This is a tome for browsing, a pick-me-up for when you're feeling down. If puppies and cupcakes and cheerful smiles don't lift your spirits, then put on some Goth music and try another book, but the rest of us can appreciate the nearly 400 pages of brief, well-written personal reflections on subjects that make most people happy.
Some of these essays are only a few words long (one, entitled "When you push the button for the elevator and realize it's already there" consists of just two words: "Ding! AWESOME!") and some are several pages long (such as "Mastering the art of the all-you-can-eat buffet," or "Smiling and thinking of good friends who are gone"). They're sure to start discussions -- and perhaps even arguments (if you enjoy that sort of thing).
For me, Pasricha's topics seem to fall into four categories. The majority are quite quotidian: popping bubble wrap, hitting green lights, finding prime seats, free refills, free samples, untangling knots, locating your keys, friendly nods, getting a bargain, sharing umbrellas, fireworks, salt, breakfast in bed, campires, perfectly popped popcorn, Saturday mornings, sweatpants, the smell of books, fast food, exact change, silence, your pillow, showers, long hugs, freshly mown grass, remembering names.
A few of the topics seem like rather vain attempts at making unpleasant things pleasant: dangerous playground equipment, dropping food on the floor, cleaning the lint trap, really old Tupperware, a stranger's fart, the smell of gasoline, your colon, gym pain, putting potato chips on a sandwich, grass stains, crying, rain hair, locking people out of the car and pretending to drive away.
The most interesting disquisitions deal with odd situations that give one a delicious frisson of recognition. A number of them are youthful memories: when you get the milk-to-cereal ratio just right, when someone lands on the hotel you just built in Monopoly, the sound of scissors cutting construction paper, when you're really tired and about to fall asleep and someone throws a blanket on you, the first scoop out of a jar of peanut butter, blowing out all the candles on your first try, wearing underwear just out of the dryer, that one square in the waffle that's most loaded with butter and syrup, getting a trucker to blow his horn, pushing those little buttons on the soft drink cup lid, dangling your feet in water, the last day of school.
There are also many adult experiences but, like the childhood variety, most are sudden sense memories with long titles: when the socks from the dryer all match up perfectly, when the vending machine gives you two things instead of one, finding a mix tape given to you by an old boyfriend or girlfriend, when you arrive at your destination just as a great song ends on the radio, when you nudge the person snoring next to you and it makes them stop, when the guy at the border doesn't ask any questions, finally clipping your fingernails after you've been meaning to do it all week, when your suitcase tumbles down the luggage chute first after a long flight, when you're driving late at night on an empty gas tank and a gas station appears on the horizon.
The book ends with the longest essay of the collection. Entitled "Remembering how lucky we are to be here right now," it's a wry reflection on the amazing, improbable fact of our own existence and an exhortation to feel gratitude and joy for it.
Because it is so personal, what The Book of Awesome doesn't address could fill many other volumes, so it's safe to assume that the first of several sequels is already in the works (snow angels, anyone?), and you, dear reader, could well be its author. Better get cracking!