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Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy: And Other Rules to Live By

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David Mitchell’s 2014 bestseller Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse must really have made people think – because everything’s got worse. We’ve gone from UKIP surge to Brexit shambles, from horsemeat in lasagne to Donald Trump in the White House, from Woolworths going under to all the other shops going under. It’s probably socially irresponsible even to attempt to cheer David Mitchell’s 2014 bestseller Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse must really have made people think – because everything’s got worse. We’ve gone from UKIP surge to Brexit shambles, from horsemeat in lasagne to Donald Trump in the White House, from Woolworths going under to all the other shops going under. It’s probably socially irresponsible even to attempt to cheer up. But if you’re determined to give it a go, you might enjoy this eclectic collection (or eclection) of David Mitchell’s attempts to make light of all that darkness. Scampi, politics, the Olympics, terrorism, exercise, rude street names, inheritance tax, salad cream, proportional representation and farts are all touched upon by Mitchell’s unremitting laser of chit-chat, as he negotiates a path between the commercialisation of Christmas and the true spirit of Halloween. Read this book and slightly change your life!


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David Mitchell’s 2014 bestseller Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse must really have made people think – because everything’s got worse. We’ve gone from UKIP surge to Brexit shambles, from horsemeat in lasagne to Donald Trump in the White House, from Woolworths going under to all the other shops going under. It’s probably socially irresponsible even to attempt to cheer David Mitchell’s 2014 bestseller Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse must really have made people think – because everything’s got worse. We’ve gone from UKIP surge to Brexit shambles, from horsemeat in lasagne to Donald Trump in the White House, from Woolworths going under to all the other shops going under. It’s probably socially irresponsible even to attempt to cheer up. But if you’re determined to give it a go, you might enjoy this eclectic collection (or eclection) of David Mitchell’s attempts to make light of all that darkness. Scampi, politics, the Olympics, terrorism, exercise, rude street names, inheritance tax, salad cream, proportional representation and farts are all touched upon by Mitchell’s unremitting laser of chit-chat, as he negotiates a path between the commercialisation of Christmas and the true spirit of Halloween. Read this book and slightly change your life!

30 review for Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy: And Other Rules to Live By

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mandy White

    David Mitchell is a very funny man - he is also very clever. My family are all English and I married an Englishman so we watch a lot of UK TV. You have probably seen David Mitchell on QI, Would I Lie to You, Mitchell and Webb and plenty of other UK programs. When reading this book I was reading it as I imagined he would be saying it all - hard not to. I really enjoyed this look at life through David's eyes - a series of columns from a British paper. He talks about everything from Trump to David Mitchell is a very funny man - he is also very clever. My family are all English and I married an Englishman so we watch a lot of UK TV. You have probably seen David Mitchell on QI, Would I Lie to You, Mitchell and Webb and plenty of other UK programs. When reading this book I was reading it as I imagined he would be saying it all - hard not to. I really enjoyed this look at life through David's eyes - a series of columns from a British paper. He talks about everything from Trump to Brexit, from Champagne to chocolate, cosmetics to God and everything in between. There is a lot of talk to UK politics as you would expect but some of this went over my head (politics is not really my thing) His views on cosmetic surgery, advertising and the BBC did make me laugh. This is a book that anybody can enjoy. Very entertaining. Thank you Allen and Unwin Australia for my copy of this book to read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tommye Turner

    In the review section for this book on Goodreads, I saw that a few people put the book down after reading the introduction. I can sort of see why. It wasn't the happy, comical interpretation of modern society that many of us would be expecting from David Mitchell. The tone of the introduction does not fit well with the rest of the book. This is, of course, because the book is a collection of Mitchell's columns from The Guardian, not a traditional work of creative nonfiction. This is not a In the review section for this book on Goodreads, I saw that a few people put the book down after reading the introduction. I can sort of see why. It wasn't the happy, comical interpretation of modern society that many of us would be expecting from David Mitchell. The tone of the introduction does not fit well with the rest of the book. This is, of course, because the book is a collection of Mitchell's columns from The Guardian, not a traditional work of creative nonfiction. This is not a criticism of the book - only an observation. I really enjoyed reading this book. The topics covered varied from pampered celebrities and politicians to the everyday hilarity of funny street names and farts. It is good, once in a while, to step back from thinking seriously and just have a laugh. Not that Mitchell's sharp wit makes light of the more serious topics. Behind the clever wordplay and piss-taking there is a genuine exploration of what is going on. It's a bit like watching Mock the Week, where the panelists "mock" what has been in the news that week but there is a sharp edge to their criticisms. This was a great book, and half-way through, I bought his first book, "Thinking about it only makes it worse," because it's always fun to laugh at history (as that book is filled with columns over the five(ish) years before 2015. Don't take the book too seriously, but it will still make you think.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    A collection of Mitchell's newspaper columns covering 2014-2019. A mix of wit, humour, sarcasm and despair. Rather entertaining.

  4. 4 out of 5

    BMK

    What David Mitchell's does well, amusing whinging.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kinga

    A collection of David Mitchell’s columns from The Observer, which summarise in a often funny and always perceptive way the rage and Weltschmerz I’ve felt over the last 4 years. Brilliant, amusing and, in many places, depressing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jo-Ann Duff (Duffy The Writer)

    Well, what a timely read. The world really is upside down and completely bonkers at the moment. Britain, well I’ll try and leave Brexit chat in 2019, where I wish I could also leave Trump and his outlandish knee-jerk reactions. However, here we are in 2020 and rather than thinking, we can shake off the bad stuff and the evil do-ers who lurk behind cameras (Weinstein), in front of them (Spacey, Louis CK, Lauer), and warmongers (well, we all know those characters). I’m sat at home, on my laptop, Well, what a timely read. The world really is upside down and completely bonkers at the moment. Britain, well I’ll try and leave Brexit chat in 2019, where I wish I could also leave Trump and his outlandish knee-jerk reactions. However, here we are in 2020 and rather than thinking, we can shake off the bad stuff and the evil do-ers who lurk behind cameras (Weinstein), in front of them (Spacey, Louis CK, Lauer), and warmongers (well, we all know those characters). I’m sat at home, on my laptop, writing this review on my blog to distract myself from the fact the wonderful country I call home is an inferno. It’s all really rather sad. When the chips are down, Brit’s handle things in several key ways. Sarcasm, ranting, stiff upper lip and humour. David Mitchell checks all three boxes in Dishonesty Is The Second Best Policy, so there is no need to check his passport and he definitely has the birthright to do all of the above. I LOVE David Mitchell and the way he writes. I first discovered him watching That Mitchell and Webb Look and Peep Show, later with his other books Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse and Back Story. He’s appeared on lots of panel and chat shows since and always makes me laugh, whilst at the same time hitting a point home with piercing linguistic timing. That’s how painkillers are pitched: clean, targeted, medicinal. “Feeling crap? Drug yourself up a bit!” Is not a slogan that’s caught on. “Try smothering your body’s warning system with a chemical – hopefully everything will have sorted itself out by the time it wears off!” just doesn’t have the reassuring pharmaceutical feel that’s vital to building brand confidence. – Excerpt from Dishonesty Is The Second Best Policy Dishonesty Is The Second Best Policy is no exception. Wry, cutting, smart and full of facts and knowledge you didn’t think you needed to know. Chapters cover popular and unpopular cultures, such as the huge shift towards veganism, the titans of the 21st century, the internet and how social media is slowly destroying us all, and my favourite chapter heading; no artex please, we’re British. However, my absolute favourite part is when Mitchell tries to dissect just what the hell Liam Neeson was thinking with his colossally surprising outburst while doing a press junket for Cold Pursuit. Just brilliant. Be warned though, don’t attempt it all in one sitting. Flick through the chapters and read them piece-meal otherwise it’ll all become rather ranty and depressing. And, we don’t need any more of that right now. One of my last reads of 2019 and one of the most enjoyable. If not so truthfully worrying!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Abi McManigan

    This is actor and writer David Mitchell's second compilation of columns he wrote for The Observer newspaper and I don't know if it's because these columns are more recent but I found this book even better than the first. The columns are organised into categories and I loved hearing David's view on each and every one. He is so articulate and he presents a well thought out, well constructed side to his arguments that's very difficult to argue with. He just always seems so rational that you will This is actor and writer David Mitchell's second compilation of columns he wrote for The Observer newspaper and I don't know if it's because these columns are more recent but I found this book even better than the first. The columns are organised into categories and I loved hearing David's view on each and every one. He is so articulate and he presents a well thought out, well constructed side to his arguments that's very difficult to argue with. He just always seems so rational that you will always find yourself appreciating his side of things. With catagories such as Brexit, social media and the media in general he still always manages to make his dead pan jokes that kept me up at night laughing. Again, reading this on audio book helped as his tone carrying the humour made it even more hilarious. He's also very fair. He stands up for what many would consider to be the "right thing" and all his points seem valid and important. He doesn't shy away from any subject but you can always tell he's put so much thought into everything he's written. This was brilliant bed time listening.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Olya

    I zoned out after the second essay. Or was it the third. Might have been the first one actually...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Colin Murtagh

    This is the second set of columns collected from the Observer. Given it’s David Mitchell, and that they have come from the observer, it should be fairly obvious which side of the liberal metropolitan elite he comes from. His topics, as you may expect, cover Brexit, Cameron, May, Boris et al, alongside such more diverse topics as popular culture, the Olympics and the internet. It’s all done in his slightly grumpy curmudgeonly voice, distinct enough that you hear the columns as if he’s speaking This is the second set of columns collected from the Observer. Given it’s David Mitchell, and that they have come from the observer, it should be fairly obvious which side of the liberal metropolitan elite he comes from. His topics, as you may expect, cover Brexit, Cameron, May, Boris et al, alongside such more diverse topics as popular culture, the Olympics and the internet. It’s all done in his slightly grumpy curmudgeonly voice, distinct enough that you hear the columns as if he’s speaking them. To be fair, although this isn’t the most uplifting of books, he is aware of it. In his afterword he does say “”if I publish a big book saying that Britain is just going to get worse and worse, then I bet it won’t. I bet it’ll suddenly improve. It’s bound to. That would be typical. That’s Sod’s Law.”” Perhaps though, it may be better to just dip in to this a few columns at a time, just to keep your cheerfulness

  10. 4 out of 5

    Megan Hemmings

    Maybe I’d like this book more if I was British or middle class, but as I’m neither, I found it very annoying and whiny. I’m a big fan of David Mitchell usually so I was surprised that this book didn’t do it for me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Betawolf

    Opinion columns for The Observer, ranging across the usual set of current affairs and personal observations, but most closely circling British politics of the last four years. Mitchell is obviously used to working with words, and his pieces are excellent writing of the sort that often goes under-appreciated -- too much of a sprint next to the memoirist's personal novel, and without any overarching argument to make into a nonfiction book of any other sort. They really are well-crafted, though, Opinion columns for The Observer, ranging across the usual set of current affairs and personal observations, but most closely circling British politics of the last four years. Mitchell is obviously used to working with words, and his pieces are excellent writing of the sort that often goes under-appreciated -- too much of a sprint next to the memoirist's personal novel, and without any overarching argument to make into a nonfiction book of any other sort. They really are well-crafted, though, something which is only made more enjoyable by Mitchell's self-critical rambling, ability to draw fine distinctions, and willingness to apologise for all of that with some silly wordplay. His actual opinions are for the most part demographically predictable -- he is a middle-class British person in the media business, and in some ways Mitchell could be considered the reference implementation of that class, complete with fully-charged agnosticism batteries. But he wins respect in my book for the sort of basic intellectual honesty which seems so rare in anyone 'from the telly'. He takes propositions at least somewhat seriously, examines his own biases, and is actually willing to publicly defend people he hates when he finds a criticism of them to be unfair. I want more people like this cycling through our public discourse. The articles are all entertaining, but Mitchell is probably at his best when he gets angry. His 'rants' are a highlight of his persona on talk shows (though they are, if you want to call them rants, extremely lucid and insightful ones), and the same seems to be true for his written work. His voice comes across especially well on the page when he is tearing down something stupid, and thankfully he is swamped for material.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stamatios

    (NOTE: This is a review of the audiobook edition) I really wanted to love this book. I belong to the majority of people who find David Mitchell smart and funny. So I was disappointed to find myself thinking that he is neither knowledgeable enough to be erudite nor amusing enough to be hilarious. What I got from this book instead was some mild entertainment and only a handful of really well constructed profound quotes. I think the problem was that Mitchell's targets were too obvious (the elite, (NOTE: This is a review of the audiobook edition) I really wanted to love this book. I belong to the majority of people who find David Mitchell smart and funny. So I was disappointed to find myself thinking that he is neither knowledgeable enough to be erudite nor amusing enough to be hilarious. What I got from this book instead was some mild entertainment and only a handful of really well constructed profound quotes. I think the problem was that Mitchell's targets were too obvious (the elite, Brexiteers, politicians, technology, etc.), therefore his criticism of them was either too middle road or too whiny for comedy's sake ("the internet is a disaster", "smartphones are a disaster", "dolby sound is a disaster", etc.). There was a lot of enjoyable banter in this book, but little satyric genius, and I certainly found his moaning annoying and artificial at times. The saving grace of this audiobook was Mitchell's brilliant way with words on one hand and his impeccable narration on the other. David Mitchell is an exceptional columnist. I was in constant admiration of his creativity and ability to talk about such a diverse number of topics. I will also say that he did an excellent job narrating the audiobook. However (and that's what put the final nail in the coffin for me), I don't believe that a collection of expired and very loosely associated columns, already published and paid for, qualifies as a book - even if you throw in a few short snippets of voice-over at the end as a bonus.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Stahl

    I love David Mitchell usually, and I enjoyed Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse. This book lacked severely in what I had hoped for however. I mean, there were some funny moments, and it's not like a fan can dictate what a comedian chooses to cover in writing - (not to mention this book was just a compilation of his Guardian columns - but this book is mostly just Mitchell ranting and complaining about Brexit, Donald Trump and whole range of other prescribed topics lefties can't come to grips I love David Mitchell usually, and I enjoyed Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse. This book lacked severely in what I had hoped for however. I mean, there were some funny moments, and it's not like a fan can dictate what a comedian chooses to cover in writing - (not to mention this book was just a compilation of his Guardian columns - but this book is mostly just Mitchell ranting and complaining about Brexit, Donald Trump and whole range of other prescribed topics lefties can't come to grips with. Granted, I was never going to enjoy his misinformed Trump moaning being a conservative myself. But it's not like I didn't expect him to dip into those subjects as that's what people want to hear about, wherever they stand regarding it all. I was more disappointed with how unoriginal his Trump-bashing was. He didn't stoop quite as low as devoting a paragraph to the size of his hands or his weird hair, but he might as well have given his uncritical assumption that most of the world actually hates him. Really, Mitchell comes off as just another bitter liberal, only one that has a clever way with words.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Virgo

    Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy: And Other Rules to Live By by David Micthell is a good book for the most part. From his takes on our current crop of politicians and other gripes like train companies, social media, the internet plus the shape of plates. It is fun and entertaining for 78% of the book but it goes down hill very quickly when it comes to Chapter 8, the one on Brexit and the following last chapter is in the same category. I disagree with with his views on most of the issues Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy: And Other Rules to Live By by David Micthell is a good book for the most part. From his takes on our current crop of politicians and other gripes like train companies, social media, the internet plus the shape of plates. It is fun and entertaining for 78% of the book but it goes down hill very quickly when it comes to Chapter 8, the one on Brexit and the following last chapter is in the same category. I disagree with with his views on most of the issues mentioned in these chapters but it is not that I have a problem with. I just wish they were done in an original and unique way. Mitchell basically just restates the tired arguments and views we have had for the last three years and there is no attempt to put his own spin on them apart from a few metaphors. But overall I still like the book and I would recommend but perhaps not the last few chapters

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    Cynical, pedantic, and pessimistic. An excellent book. "By now, you should have descended into misanthropic apathy" I'm skeptical about books that are built around previously written online / newspaper articles from the author, but it really works here. The first part has a great through-line of David's take on various unusual dishonest aspects of society, from polite lies to medicine advertising to what cosmetics are considered lies and what aren't. The second half has great breakdowns of various Cynical, pedantic, and pessimistic. An excellent book. "By now, you should have descended into misanthropic apathy" I'm skeptical about books that are built around previously written online / newspaper articles from the author, but it really works here. The first part has a great through-line of David's take on various unusual dishonest aspects of society, from polite lies to medicine advertising to what cosmetics are considered lies and what aren't. The second half has great breakdowns of various public figures, and some interesting chapters on life and politics. If you're reading this, you probably already know what David Mitchell's humour is like, and of course it's used to great effect here. It's a very funny book and found myself thinking how 'good' certain lines or bits were, even rewinding to hear some of them a second time (I listened to the audiobook - it's read by David, and there is a bonus chapter). I'd highly recommend this -honest!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Officially my first ever audio book and this was brilliant, helped mainly as it is narrated by David himself and being a fan of the peep show thought it added great humour and context to his discussion. Not read one of his books before so can’t comment on other reviews about duplication but this is an enjoyable read/listen about general thoughts regarding goings on in the UK over the past few years.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Puffling

    I found the audiobook quite hilarious; it extracted a wide variety of loud laughs from my body. This is very quotable and some of it will definitely stick with me. While reading I kept waiting for him to throw out something that sounded genuinely out of touch. After all, I'm a queer millennial and he's a middle-aged white guy. But I could find no fault with the combination of admitting not knowing what's best and having some genuine suggestions. This was very funny.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zach M

    I was gifted this book by someone who knew I greatly enjoy David Mitchell in the various projects he has worked on. I had no idea he was a contributor to The Observer and was quite excited, upon receiving this book, to be able to read his takes events that have been in the news for the past few years.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steve Gillway

    Straddles biting sarcasm and heartfelt political belief. Has the authentic voice and delivery of Mitchell, but is probably more dour than he would have wanted. He is aware of this and tries to redress it in the afterword.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mat Davies

    Entertaining collection of Mitchell’s newspaper columns. It’s a pot pourri of a book. It’s funnier than you might expect, more optimistic and, at its heart, moral and decent. A bit like the author then.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jason McCracken

    Sarcastic, cynical, pessimistic and more than a bit depressing. This is my type of humour.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Best listened to at 1.5 X speed. Political comments felt strangely outdated, with things changing so rapidly.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steph Jones

    I enjoyed this a lot. I really like David Mitchell and his thought process around his opinions. It's funny, topical and interesting. Easy to pick up and put down as and when you want.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve Mitchell

    If each of the articles was dated, along with the headline and a little background rather than featuring them as an appendix then this would have received a full five stars

  25. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Williamson

    Unsurprisingly this is witty and eloquent but if you are going to read/listen to it, do it soon as it’s going to date quickly.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    English

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Moreton

    I very much enjoyed this witty and well considered take on several modern issues.

  28. 4 out of 5

    R.

    I love David Mitchell and will gladly hang out any time or place. It started to drag though in the second half when it became quite focused on British politics.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

    Written with his expected wit. I gave this book a four because I enjoy the topics he explores. Not quite as funny as he is on Would I Lie to You but I enjoyed his musings.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sonja

    David Mitchell is probably best known as one half of the Mitchell and Webb British comedy double act – the other half being Robert Webb. Besides the cult success of Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look, Mitchell has made a name for himself as panellist and team leader on various British games shows, such as Would I lie to you. He’s also known for his notorious, yet hilarious, rants on a range of current and other random topics. Apart from his appearance on TV and more recently as Will David Mitchell is probably best known as one half of the Mitchell and Webb British comedy double act – the other half being Robert Webb. Besides the cult success of Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look, Mitchell has made a name for himself as panellist and team leader on various British games shows, such as Would I lie to you. He’s also known for his notorious, yet hilarious, rants on a range of current and other random topics. Apart from his appearance on TV and more recently as Will Shakespeare on Upstart Crow, he is also known as a columnist for the Observer. Dishonesty is the second-best policy and other rules to live by is the culmination of these columns over the period of 2014 to 2019. If you’re looking for a laugh-a-minute, this isn’t it. Yes, there will be snorts and sniggers – especially at the expense of Flat Earthers, vegetarians, Boris Johnson and other absurdities. However, these opinion pieces serve as a written snap shot of an exceedingly unstable piece of history. None more so as for Britain, which is why the largest part of the book focuses on issues important for UK inhabitants and particularly the most pressing issue of all, Brexit. Mitchell has the ability and unique gift to analyse complicated topics with insight without getting lost in the detail and losing his readers. He writes in such a digestible and humorous way it’s impossible not feeling engaged and well-informed after flipping over the last page. If you, like me, like your humour dark and sarcastic with a large dose of social commentary, this is right up your alley. Full review here: https://wanderingwestswords.wordpress...

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