Reading is one of the things that pulled me out of the dark hole of grief, and I love hearing about others’ take on the titles I’ve read. To that end, I’m pulling over one of my reviews from Goodreads each week. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.
This week’s review: The 100 Thing Challenge
by Dave Bruno
Note: Nowadays, when I write critical reviews, I try to imagine I’m actually talking to the author as a way to ensure my comments are constructive. This is one of the first reviews I left on Goodreads, and I didn’t use that method. This might be a little harsh…next week I promise to post a positive review.
Oh, where to begin with this one?
Let’s begin by saying it’s awful. Truly awful and, even worse, boring. I’m not sure if that’s because the author isn’t a very good writer or simply not a very smart guy, but I suspect it’s a little of both.
Imagine asking someone a straightforward question and having them spend 20 minutes going off on a tangent…and not a very interesting one to boot. That’s exactly how this book reads. We’re interested to learn about how he pared down his possessions to 100 things and what the experience was like living that out. Instead, we get strange stories about his Christian audiobook company, a speaking engagement and a woman who (in the author’s mind) was surely trying to seduce him on a camping trip.
None of it makes sense, and none of it is convincing. Even his ‘aha’ moment when he decides to pare down his possessions seems contrived. I get the impression that it wasn’t so much about living simply as much as it was an entrepreneurial moment in which he realized he could limit his stuff, write a book and make lots of money off the premise.
I’ve ready plenty of simple living books, and this one just doesn’t ring true. For someone who is railing against American-style consumerism, he spends a lot of time name-dropping big brands. He doesn’t have a tent; he has a REI tent. He doesn’t have a jacket; he has a Patagonia jacket. You get the idea.
Also, it’s interesting to note his attempt at simplifying actually spurred consumerism. For example, he purges a jacket only to later buy a replacement…one that doesn’t make him feel so dapper and yet he feels the need to spend a chapter defending the purchase. Perhaps that’s because he knows it directly contradicts the opening of his book in which he talks about the work outfits he wants to like but that don’t actually fit the way they should. According to the author, his ill-fitting clothes are indicative of American-style consumerism, always searching for something a little better but never quite finding it. And then he does exactly that with his jacket. He gives up a jacket he loves only to buy one that’s nice, but not as good.
The author is obviously puffed up on being “the 100 Thing Challenge guy,” revels in imagining he might start a simplifying revolution and won’t let us forget he started a Christian audiobook company that he later sold for three times (although it could have been more, he assures us!) his initial investment.
Simply too much navel-gazing for my taste. If you read it, read it only to see how truly awful it is. I pity the Harper Collin editor who got stuck trying to make sense of this book.
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