You: The Owner’s Manual

Health for Dummies? Leave it on the shelf.

We have a room in our house which we call the Library. It’s our third bedroom, the one with the futon for overflow guests. It’s also the room lined with bookshelves and full of books — other people’s books — I don’t keep the books I’ve written at my house.

I’ve read or plan to read, or refer to or plan to refer to, all of the books on these shelves. But because there’s a limited amount of shelf space and I’m a major supporter of bookstores, I occasionally have to go through my collection and weed out the ones I don’t want to keep. These fall into three categories: 1) read it once and that’s enough, 2) started to read it and didn’t like it enough to finish it, 3) has been replaced with a newer edition. These are the books — many of which are bestsellers — that I donate to my local library. I figure I give them about 50 books like this a year.

The other day, I went through this process and pulled out a dozen books. On the very top of the pile was You: The Owner’s Manual. Mike bought this book for me, thinking it would help me understand the weird things that go on with a person’s body as he/she ages. I’d seen the book in stores and thought the title was catchy. It looked like a good book. Evidently, lots of people have thought the same way, because this book has been selling like crazy and is available everywhere they sell books.

Don’t let the catchy title and “Bestseller” labeling fool you. This book should have been published as Health for Dummies because that’s what it is. There’s very little meat in this thick book. There are far too many poor jokes, cartoonish illustrations, and oversimplified explanations. Like most of the Dummies books I’ve seen. I’d read a chapter about a topic that interested me and get about halfway through it, wondering when the authors were going to stop trying so hard to be funny and deliver some useful information. What a waste of time.

Health is important. It’s not something to be joked about. When I take the time to read something that’s supposed to explain why I feel a certain way or what I can do to feel better, I don’t want to wade through a lot of fluff to get to the meat of the matter. I want immediate gratification. I want facts, plain and simple, delivered with a writing style geared towards someone above a 2nd grade reading level and TV’s Funniest Bloopers mentality.

In other words, I don’t want this book.

The library will take it gladly, even though they probably have a copy. They’re always happy when I hand over a bestseller for their collection. And maybe someone else will get something useful out of the book.

What do you think?