The Boy in the Book-Nathan Penlington
narrative non fiction
Nathan Penlington is an obsessive collector. After he purchased a 506 book set of Choose-your-own-adventure books that he loved as a child, he set out to find the original owner, Terence Penderghast, of the collection based upon a few annotations and a ripped out page from a diary.
It took me a ridiculously long time to realize this book was non fiction so take that as you will. This was such a familiar literary trope of obsession that leads to slightly creepy behavior over the smallest detail that I spent half the book marveling at how real this book had made it and the last half astounded that it was actually a real story. Be prepared, obsession always seems a bit creepy to those who do not go the distance on their own obsessions. But there is a universality to this story, we all wonder why and what if about people we don’t know. That’s what people watching is, isn’t it? And so, the adventure of reaching/searching for a connection with people in whom you can genuinely see similarities to yourself is almost normal curiosity. Penlington gets caught up in his curiosity and writes in a very self-aware way about his behaviors and uses them as a jumping point to muse engagingly about the meaning of life and how adventure can be found in the smallest things. He is also exploring how our childhoods influence our adult lives and ends up talking to a very diverse set of experts and people along the way. In a way, the book functions as an ode to how life becomes interesting when you follow every path into an unknown.