The Barnes & Noble Review
With countless books offering advice and inspiration to graduates or grown-ups in need of a hug, finally there is a definitive guide to life from a successful man who knows what you need to hear. Bestselling author, Emmy Awardwinning television star, and honorary Ph.D. Al Franken has read all the books by the competition -- from Maria Shriver to Anna Quindlen -- and realized that "their readers were mine for the taking." Prepare to be taken: From your first job ("Oh, Are You Going to Hate Your First Job!") to marital bliss ("Oh, Just Looking at Your Spouse Will Make Your Skin Crawl!") to fulfillment in the "best years" of your life ("Oh, the Loneliness, the Loneliness!"), Franken draws on wisdom culled from his own failures and successes to prepare you for every vista and pothole along the road of life.
Franken makes the journey even more exciting by promising to deliver not only good advice but bad advice, too -- leaving it to the reader to identify which is which. From choosing a career ("There are many people who should not pursue their passion. And you might be one of them") to staying together ("Believe me, kids would rather have two parents screaming at each other than one happy parent calmly helping them with their homework"); from success on your own terms ("the allure of high-price real-estate and the magical thinking it engenders") to the inevitable drug addiction ("Admitting that you have a problem and getting help may be the first and second steps toward reaching a point in life when you can look back at the things you did while you were high on drugs and laugh at them") -- Franken's cup runneth over with heartfelt wisdom and experience (at no small expense to his wife, who must be the most forgiving spouse on the planet). Along the way, Franken offers helpful examples, guidelines, and lists (including a complete list of international dialing codes!) that readers can "clip out and save" to refer to in a pinch.
Every traveler embarking on the next stage in life's journey is bombarded with aphorisms, and Franken helps the wide-eyed wanderer wade through the sea of advice by offering even more advice: "When you encounter seemingly good advice that contradicts other seemingly good advice, ignore them both." With helpful chapter summaries to pinpoint key information for readers with no attention span, Oh, the Things I Know! is, as Franken says, not the only book you should ever read, but certainly the only advice book you'll ever need. "Some of you who read this will have miserable lives and be disappointments to your parents, your children, your spouse, and to yourself. And, to some extent, me," writes Dr. Al, and with good reason -- because after reading Oh, the Things I Know!, really, we think you should know better. (Elise Vogel)
Read an Excerpt
Oh, You Shouldn't Skip the Introduction!
One of my biggest regrets, and I have many, is that my father never gave me any advice. Not because I wanted to hear what he had to say. (While he was a happy man, he was not what you would call successful.) It's just that if Dad had told me something clever or even useful, I could be passing it onto you right now and my job would be that much easier.
But then I thought that perhaps by not giving me any advice, he was giving me the best advice of all. Which is that there are no shortcuts, that you have to do the heavy lifting for yourself, make your own mistakes, and learn things the hard way. Thanks, Dad. Thanks a lot!
And although he never gave me advice, and I had to learn about the birds and the bees from my piano teacher, I realize now everything I know about being a good parent is based on my Dad's example. It's not that I know that much about being a good parent, but I did learn one thing, which is actually the only piece of what can pass for advice that I've ever felt comfortable giving to others. It is quite simply this.
Quantity time is quality time. My Dad never took me horseback riding. We never went white water rafting. He never gave me the seven thousand dollar fully functional scale model of a Ferrari that I coveted when I was twelve. But he did spend time with me. Not necessarily quality time, but quantity time, hours and hours and hours of non-productive, aimless quantity time.
What did we do with this quantity time? Mainly, we watched television, hours and hours and hours of television. My fondest memories of childhood are of sitting on the couch watching comedians on TV with my parents. Dad loved George Burns, Jack Benny, and Phil Silvers. But his favorite was Buddy Hackett.
Now, my Dad smoked a pipe for fifty years, and by that I mean he inhaled, risking not just mouth cancer, but lung cancer, which eventually killed him at age 85. Still, he loved that pipe.
When Dad got on a laughing jag, at a certain point he would begin to cough uncontrollably, loosening the phlegm in his inflamed lungs. It was never long before the phlegm made its way up his windpipe and into the handkerchief which he always carried with him for just such an eventuality. This was even more disgusting than I'm making it sound. For some reason this never bothered me . But every time Johnny Carson would say, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr. Buddy Hackett," my mother would get up and leave the room.
And so it was this quantity time spent with my father, laughing and coughing up phlegm, which inspired me in choosing my life's work: making people laugh and raising money for the American Lung Association. So, no, my father never imparted a pithy aphorism or even a carefully thought out explanation of the human reproductive system. Still, he was an inspiration. And, in the spirit of the non-traditional advice I received from my father and the more professional (and effective) advice you can get from people like Oprah Winfrey, I have embarked upon this book in which I will set down the wisdom I have accumulated in fifty short years on this Earth. Not just for my own two children, the eldest of whom will be graduating from college next year, but for the general public as well. Because, you see, I think of you all as my children. Let's get started.
First off, don't smoke a pipe.
--Reprinted from Oh, the Things I Know! by Al Franken by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) Al Franken, 2002. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.