There are books that shape us. For better or worse, they make an impact on who we are and who we become. And sometimes, who we become in the immediate aftermath of reading them are assholes who won’t shut up about them.
Let’s explore a few such books.
Eat, Pray, Love
What it’s about: The story of a divorced woman who travels for a year to Italy, India and Bali to find herself.
What its readers won’t stop saying: “I felt like she was writing about me! She was confused and didn’t know exactly what she wanted from life, and that’s how I feel sometimes. I really need to go on a journey of self-discovery, I’ve already got a Bing alert set up so I know when flights to India drop below $1,600.”
Reality check: Elizabeth Gilbert made a lot of money writing about a vacation she took once. And she paid for that vacation with the book advance she got by promising to write about a vacation she took once. Which means that before she discovered herself, she had discovered enough about the publishing industry to know that editors would pay quite a bit for the story of a white woman’s journey of self-discovery.
And that’s all well and good, except for the millions of people who read this book and now want to emulate her year-long vacation. Because unless you manage to sell plans for a similar book, like “Digestion, Deities, Dudes,” about your trip to France, Vatican City and a Vegas Chippendales show, I don’t think you’re going to get anyone to fund your $100,000 vacation.
What it’s about: 36 years before the title year, George Orwell foretold of a world of total government control.
What its readers won’t stop saying: “Did you hear about TSA’s new regulations? They can strip search you. I’m telling you, it’s Big Brother, man. The government’s already reading your emails and looking through your Google searches. This is just like 1984. Soon – SPOILER ALERT – rats will eat all of our faces.”
Reality check: The government of 1984 was all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful. The current U.S. government isn’t even all-competent. Most politicians are too busy mastering direct Tweets so they don’t publish photos of their private parts to the world to worry about listening in on constituents, let alone tracking their deepest, darkest fears. So don’t worry about Big Brother. The last thing we have to worry about is that the government will get too good at it’s job.
Fast Food Nation
What it’s about: Expose of the fast food industry and why it’s gross.
What its readers won’t stop saying: “Oh my God, how can you eat that? Do you know what they do to keep the food so cheap? They barely pay their employees anything, they get all of their food from factory farms and there’s trace amounts of SHIT in the food! That’s disgusting, after I finished this book I started a totally organic raw foods diet and I feel so much healthier. Oh, that? It’s just a bruise. I get them a lot now.”
Reality check: I’m not really a fan of fast food, but I also don’t think it’s the devil, as readers of this book (and I’m actually talking about twenty year-old me here) may have you believe. Yes, fast food jobs pay very little, but that’s for good reason. My first job was working the McDonald’s drive-thru, where I quickly earned Employee of the Month for my excellent work in being the only non-stoned person there. And as for the quality of the food, the book even points out that the buying power of the fast food industry enables them to procure better meat than the public school system. So take that children of America.
Catcher in the Rye
What it’s about: The quintessential story of teenage angst.
What its readers won’t stop saying: “Everyone’s a phony. You go through life worrying about these stupid, superficial things, when you should be worried about doing something with your life. Like, really living. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Reality check: I think this is mandatory reading for most high schoolers because teenagers are such universal jerks that combining the “You don’t get it!” attitude of adolescence with the “You don’t get it!” attitude of the post-Catcher in the Rye reader gets it all over with at once. And then once that person realizes that the authenticity of what they do with their lives may not be as important as the need to do something with their lives, they’ll move on. Better to be a phony land owner than an authentic hobo, I always say.
What it’s about: In a future where trains are still a thing, government regulations and control suppress individual innovation and enterprise. The business leaders go on strike, leaving the government and hangers on to fend for themselves.
What its readers won’t stop saying: “This is what will have to happen before government realizes how much they depend on us, the innovators in society. They keep taxing and leeching off of us, but if we went on strike they wouldn’t even be able to function. Less and less people are now propping up more and more. This country would collapse without the few who actually work.”
Reality check: Hey, twenty year-old college student who just read this book, you’re not a business leader or innovator. If you went on strike, the rest of the country would keep right on going, and you would just fail out of school and move back in with your parents, which honestly might happen anyway. I have yet to meet someone who’s read this book and not associated themselves with the elite group of producers who are driving society. But at the same time, I have yet to meet anyone who’s invented a new type of steel or a motor that will change the world. So far, the misunderstood geniuses appear to be working mostly mid-level office jobs, which, while important, would’ve made Atlas Shrugged a bit less dramatic.
And on a final note, if this is what the great minds of society create when tasked with adapting their gospel into a film, I’m not sure I trust them to lead the new world order:
That dialogue just crackles. Can’t wait for the rest of the trilogy.