cover image How to Be Weird: An Off-Kilter Guide to Living a One-of-a-Kind Life

How to Be Weird: An Off-Kilter Guide to Living a One-of-a-Kind Life

Eric G. Wilson. Penguin Books, $17 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-14-313657-6

English professor Wilson (Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck) offers a whimsical guide to embracing eccentricity. He provides 99 activities that aim to foster creativity and wonderment at everyday life, encouraging readers to “spend a day as a termite,” “carve soap,” and “review books that do not exist.” Challenging 19th-century philosopher Charles Peirce’s assertion that left-handedness brings about negativity, Wilson suggests readers try learning to write with their nondominant hand because the change in perspective may, he contends, enhance tolerance and generosity. The author describes Wiccan and Akkadian magicians’ belief in the magic properties of circles—made with chalk, flour, or sticks—and proposes that readers create their own circle to protect them from stressors. Telling how George Eliot and Mark Twain came up with their pen names, Wilson urges readers to invent an alter ego and devise a backstory for them. The array of ideas range in level of practicality (making ink requires more ingredients than determining “if you are asleep or awake”), but Wilson doesn’t skimp on the strangeness and delivers a self-help guide defiantly unlike any other. This quirky volume welcomes the unconventional with humor and insight. Agent: Matt McGowan, Frances Goldin Literary. (Nov.)