reviewed by Chris Richards.
Excellent Choice: Essays on Trying to be Good in a Horrible World written by Grant Sharkey
This is not a book I’d have picked up and read had I not been asked to review it. I may not have read past the first few pages without the obligation of presenting an informed opinion. But I don’t hate it.
The book is written by Grant Sharkey, a Southampton local who now lives the life of a troubadour and is content. Excellent Choice begins like a pub rant, written down. The f-bomb in the first line of the introduction will immediately turn some people off but draw others in. The swearing doesn’t end there, it just gets funnier.
I’m going to make a controversial suggestion, read the essays out of order. The Appendix: The Zone of Realistic Influence is best read once you’re convinced by Sharkey, so at the end is fine. Start with Excellent Choice, it is the most self-help like essay and explains the correlation between usefulness, balance and contentedness. Even if you fundamentally disagree with all Sharkey’s ideas, it’s best to then read Do The Work. It gave me a way in to the Sharkey way of thinking. This essay is about getting to know the real Grant Sharkey, there are laughs again but it’s also sad at times. The diary style is an easy and pacey format for all that life he’s talking about. Good and bad days; good, excellent and terrible choices.
Then read Shite Lightning and The IDIOT, The PRICK, & The Charming Liars, these are less about Sharkey’s life or himself and much more about his philosophy in a broad context and applied with a wide trowel to life as we may know it. A little pontificating but with some common sense notions that it is always good to be reminded about. If you enjoy all you’ve read so far then read the introduction.
Introduction (Why Am I OK?) left me rolling my eyes in judgment, “s’alright for some” may have actually escaped my lips as I ended the first page. It didn’t pull me in and convince me to read the rest. Obligation got me to the point where I began to agree. I began to feel as if this could be a real philosophy and something I’d be able to apply to my own life. Many of the tenets Sharkey alludes to throughout the book are those found in philosophy’s Stoicism which gave a foundation to mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
The book comes with an exclusive downloadable song ‘Grow’ and the audio version of the book read by the author. If you’re stuck in a rut or finding it difficult to make choices you feel good about then this is a nice way to distract yourself, giggle a little, and pass through a gateway to little daydreams about what it’d be like to be friends with this travelling troubadour.
Published by Hobo Sapien Press, available now from the publisher online and good bookshops including Southampton’s radical independent bookshop October Books octoberbooks.org
Not available on Amazon.