As Billy Joel once crooned.

What makes reading books for the purpose of reviewing them is that normally you try to read them quickly, which isn’t always the best approach.

I read through Phil Callaway’s To Be Perfectly Honest far too quickly and probably didn’t appreciate fully the premise. To be perfectly honest myself, Callaway’s book is better fit for bathroom reading than for sitting on leather chair in your study and smoking a pipe while sipping brandy. I don’t have a leather chair, study, pipe, or any brandy. But if I did, they wouldn’t make up my setting for reading Honest.

In Honest, Callaway journals a year of complete honesty. He promises to tell no lies to anyone, a seemingly insurmountable feat for a comedian—a funny man like many others who fabricates much of his material. Almost immediately he tries to wriggle out of the deal:

Is it a lie if you’re obviously joking?

In one scene, for instance, he pretends that he is both deaf and dumb to a couple Mormon missionaries who approach him while he is mowing his lawn. He recounts the event as though it happened but later recants, saying “what a tragedy to have such a great story roadblocked by the truth.”

Callaway can be quite funny as on Day 7 when he writes:

My mother-in-law asked if I’d like to come over for supper. Questions like this one can be problematic. Rather than answer immediately, should I ask her to rephrase the question?

He continues for 365 days, writing about

  • a woman who seems to be flirting with him online
  • an investment scheme that spotlights his tendency toward greed
  • an estranged friend who is gossiping about him and his own prayers of vengeance
  • his response and subsequent email correspondence with a Ruth Madoff spammer claiming to have picked him as the beneficiary of millions
  • his wife who after the project says, “I like the more honest you”
  • his 80-something mother suffering from dementia

The last chapter is really the best, when he writes less one-liners and more about dealing with the death of his mother, whose meager possessions included a book of her son’s “with the corners curled up and smiley faces throughout.”

I recommend Callaway’s Honest for his humorous report of the lessons he learns about being truthful and loving, but I suggest you read it a little slower. Sprinkle it among other books you may be reading in your study with pipe and brandy.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <; : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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