Nicholas Karpuk's Reviews > Friends Like These: My Worldwide Quest to Find My Best Childhood Friends, Knock on Their Doors, and Ask Them to Come Out and Play

Friends Like These by Danny Wallace
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's review
Dec 03, 09

bookshelves: giveaway
Read in December, 2009

Dear Daniel Wallace,

I won your book in a Goodreads Giveaway. I enter any giveaway where the synopsis seems halfway interesting.

First, I must take you to task for the book jacket. It looks awful, like a scrap-booking mishap, with photos of people that will mean nothing and make no impact on anyone who hasn't already read the book.

I must also take umbrage with your hyperbolic quotes:

"Irresistible" - Daily Mail

No part of this book defies resistance. It's slow paced, only intermittently funny, and as I've indicated, the artwork is not a grabber.

"The funniest book you'll read this year." -Shortlist

It has its moments. The jokes that are made hit home about 75% of the time. But they're sporadically placed. Also, I've read books by both David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell this year, making that claim virtually impossible.

"Another comedy masterpiece." - The Bookseller

The Bookseller apparently mostly reads books about famine and war. Very dry books about famine and war.

Now that I'm done judging a book by its size, I must condemn it for bulk. This book is 400 pages. It's not about any real dramatic series of events, it's not full of research, and it's light on jokes. I would have cut out 100 pages minimum, possibly up to 200.

That's because the subject matter is utterly flighty. It's about Daniel Wallace finding an address book from his childhood and deciding he needed to hunt them all down because he was freaking out about turning 30.

This isn't really compelling because most people with access to Facebook are already doing it.

This self-absorbed bloated book gives the reader way too much detail about what's often a boring childhood. He was into ninjas, he liked the A-Team, he though Michael Jackson was pretty amazing. Very few of the anecdotes felt like a story that needed to be told. Most of it reeks of blind nostalgia.

Beyond that, the book was inspired by an upper class B-list celebrity freaking out because he was turning 30. At times it seems like he removed details about his life specifically to try and engender more likability. He doesn't mention that all this was done on a hiatus between well-paying television work and probably didn't really hurt him financially since the optioning of that awful looking Jim Carrey movie "Yes Man" could most likely cover his expenses. There's a lot of weird omissions like that, moments where I felt Danny wasn't playing it straight with me and didn't even have the decency to say why.

I can understand it in a way, because listening to a affluent, semi-famous british guy whine about turning 30 in good health with a stable marriage doesn't sound like a terribly good pitch.

Overall this reeks of "I have a three book deal and two good book ideas". The gap in time between him experiencing all this in 2006 and its release in 2008 seems suspect considering it's a book a halfway competent writer could crap out in a month or two.

The shame is that there are some funny moments, a few interesting stories, a kernel of humorist storytelling talent. Unfortunately, it's nailed to a framework too lazy and uninspired to hold it all together.
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Reading Progress

11/30/2009 page 360
86.54% "The end of this book has been an endurance test."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Colin (new)

Colin McKay Miller Ooh, picking on jacket comments. I'm going to have to steal that move sometime.

Nicholas Karpuk Normally I'd consider that below the belt, but those quotes were so insanely over-selling the humor, which was pretty underwhelming in the book. Maybe I'm missing a lot of it because it's too subtle and British.

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