July 2011

The joys of not reading

By Tommy Greenwald
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Charlie Joe Jackson doesn’t like to read. He never has. In fact, he is proud of his record of never having completely read any book assigned to him. He does, however, believe in getting good grades, and he shares how to do this along with many other tips in Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading, a delightful choice for reluctant readers.

Charlie Joe tells us that he is writing this book to help other “non-readers” like himself—and we believe he is doing it out of the kindness of his heart—but in truth, there is a wonderful twist to the ending that reveals why he is really writing this book. His long-term scheme for avoiding reading any book in its entirety has fallen apart, and he is forced (he believes) into coming up with another plan. Those of us who love to read will wonder why he doesn’t simply read the assigned book, since it would take less effort than his elaborate tactics for not reading, but Charlie Joe has a reputation to maintain and he will not let it go. Along the way he learns about friendships and the value of honesty—and honest work—and we learn to love his irascible self.

Tommy Greenwald’s writing style is breezy and accessible without being too easy. It is also extremely funny and hard to put down. If the book’s cover showed something blowing up, every reluctant boy reader in middle school would be proud to carry it around while secretly enjoying the nonviolent, straightforward story. Bookworms won’t care; they’ll love it either way.

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