Author: Jon Ronson
Published by: Picador, 2007
Genre: Non-fiction, humour, journalism
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Every Monday morning for the past few years I’ve sat in my office and pinpointed the stupidest thing I did during the previous week so I could write a Guardian column about it.”
In “What I Do: More True Tales of Everyday Craziness,” the second volume of Jon Ronson’s collected Guardian journalism, he hilariously demonstrates how our everyday lives are determined by the craziest thoughts and obsessions; how we spend our time believing in and getting worked up by complete nonsense. But also, as he chillingly demonstrates, there are clever people working in the highest echelons of business who are employed to spot, nurture and exploit the irrationalities of those among us who can barely cope as it is.
In part one, read about the time Jon inadvertently made a lewd gesture to a passing fourteen-year-old girl late at night in the lobby of a country-house hotel. And about his burgeoning obsession with a new neighbour who refused to ask him what he did for a living, despite Jon’s constant dropping of intriguing hints. And about the embarrassment of being caught recycling small talk at a party.
In part two, read some of Jon’s longer stories, which explore manifestations of insanity in the wider world: the tiny town of North Pole, Alaska, where it’s Christmas 365 days of the year; behind the scenes at “Deal or No Deal,” which Jon likens to a cult with Noel Edmonds as its high priest; a meeting with TV hypnotist Paul McKenna, who has joined forces with a self-help guru who once stood trial for murder – but can they cure Jon of his one big phobia?
As hilarious as it is perturbing, Jon Ronson’s new collection is a treat for everyone who has ever suspected themselves to be at the mercy of forces they can barely comprehend.
It’s no secret that Jon Ronson is one of my favourite authors, and he takes top spot when it comes to the non-fiction genre.
This book was for a long time known as ‘the only Jon Ronson book I have yet to read’ and this was simply because I couldn’t find it anywhere. All that changed when I found out that Jon was coming to my home city of Nottingham to do a talk called Psychopath Night. I bought tickets straight away and went to the event. You can read more about my experience at the event here.
As you’d expect, there was a book stall and it was there that I found this book. My search was over, and when I met Jon, I told him that it was the only one of his books I hadn’t read, and he said: “It’s my least good book, so feel free not to read it.” He also informed me that some of this book is in Lost at Sea, which means that in the end I had read half of this book before I’d managed to get a copy!
It is for that reason I’ve given it 3 stars. The book took me no time at all to read, so I didn’t have the ‘Jon Ronson reading experience’ that I got with his other books. Part 1 was everything I hoped it would be, and it started quite appropriately with the anecdote that Jon opened Psychopath Night with.
All the anecdotes in Part 1 of the book are from his Guardian columns, and it is good to remember that whilst reading, because it adds to the comedy of what he is writing about and who might read it (including the people he writes about). Some of them made me laugh out loud, but they weren’t as side-splitting as the ones included in Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness. Id much rather the whole book was comprised of his columns, because Part 2 of this book may as well have not existed for all the reading pleasure I was able to derive from it.
Pretty much the entire Part 2 is published in Lost at Sea apart from the epilogue that Jon added at the end of Who Killed Richard Cullen? However, I did end up reading the final chapter The Sociopath Mind Guru and the TV Hypnotist because I couldn’t remember if I’d read it before, but then realised I had.
For me, the significance of this book won’t be that I couldn’t read half of it, but the fact that I bought it at a Jon Ronson talk, and that he signed it for me. Who cares if it’s only half-read? Jon Ronson literally wrote in it!
Other than that, it’s a bit of a let down because of Lost at Sea but if you’re a huge Jon Ronson fan like I am, this won’t matter.
Link to the book on Goodreads:
More reviews of Jon Ronson’s bo0ks:
Them: Adventures with Extremists – Jon Ronson
Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness – Jon Ronson
Frank – Jon Ronson
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson
Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries – Jon Ronson
The Men Who Stare At Goats – Jon Ronson