A Beginner’s Guide To Paradise by Alex Sheshunoff (5 out of 5)
Alex Sheshunoff has a decent life, running a start-up business in NYC. He’s got a pretty girl for a girlfriend, many friends, and his health. Or so he thinks. His company gets ranked #96 on a list of the top 100 start-ups, and it makes him think. Too much. He wakes up with horrible chest pain, thinking it’s a heart attack, but the ER doc tells him it was a panic attack. Obviously, things aren’t okay. He breaks things off with his girlfriend, once he realizes she is not “The One”, and decides to leave the business and go find a nice Pacific island and just go… and that’s what he does! Throughout research, Alex locates the island Yap, off of New Guinea. He drags 100 books with him, because part of his plan is to read all of the books that he should have read already. This is an island that he picks because it looks like paradise from the pictures. Not to mention…the women are topless all over the place. By turns alternately funny and thought-provoking, Alex has a true gift for just throwing up his hands and going with whatever the day brings. Yap brings a lot of challenges, including stone currency. STONE CURRENCY. As in, big stone discs of currency with which to purchase expensive items on Yap. Air travel to and from Yap is an adventure I can’t even describe. The natives aren’t restless, they’re downright odd, few and far between, and they smoke way too many cigarettes for Alex’s liking. Not to mention, they have an actual COUNCIL of CHIEFS. I kept thinking of the Tribal Council on Survivor. I thought of Survivor (the show, not the band) a lot reading this, with its descriptions of island life, island folk, and the how it begins to get into Alex’s psyche. He begins building a bungalow, hanging out with baby monkeys (one in particular attaches itself to him), and more importantly- he begins to confront his fears and do something about the innate stillness and routine that had been his daily life for a number of years. To top it all off, he meets a woman, Sarah, and falls- hard. Can he make this work? Will this ideal away from civilization find him a soulmate and his life’s purpose? You have to think yes after reading this fun book.
Come on, you know that at one time or another (in my case, about 50 times this year), you wonder how realistic it would be to up and just leave everything behind for a tropical paradise. It’s a commonplace saying! But Sheshunsoff actually did it! And it is NOT a cakewalk, despite the delusions of grandeur masquerading as “paradise”. Yap is NOT a paradise and he has to fight to make his way around the island and the strange people populating it. He has to ask himself a hundred times if he still wants to do this, and he still answers yes. But more importantly; in amidst the mess, he finds out who he is, comes to peace with what he discovers, and finds a way to make it work. And isn’t that what life is about? Finding and carving out your niche in this crazy fucking world? Alex’s book made me think seriously about many things in my own life, and it also made me laugh a ridiculous amount about many things in my own life. You don’t have to read this if you like travel books. You don’t have to read this if you like humor. You don’t have to read this if you’re lost and searching for your place in this world. You have to read this because it’s simply a fantastic book. He does make you think, make you laugh, and even at points, make you tear up. Alex is a great guy, and he finds a way to make it work. Which means- You can too! So go pick up this book and gift it to that person in your life who’s kind of lost and not sure where to head next in this board game called life. They’ll love you for doing so!