A few weeks ago I received an email from Frank Warren of the very popular PostSecret blog inviting me to review his book, PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives. He even provided his publisher's email address and told me to contact him for a free copy of the book if I was interested. I was intrigued but to be truthful, I hadn't heard of Frank or the blog, and came dangerously close to deleting the email without reading it, but that wouldn't have been a good CRM strategy now would it... So I did what I typically do when in these circumstances, ask folks in my social network if they've heard of this person and then give them the Google Test. I also gave the blog a brief look-over.
One of my good friends and a fine author in his own right, Paul Greenberg, was very familiar with the PostSecret blog having discovered it a few years ago. For those of you not familiar with it, the PostSecret blog is made up of postcards, sent anonymously to Frank, that contain a secret about the sender that he or she hasn't shared with anyone before. It started out as a project Frank initiated and quickly became a calling, and apparently a phenomenon as it is a wildly popular blog. After doing my "due diligence" (Frank passed the Google Test with flying colors) and getting very positive feedback from Paul and others, I decided to check the book out. But I made the decision not to go back to the PostSecret blog until after reading the book. No particular reason but I thought it would make things more interesting as I'm sure most people who've read the book are avid followers of the blog, and I hadn't even known about it before receiving Frank's email. That still kind of bugs me that I was unaware of such a popular site....but I digress.
Typically my reading tastes are reserved for history (ancient, world, US, black, music, sports, biographical, etc.) technology and business related material. Matter of fact I put aside Paris 1919 (about the failures of the post WWI peace meetings that set the stage for WWII) when I received the PostSecret book. The book is a compilation of some of the tens of thousands of postcards Frank has accumulated over the years that represent the many emotions, thoughts and feelings shared on the site. Some postcards are funny, like the one saying "I can eat a dozen donuts in one sitting" or the one from a woman who shares that she has to shave her toes (Yuck!). Others appear somewhat petty, like the postcard that proclaims "I hate people who reply-to-all on emails." (Actually I've had the feeling before as well). Some are positive, like the person who proclaims they are finally happy with who they are. And some are strange like the person who loses the ability to be the "master of their domain" when viewing photos of Civil War soldiers, or the admission of the person who finds the German leader during WWII to be sexy. To their credit they did say how they really hated to admit that.
By far the lion share of the book (about 276 pages) is made up of very deep, personal and sometimes disturbing confessions. People who have done things they are very ashamed of, or ashamed of things they hadn't done at all. Others who share how they've been abused by a loved one, feel ugly inside because of their outward appearance, or just can't find the courage to confront someone or something troubling them or a loved one. A few made me wonder if this person is stable enough be out in public, and hoping that it wasn't one of my neighbors who sent the postcard in. But then again I was surprised by the number of postcards expressing thoughts and feelings that I myself had on a number of occasions.
In the end, this collection of postcards, viewed in the entirety, covers a wide range of human emotions, thoughts, feelings and expressions. The interesting thing to me is how different the postcards are while expressing similar themes. When you think of the many different walks of life that are represented-different races, religions, cultures.... the fact that these very different people in very different ways express common themes in their own personal way is pretty interesting. It shows no matter how different people are, we're all still human. And the basic primal feelings of fear, happiness, sadness , disappointment, etc. are felt by us all, and make us question ourselves.
Now this book doesn't have a storyline or subplots or interesting, well defined characters. It's not a novel or a group of short stories. It's a book filled with postcards. It's raw. It's sometimes hard to read. It has some weird stuff in it because some weird people sent in their weird secrets. But it's real and covers a spectrum of real emotions in a variety of ways. And if you're into sociology and psychology and probing the human condition on a gritty, unadulterated level, you should check the book out and the PostSecret blog. Hey if there's something you need to get off you're chest send Frank your own postcard.