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Funny, Sad, and Strange: The Wonderful World of We Learn Nothing

Etinosa Agbonlahor works in the editorial department at Simon & Schuster. She enjoys watching British tv and will read anything that’s both educational and entertaining. She writes for and curates the African Book Review.

What do you do when a lifelong friend suddenly abandons you à la Lloyd Schwartz? Or when another becomes so obsessed with peak oil that he moves to Missouri to avoid high-density areas (in case the world’s economy crashes and people desperately fight each other for food), stocks up for Armageddon, and sends you nine-page emails in response to your refusal to join him in Missouri? How do you approach one who is prepared to tell obvious lies in order to hide the demons that plague him?

If you’re like most people, you’ll take a seat in a dark room and evaluate the life choices that have led to these unique friendships. Tim Kreider, however, turns them into case studies in We Learn Nothing, exploring their nuances, flaws, and strengths in a series of astute and hilarious essays that tackle the slippery nature of human relationships.

Kreider explores when to fight for a friendship or redefine its boundaries (hint: ban Peak Oil Guy from ever discussing that subject with you again, but keep his phone number just in case). He tackles when to let a relationship loose (if, for example, a relative is in prison for the eleventh time, this time for attempting to burn his tenants—yes, tenants—to the ground, under no circumstances should you loan him money for his release date, i.e., two thousand and never), and when to accept a friend’s choices regardless of how they affect your friendship (Kreider has a solid policy to always say yes when someone asks him to nurse them through sex-change surgery). Ultimately, Kreider makes a case for accepting the people in our lives, whether we are tied to them by blood, beer, shared exploits or shared last names, for who they are.

Full of Kreider’s famous illustrations, We Learn Nothing is a funny, poignant, and heartwarming collection that is not scared to ask the hard questions about our relationships and gracefully tackles the messy solutions.


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