thwarted by the good thing.

This is a happy-making project and it works: I smiled a lot remembering simple pleasures like the unsafe playground equipment of my youth, the chip crumbs in the bottom of the bag, and the cool side of the pillow. I was also fascinated by pleasures I’ve yet to experience: guess who’s going to be staying up for a while trying to catch someone laughing in their sleep?) Pasricha has a frat-boy prose style you don’t read very often (at least, I don’t), and it’s charming although repetitive and I don’t *really* think he had to manipulate each entry to end with the word AWESOME (yes, in caps!)

In truth, I probably went at this book wrong–I think it’s some sort of coffee-table or occasional book, something you are supposed to dip into, scan, flip around in. I did try to do this, sorta: I kept it by my bedside and tried to read one awesome thing before I went to sleep each night. This was actually an excellent idea, a really good way to go to sleep cheerful, though perhaps a little terrified of all the things that can be done with fast-food. But I am not a dip-in reader, and I would sometimes crack out and read 15 or 20 awesome things in a row, and get to a giggly hyper place not at all condusive to sleep. Finally I just gave up and started reading it on the bus, my ideal reading environment. Which led to it being my second-ever bus book conversation (the other was Special Topics in Calamity Physics).

So I wound up reading it pretty much straight through, and getting a little obsessive about stylistic quirks that probably should have been ignored. Like, Pasricha clearly has a persona of a goofy suburban everydude who likes to eat and commutes to an office job in a car. This comes out in his voice, and the things he chooses to write about: cars and food and childhood and…there’s a lot about food (which made me happy; I like food too and am actually eating curry while I type this). But someone (an editor?) seems to have made a rule that the book be for everyone, and that Pasricha not use too many examples from his personal life.

So all the entries are written in the second person (“You’re lovin it lots!”) and the gender of pronouns often flips back and forth within a paragraph, which made the author seem not inclusive but MPD. And even though he was clearly mocking those who relish finding the last of a particular item in their size at a clothing store and much more sincere in his love of the Man Couch (apparently, a couch in mall stores where women can leave their pouty partners while they shop), he keeps on trying to be all things to all people. There’s even an entry on getting into clean sheets with freshly shaved legs–yes, that is actually an amazing sensation, but how would *he* know?

The best of these entries are actually the most personal. There’s a really really really sweet one about halftime orange slices when you are a kid playing soccer, which isn’t about orange slices at all but about his awesome mom. I’m pretty sure it would be worth the purchase price to just photocopy this entry and give it to your mom for Mother’s Day. And an entry towards the end about a friend who had passed away sort of anchored the book and made clearer its purpose.

Of course, it goes without saying there are no intellectual pleasures on this list, not even ones like, “When a frustrated crossword doer mutters a clue out loud and you happen to know the answer.” This is about more basic, visceral stuff than that–when you get the nacho with the most toppings, when the batteries in the remote control work a little longer than they should, when someone gives you a really solid hug. Those things deserve to be celebrated, and the inclusiveness of this list does show how similar we all are in the end. And that made me feel pretty AWESOME!

2 Responses to “Rose-coloured reviews *The Book of Awesome*”

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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