One of the best things about books is pushing your favourite ones on other people.
Actually, that's not just true of books. Films, music, food, cars, sports, gadgets, places to travel - we do it with fucking everything. If you love something it's only natural you want to share it, right? Either because you think it's good and it would improve someone else's life, or because you want them to appreciate how fucking smart and cool and cultured you are for liking it in the first place. Sometimes it's a mix of both. Motivations are complicated.
The problem is, it can be very hard to make people read your favourite book, watch your favourite film, try your favourite whiskey, whatever. This is a big world full of cool stuff and we all get a limited amount of time in it. Plus, these recommendations come flying at you constantly. "Ever tried this? Oh man, you gotta." But you never do. Either you don't rate the person giving the recommendation, or your queue is just too full at the moment.
Men, in our experience, are especially good at this. We've already been taught to turn everything into a fucking competition. So we toss out shitloads of recommendations and brush off the ones coming back to us. It turns the whole thing into a kind of arms race, a big dick measuring contest, an act of hostility rather than generosity. You have to ask yourself, do you really want this person to read Moby Dick or do you just want them to know you've read it? Are you really telling them to go to Dunedoo or are you just crapping on about your own camping trip?
This is where the great TGBC Book Swap comes in.
It's a very simple tradition. You take a book down from your shelf, wrap it up and send it to another randomly selected goon. It doesn't have to cost any more than postage, and you don't know anything about the goon on the receiving end, just like the goon who drew your name out of the hat doesn't know you. So it would be the perfect opportunity to be selfish, to send something weird and ignore whatever you get in return.
But we've been doing this for a while now, and something amazing has happened.
Goons think bloody hard about their swap books. They take the time to consider why they like certain stories, and why they might resonate with others. They source old copies and order special editions and write heartfelt messages inside the cover. Get this - they've even started bundling up care packages with their books. Sending along whiskey tasters and funny beers and gourmet tea and all sorts of things. Competing to see who can be nicest to someone they don't know. We've actually weaponised their kindness.
And the wildest thing of all is, when a goon gets a swap book in the mail, you can be pretty sure he'll open it up. Maybe because he's checking for a ten dollar gift card, but more likely because he wants to see what it's about. He wants to see if there's a message inside and find out why someone picked it. No matter how deep his book pile is, he's going to give this one a try, because he's part of a club where he can trust a fellow goon to care about him and pick something interesting.
It's Tough Guy Book Club's own little holiday miracle, and we do it every year. If you'd like to witness for yourself, get down to the pub and join a chapter before the end of 2022.
Meantime, happy reading.