Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The Great Eight
Book Review of The Great Eight
Reading this book was a departure for me. First of all I tend to read fiction and when I do read nonfiction, I am usually reading something historical or scientific (Hawking, Dawkins, etc) or even something political (“The Mommy Myth” or “Audios Barbie”).I tend to stay away from self help books, inspirational books, or memoirs by people I don’t have a desire to emulate.
This book was not my cup of normal tea but since the publisher was nice enough to send me a free copy with the understanding that I would write a review, I sat down one sunny afternoon with the expectation that I would read it, learn something useful, and pass on said wisdom to you.
It was actually hard to finish this book. Not because the subject matter was deep or thick or difficult to grasp. Not because the writing style was high brow with big words and even bigger concepts.
But because… after reading the first ten pages or so I started to feel the stabs of an early migraine setting in.
In other words, I severely disliked reading this book and had I not told the nice publisher people that I would read it and write about it there is no doubt in my mind that I would have quit very early on and never ever ever finished it.
And I was all ready to lambaste this book, to mock it, to rip it apart, to go point by point and tell you all exactly how and why it was a colossal waste of my time.
But then I realized something…. This book isn’t my sort of book, but it might be just what the doctor ordered for other people. With that in mind, I have prepared the following list.
Reasons you should read “The Great Eight” by Scott Hamilton.
1. You love Scott Hamilton and reading his earlier memoir was not enough.
2. You enjoy relearning concepts about happiness from a book instead of where said concepts are normally found: greeting cards.
3. You have a deep appreciation for exclamation points!
4. You have the attention span of a gnat.
Was it really that bad? Yes, yes it was.
In the book figure skater (and Olympian Gold Medal winner -1984 on a well documented and admitted technicality) Scott Hamilton gives you advice on how to find happiness. See, he is an expert having survived a childhood (never diagnosed) illness, testicular cancer, and a brain tumor. He is happy see, he is married with kids living away from the rat race, performing, living his dream…. And You Could Be Happy Too!
I am not sure what bothers me more about this book, the fact that the entire thing is written in a style better suited for “Discover A Better You” pamphlets one might find behind the couch at a doctor’s office or the fact that Mr. Hamilton honestly seems to think that advice like “Keep Trying!” “Trust God!” “Failure happens, but you can get over it!” are not only worth of a 183 page book but are somehow new and exciting!
I should have counted the number of exclamation points… thre is some serious overkill going on!
In fact, it was difficult to not read the book without hearing the narration done in a hyper squirrel voice. Here is an example passage from the potion of the book where we are encouraged to find the positives in every situation:
“Take, for example, being short. I don’t need to list the infinite number of negatives about being far shorter than the average man. But on the positive side of things, I can tell you that at five-foot-four. I don’t take up as much space. I fit in airplane seats more comfortably. My clothes don’t require as much material thus helping save the planet (and I am a better environmentalist since I don’t use as much water in the shower!)”
Other words of wisdom include life altering assertions like “You’ve got to find the light spot, even in the darkness. If you don’t, you can’t be happy.”
Not that I necessarily think he is wrong… I am just not sure there is anyone out there who wouldn’t already know this. (And if there are people out there who think that happiness can be found by dwelling on nothing but the dark/bad stuff… well are they going to buy a copy of this book? I would wager not.)
He continues to talk about light and dark and brings God in as well: “There is so much darkness in the word and it has the potential to suck us in like a black hole… God created the sun for many reasons, one of which is to give us light. You notice that we sleep when it’s dark? I like to think this is God’s way of saying ‘Hey guys. Don’t pay too much attention to the darkness.”
At this point I almost threw the book across the room.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I think happiness is a good thing and I think that being reminded that being happy or finding happiness isn’t an overnight thing and that tools like a good sense of humor and humility can help you achieve it. I don’t even have a problem with people finding happiness with God or Shinto or Zeus or whoever…. But again I have to wonder who was the target audience for this book. People who already buy into this woo-ish sort of touchy feely stuff probably don’t need to read this book and those of us with a more practical way of seeing the universe will be alternately bored and nauseated by Mr. Hamilton’s ramblings.
It doesn’t help that it is written at a 5th grade reading level, the font is huge and on almost every page big blocks of test are blown up and indented so as to a)make the book even longer! and b) draw special emphasis to things like “Learning not to fight the inevitable changes life brings is a key component to being happy."
I am not sure when I felt such a sense of relief upon completing a book. In fact, I guess I could say that the only real happiness I got from the entire ordeal was that eventually I finished it (gritting my teeth and reminding myself of the nice publishers every step of the way.)
If you are interested in reading this book for yourself and agreeing or disagreeing with my review, feel free to use this link to buy it on Amazon!