Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy and other rules to live by is a collection of columns and essays written by comedian David Mitchell.
A lot of these columns take a satirical or humorous look at things that inspired the writing of the column in the first place, be it a news event in Great Britain or across the globe, from entertainment to science, politics to religion, or any number of things. So in my best attempt at a Mitchell-like column, I’m going to comment on the back cover paragraphs to explain more about what this book is about, why you may be interested in it, and what’s in it for you.
The first paragraph on the back cover of my paperback version is, “As facts are downgraded to opinions, as customers are preyed upon by algorithm-wielding websites, voters by targeted lies, cinema-goers by superheroes and children by measles, it is probably socially irresponsible even to try to cheer up.”
This could be the beginning of the worst podcast ever, but it’s just the foundation for what’s to come. The specifics await us in the next paragraph, so let’s continue.
“But if you’re determined to give it a go, you might enjoy this eclectic collection (or eclection) of David Mitchell’s attempts to make light of all that darkness.”
And I have to tell you, this is a very good sentence. It’s probably the singular reason that this book is not for everyone. Do I wish this book was for everyone? Probably not. The world needs more than one side to everything, and I agree with David more often than not. Perhaps if you’re with us, you can keep going with this review and potentially pick up this book to pass the time. If not, that’s OK, too. Thanks for coming along this far. For the rest of us, let’s get going with the rest of this second paragraph.
“Scampi, politics, the Olympics, terrorism, condiments, proportional representation and rude street names are all touched upon by Mitchell’s unremitting laser of chit-chat.”
These are the details, but there is an asterisk to these specifics, well, two asterisks, or maybe an asterisk and a dagger (you know, this † thing that is often used when there is more than one footnote.)
The first asterisk is that Mitchell is a British comedian writing these columns for British news outlets, so the politics are largely British. Unless your worldview extends beyond your borders (or you live in Britain), the news and politics featured here may be just as foreign to you as Mitchell himself. Personally, this wasn’t a challenge for me. Even though I’m American, I keep up with the other side of the pond through the same hilarious means I was first introduced to Mitchell – British panel shows. If your sense of humor matches mine, chalk up a dagger for yourself!
The dagger is that this is a collection of columns from about late 2014 to early 2019, which makes sense for a book published in November 2019. I bring this up because there are quite a few people who don’t want to look backwards, especially as the politics of that period of time may be triggering to some. So this is a warning, not a hard and fast rule.
Then again, this is a collection of columns. There isn’t really a cohesive narrative, though Mitchell’s writing voice is strong and consistent throughout. If you are potentially bothered – offended even – by David’s thoughts and opinions on the Olympic games or Scampi, perhaps you could just skip those columns. That’s the beauty of a collection of essays like this.
Let’s finish up this book review with the last sentence from the back cover of this paper back…
“Read this book and slightly change your life!”
Well, your results may vary. Happy reading, should you choose to follow my lead. If not, enjoy whatever it is that you are reading, even if it’s just the back the box from your next bowl of breakfast cereal.