4 out of 4 stars
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If I’d a Knowed by Tom Beattie is a non-fiction book about the author’s experiences as a gay writer and other musings about his life. The title of the book was inspired by a quote from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (quoted “as is,” including errors in grammar and word usage) - “If I’d a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it.” There is also a bonus travelogue mini-book about unique occurrences during the author’s international travels.
The author describes the rocky road of publishing and marketing his debut book, Ad Majorem. After the manuscript was rejected by mainstream publishers, Mr. Beattie decided to self-publish his book. His marketing methods included paying for a Readers Favorite review, having a giveaway on Goodreads, and sending copies to well-known individuals (e.g. - Rachel Maddow, former President Jimmy Carter). Although his efforts weren’t generally successful, Mr. Beattie learned a lot about the process.
There is an easy flow to the smart and witty writing. I often felt like I was chatting with a good friend over coffee. The essay-style chapters are very short and to the point, and there is even a humorous explanation given for the format. There is a philosophical, stream-of-consciousness feel to the writing, but nothing feels draggy. I particularly enjoyed the relevant quotes from various Mark Twain books that are included after each chapter. The quotes are humorous, insightful, or a combination of both.
My only gripe is that the author often goes off on random tangents, especially in the second half of the book. While it’s true that the individual essays are interesting, there is not much propelling the book forward. The chapters are one page or less, containing brief musings about a particular topic. As a result, I felt I was left hanging at times and would have liked a bit more depth. Still, many readers might like the sparse, casual tone rather than a more detailed account of the author’s experiences.
As much as I enjoyed this book, I absolutely loved the bonus mini-book, Places I Shouldn’t Have Been. The author recounts various happenings during his travels with his husband David. These sections were a joy to read and a testament to the old saying “truth is stranger than fiction.”
This book has earned a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. With the exception of one minor error (“Barns and Noble” instead of Barnes and Noble), the writing is excellent. Mr. Beattie has a perceptive eye that gets to the heart of whatever topic is being discussed. I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates good writing, and to writers who would be able to relate to the author’s experiences. I look forward to reading other books by this talented author.
If I'd a Knowed
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