Don’t Call It A Comeback

I have decided to join the seventh incarnation of the Cannonball Read.

Why, you may ask?  I don’t know.  I hemmed and hawed over it.  I debated whether or not I should bother.  I don’t like doing reviews.  I had a very public meltdown over Pajiba, who sponsors it.  It’s not like if I don’t do it, I won’t read books.  I will.  I will read and read.  So why?  So why bother?

Because it matters.  And because fuck cancer.

I created the Cannonball Read and I didn’t.  A friend of mine, Marci, stated on Twitter one year that she vowed to read 100 books in a year.  And I thought to myself, well, shit, I can do that.  I bet I could do that.  I WILL DO THAT.  And so I declared, I was going to read 100 books in a year, and if anyone wanted to join me, let’s do this shit.  And only one person said yes.  Amanda.  AlabamaPink.  So we set ground rules.  Because life isn’t fun without rules.  First to 100 wins.  A book constituted 200 pages or more.  None of this BookIt!, cheating to get a personal pan pizza horseshit.  And the only way to prove you read a book is to post a review.  Now the review doesn’t have to be a review, per se.  And that’s what I liked about it.  I don’t have to judge it.  It’s to open a conversation.  It’s to say, I read this – did you, would you?  Maybe you should!  Or if I didn’t like something, why didn’t I like this?

And then it became public.  In that Dustin offered to post the reviews on Pajiba.  So it became about me fighting cancer.  Literally.  I was fighting a chick with cancer.  And to offer an extra hamstring, I let people recommend books.  So they could slow me at will.  And so we did the contest.  And it was fun.  And then she died.  And I got incredibly sad.  Because it was like finishing a race, turning around before the finish line, and finding out a fucking tornado just swept across the racetrack.  But I still finished. And it was wonderful.

And then I quit.  I quit a bunch of stuff for a bunch of reasons that I don’t need to get into.  I’ve been wrestling fucking demons for a few years now.  And I’m still wrestling them.  But let’s not worry about that.  Because smarter people than I stepped in and took the Cannonball Read away from me, and turned it into something kind of beautiful.

A full Cannonball Read is now reading 52 books a year and posting 52 reviews.  One book, one review, a week, one year.  And now folks can do half cannonballs, or quarter cannonballs or just fucking root people on.  And that’s kind of wonderful.  Because the idea for doing this was two-fold.  I wanted to clear the goddamn to read pile next to my bed.  I wanted to put booklovers in touch with each other and share book reading.  It’s what I loved about working at Barnes and Noble for so many years and in so many cities.

A story. James Patterson had just released The Jester in hardcover.  Now, one of the awesomest policies at B&N is that current booksellers are able to borrow a brand new hardcover for two weeks to read.  Presumably so they can say to customers, “Hey, I just read this, read this.”  I admit, I love parts of James Patterson.  His Alex Cross books, his women’s murder club, and some of the other franchises he’s started.  But I read The Jester.  And it was fucking terrible.  So when customers came in, I was standing at the center desk. And I’d see them browsing it.  And I actually said, “I wouldn’t.”  And they said, “What?”  And I said, “It’s really bad.”  And they’d say, “Oh.”  And I said, “Have you read the Women’s Murder Club books?”  And they said, “What’s that?”  And so I’d walk them over to fiction and get them the first two paperbacks.  And they’d go and buy them.  And my manager pulled me aside and said, “You can’t do that.  You can’t tell people not to buy a book.”  And I said, “But I’m–”  And they said, “NO.  Don’t.”  So I said cool.  And if people came up and asked me if I thought this was any good, I’d say, “No. It’s terrible.  You should read the Women’s Murder Club.  Or Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar. Or do you like magic?  Read Harry Dresden.”  But others I’d bite my lips as they scooped it up and left.

Funny thing happened.  About three weeks later, I hear the story of these black women coming back in the store.  And they said, “Where’s that little guy?  The one with the glasses?”  And they said, “He recommended some books to me.  I want him to tell me some more.”  And then they came back, and they bought other series.  And they ended up spending even more money than they would have reading shitty ol’ The Jester.

The Cannonball Read has become about much more than just reading books.  They’re doing their part to fight cancer.  And that means something amazing.  That means something really truly wonderful.  That’s bigger than my pettiness.  That’s bigger that what I set out to do all those years ago.  That’s bigger than one person.  That tornado that swept across the racetrack?  That’s everyone on the sidelines going out and picking up shards and boards and bricks and rebuilding the racetrack. That’s who cares about the race?  That’s saying, “There will always be a racetrack, no matter what horrible bullshit nature brings, no matter if the people come and run or not.  You will always have a racetrack.”

I forgot about that.  So if you’re in, come run with me.  Go to the website: and sign up.  Do a quarter cannonball.  Hell, read one fucking book, and love it and tell us about it.


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