At first I wanted to read this book because it’s by Tom Hanks and he’s one of my favorite actors. But I kept putting it off because it’s short stories and I really don’t read short stories. I try to be open-minded but short stories ask a lot of me. emotionally and psychologically. I invest myself in the characters of one story and get totally into the plot; then it comes to an end and I have to reset my heart and mind for a completely different set of characters and circumstances. Plus short stories take longer to read because you really have to put some space between them, to digest them, so to speak. No, I thought, short stories are not for me.
Then along comes the Reading Without Walls Challenge by both my home library and the library I work at. The challenge is three-fold: 1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you, 2. Read a book on a topic you don’t know much about, and 3. Read a book in a format you don’t normally read for fun. Well folks, number 3 gave me the push I needed to read a book of short stories.
And guess what, short stories aren’t so bad after all! Uncommon Type won me over. One aspect of this book that helped me was that a few of the stories had the same characters. I enjoyed meeting them again under different circumstances. For the most part the stories were easy to get into and the characters were all interesting if not totally lovable. At first the changes in time as well as setting were a little unsettling or down right confusing, but then I decided to just go with it and was able to enjoy the tales. Publicity junket across Europe? Sign me up! Time travel? Fasten your seat belt! Fly to the moon? Off we go!
Tom Hanks’ style is breezy and entertaining, just like him. In fact, I could imagine him telling these stories (I bet the audio is great). Some stories were better than others, but I guess you can’t expect each one to be a gem. The one I’d really like to take issue with is the story titled The Past Is Important To Us. I’m sorry Tom, but I think you had the makings of a better ending for that one and totally missed the mark. Other than that, I’d say you did a fine job.
Another fun aspect about this book is the typewriter connection. Each story mentions a typewriter in one way or another. In some stories the typewriter is part of the scenery, in others it plays a more central role. Kind of a gimmick, but I enjoyed it. I loved the scene that included, in the background, a secretary that was taking typing lessons by listening to a record.
Overall, I would recommend this book as a fun read. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll pick up another book of short stories. Any recommendations?