sign with arrows labelled Awesome and Less Awesome

I seem to remember reading, years ago, a book in the “for Dummies” series (or was it the “Idiot’s Guide to” series?) that began by informing the reader—me—that I was no dummy.

What a relief it was to learn that!

I had plucked the book off the shelf because of its witty title. Hey—it was witty the first time I saw it, though the books have been around long enough that the wittiness has rubbed off. Anyway, the witty title got the book in my hand, but if the author had written the thing with the assumption that I actually was a dummy, well, of course I would have felt insulted and slid it back on the shelf.

I had a similar experience recently, upon noticing the book Why Buddhism Is True by Robert Wright. That’s a bold claim! Curious but skeptical, I flipped through the first pages. And what I found there caused me to buy the book.

Why Buddhism Is True begins with a highly nuanced, five-part disclaimer on its title. This made me laugh. I also appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into the disclaimer; it reveals that Wright is a critical thinker who knows that most subjects are more complex than can be conveyed in a simple statement like “This is the truth!” However, he (or his publisher) recognizes that “This is the truth!” is better at grabbing attention.

The point is, marketing works; and reflective writing matters, too. Why construct an intricate argument, or create a work of art in language, if no one finds the book’s exterior funny or interesting or lovely enough to pick up in the first place?


*The title of this blog post should be read with the utmost nuance. The word awesomest is slang and not acceptable in formal writing; my use of it is ironic or jocular, and the reader should not take it seriously. Also, by the awesomest I mean "one among many" and by truth I mean "possible interpretations."