Friday, September 26, 2014

Booknote: Good Advice from Bad People

Zac Bissonnette, Good Advice from Bad People: Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong. New York: Portfolio/Penguin 2014. ISBN: 978-1-59184-689-5.

This is a collection of quotes and bits of advice from all sorts of bad people: murderers, stock swindlers, preachers, ministers, and athletes from O.J. Simpson to Lance Armstrong. The book is organized into six parts with topics such as money and wealth, integrity, and relationships. Yes, sometimes even bad people can offer tidbits of advice that are actually pretty good. The book exemplifies the old saying, "do as I say, not as I do." The book itself is also a serious comment on people in general. As the author writes in his introduction, "these kinds of charlatans rise to the top because in our desperate need for motivational figures, we make almost no effort to vet them" (xi). Or, as often attributed to P.T. Barnum, "there's a sucker born every minute," and those suckers are buying a lot of self-help and motivational books.

This is a very easy book to read. In each chapter, you get the quote, then a small biographical and commentary passage providing context on the quote and the person who said it. The author's selections range from very current figures to some older ones that need a bit of background for today's readers. The book is well written so the stories remain accessible. In many cases, you get a nice sense of dark humor in reading many instances of hubris and arrogance gone bad.

The book includes a bibliography listing works by and about the bad folks featured. As the author mentions, "the bulk of these books are, quite rightly, long out-of-print-- and the better managed libraries have gracefully removed them from circulation" (193). You do get the full citations so if you are seeking out the former bestseller by Creflo Dollar or Donald Trump, you can rush to Amazon or the nearest Salvation Army thrift store or Goodwill store to find them.

I really liked this book. It is the kind of book the blends a bit of humor and a little learning that I enjoy.

I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note: So we keep The Man happy, I am supposed to tell you that for this book I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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