Reviewed on 27th July 2016

Join Me by Danny Wallace

Genre: Biography / Non-Fiction
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Join Me by Danny Wallace Synopsis

Danny Wallace was bored. Just to see what would happen, he placed a whimsical ad in a local London paper. It said, simply, ‘Join Me’. Within a month, he was receiving letters and emails from teachers, mechanics, sales reps, vicars, schoolchildren and pensioners – all pledging allegiance to his cause. But no one knew what his cause was.
A book about dreams, ambition and the responsibility that comes with power.

Join Me by Danny Wallace Review

One Man and his Ridiculous yet Inspirational Mission

I thought I had read every book out there by Danny Wallace… and then Join Me, well, it asked me to Join It on a recent scour through the bookshelves of my local charity shop. And knowing how Danny’s previous titles had made me laugh and shake my head in utter disbelief at his random antics, Join Him I did!

Join Me is so much more than just a story…
It is a wonderful, though utterly barmy tale of a bored man who decides to start another of his ‘boy projects’. But unlike ‘normal’ twentysomething men who might still hold a torch for Lego or Star Wars or Asterix, Danny’s passion (aside from incessant cups of tea) is embarking on the unheard of. Which at that particular moment in time meant collecting people and putting them in a box. Almost literally.

Without giving too much of the story away
Danny embarks on a journey which (as per usual) takes him all over the flippin’ place, hellbent (except perhaps when in the presence of his Joinee Vicar) on amassing 1000 people as a sort-of-but-not-exactly-kind-of bet. Actually, Danny would have us believe this was entirely in honour of his Swiss relative who had tried to instigate a commune in a village in Switzerland (it was hearing this story at said family member’s funeral which sparked the wild idea to recreate something similar). But the more his mate, Ian, cajoles him with offers of a pint when he reaches Joinee 1000, the more I am convinced this equally spurred him on…

This book may have been published way back when in 2003
But its message is as needed now on planet Earth as much as it ever has been. We can fence sit and keep ourselves to ourselves, or we can embrace our differences and go out of our way to send out random acts of kindness (at least every Friday) to help others feel good, creating a ripple effect – which, who knows, could create a tidal wave, a deluge of affection and cordiality, touching all corners of the world.

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I adore this quote from the book. It sums our predicament when those first pangs of wanting to be nice to a complete stranger bubble up inside us, so perfectly:

” ‘The thing is,’ Joinee Flannery put in an email one night, ‘I often think to help people like this, but I never do because society deems it wrong or odd. Now I have an excuse to do it and that’s great.’

I knew what he meant. The sad thing is, I was discovering that you almost have to make a joke of being good to strangers. Up and down the country, these people were doubtless being seen as slightly eccentric, when in reality and in an ideal world they should be deemed the most normal people of all…”

I may sound like I am getting as carried away as Danny
But there’s no denying what one man’s dedication to this cause (at times, admittedly, rather selfishly… and perhaps at the cost of his girlfriend’s patience), made some amazing in-roads when it comes to brightening up random strangers’ days.

What initially started as a venture to ‘make old men happy’ – okay, we’ll just overlook the unfortunate incident of one Mr Raymond Price from Devon, and the fact that as a mission statement, that is excluding a high percentage of the world’s population! – became something of an international phenomenon. Indeed by the end of his venture, Danny received personal messages from… well, I’m not going to spill the beans, you’ll just have to read the book to find out!

Danny started out asking people to quite simply join him… with no explanation as to why. He placed adverts in newspapers and gatecrashed radio shows, and amazingly, those who one can only assume do not have an over-analytical mind, did. In their hundreds. And all was good and all was well. But then they kind of got to the point where they wanted to know why. What the heck was this all about?

Danny ducks and dives for a while and then eventually has to come up with a raison d’etre. His joinees don’t just like it, they love it! He receives stories far and wide of their deeds of benevolence.

Which is fantastic… but…
He still needs to get to 1000!

And so begins the spontaneous jet-setting/train-setting.
Far and wide, Danny stops at nothing to meet and hopefully convince his potential Joinees to sign up and give him a passport photo to add to his box. From randomly finding himself the unlikely ‘icon’ of a boys’ holiday in Crete, to appearing on Dutch TV, standing beneath the Eiffel Tour with eye-liner drawn placards, and being quizzed in a London greasy-spoon as to whether he is the leader of that cult, Danny experiences humanity in all its glorious colour.

This is a laugh aloud, rollick of a read
Perfect for dismissing the blues in any shape or form. Perfect for reigniting one’s trust in humanity. Perfect for convincing us all to have a lot more fun, get a little more unconventional in our outlook on life and start living for the moment.

Whilst I don’t believe random acts of kindness should be designated to just one day of the week…
Can you imagine the harmonious effect on our planet if everyone (no matter what their activities Saturday through to Thursday were) partook?

For more information on Danny’s Join Me mission, which is still, all these years later, very much alive, visit  http://www.join-me.co.uk/about/ and get inspired.

And whatever you do, join me by reading the book!

Join Me is published by Ebury Press.
ISBN: 978-009189-582-2

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