Life-abet: An A to Z of Existence by Aaron Gillies.
(Published May 2016).
This book is for readers between the ages of 18 and 35 according to Goodreads’ description, and I think that’s about right. This is a funny A to Z guide (or as Gillies himself calls it: “a self-help book for people who don’t need help” and “a guide for people who don’t need guidance”) filled with Internet humour and funny images. The kind of things you typically find on social media and that makes a lot of young people, including 25-year-old me, laugh.
If this kind of humour is neither your cup of tea nor your cup of coffee, you shouldn’t read the book. You simply won’t be entertained by it. But I, however, loved it and was very entertained by it.
To give you an idea of the kind of silliness you can expect:
– When describing what fine things the British have, one of the things Gillies mentions is Bendybus Cumbletrap. He also claims that “London is 67% escalators and 33% complaining about escalators” and that “all the pigeons are called Lord Grantham.”
– There’s a timeline of human kind claiming that in 130,000 BC Madonna’s first single was released and in 101 AD EastEnders aired for the first time in the United Kingdom.
– Gillies firmly believes that the Queen has Horcruxes and that Nagini the Corgi is one of them.
– There’s a guide to languages, describing Welsh as “an old man spitting at you as he falls down an elevator shaft” and French as “vowels being forced through a moustache.”
– The world is a dangerous place according to Gillies, and so he writes: “People out there want to mug you and your family and even your dog. Wasps exist. Katie Hopkins could be in your fridge right now, waiting, lurking.” And to be able to protect your loved ones in this dangerous world, Gillies thinks “you should be able to kick people really hard in the face” (which he learnt from Liam Neeson movies) and you should “have your house in a permanent state of Home Alone-style readiness.”
– Gillies writes about the hipster food movement and claims that “the streets are now paved with hummus”, that “your gluten-free, soya latte with extra Himalayan rock sugar only costs the same as a new sofa in a DFS sale”, and that, instead of a simple meat patty, you now get “a gourmet slab of Hungarian rabbit leg infused with 16 herbs served in a brioche bun with quadruple-cooked potato sticks (chips) served on a wooden board accompanied by a pale ale.” He also writes that he eats his food so fast that he barely has time to Instagram it.
I realise I make it seem as though this book is merely a funny A to Z, nothing more, nothing less, but plot twist, that’s not entirely true! Beneath the layers of silliness, Gillies ‘gets real’ and hits the nail on the head when writing about topics like anxiety, beliefs, body image, depression, life, mental health, and so on.
He writes about how difficult it can be to love yourself and find peace within your own skin and he claims that the real lesson in life “is that none of us know what the fuck we are doing” and that “the best you can do from day to day is to try and fuck up as little as possible.”
He also discusses the mental health stigma. How people tend to think you can just walk it off when you suffer from depression and how they tell you to just cheer up. How people tend to say that it’s all just in your head and even though that’s true, it’s not exactly helping. The phrase ‘of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’* came to mind when reading that bit.
The serious topics in the book are also often discussed in a funny way. For example, this is what Gillies writes about feminism:
“Just under 100 years ago women weren’t allowed to vote, now they can become Ghostbusters. We have really advanced as a society. ‘What next?’ the scared men screamed, ‘WOMEN LAWYERS. WOMEN CATS. WOMEN LEARNING TO READ. WHERE WILL IT END?’ It won’t end. Soon women will be everywhere; in our supermarkets, our workplaces. Scientists say that in 20 years they might even be in our homes.”
That’s my kind of humour. Sarcastic and dry. I love it.
Another passage that resonated with me was this bit about books and reading: “Every book in the English language is just the same 26 letters used in a different order. A book is an ex-tree, covered in ink, that lets people live another life without having to move.”
I love that, especially the part about books letting people live another life. (Also, is anyone else reminded of Monty Python’s parrot sketch when reading that a book is ‘an ex-tree’?).
This book is deliciously Internet and ridiculously social media, filled with silliness and with serious things dipped in sarcasm and wit. It is visually very attractive and just makes for a ridiculously funny, light read. I’ve seen other people describe it as a book you should have on your coffee table and I completely agree.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
*This phrase is from the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. Obviously. (Bonus points if you read ‘obviously’ in Snape’s voice).
This review can also be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1868990579