Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: As You Do

As You Do
Adventures With Evel, Oliver, and the Vice President of Botswana
By Richard Hammond

First published: 2008 by Orion Publishing

Read: 2 - 13 February 2012

The wry, honest and often hilarious chronicles of a very brave and clever TV presenter, Arctic explorer, and general drawer of the Short Straw. Moving quickly on from the devastating crash that nearly killed him he ranges widely over his life and times—a visit to Glastonbury with James May reminds of him of his early years of playing in a band and how and why he never quite made it as a rock star; the stunts and other perils that come his way like the Top Gear North Pole race (why is it Richard who is out in the howling elements in a dog sled while the others are in the heated cab of an all-terrain vehicle?), Africa where he falls in love with and repatriates a stray car, and the U.S. (once to be chased by rednecks in middle America, the other in pursuit of his hero Evel Knievel); his passion for cars, what he owns and why, and although he loves his wife why it is a toss-up whether he says hello to the wife or the cars first. Balancing home and family with a crazy, peripatetic working life (or not, sometimes), the hamster is well and truly back on the wheel.

My thoughts

Lately I've found myself going through a bit of a Top Gear phase (you know, the British car show where three middle-aged men act like eight-year-olds in expensive cars), so when I came across this book by my favourite presenter, I thought I'd give it a go. I'm glad I did.

I read a review somewhere saying that reading this book is like having Richard Hammond telling you these stories in person, and that is exactly what it felt like. I kept hearing his voice in my head as I was reading, and could almost picture him sitting across from me at the pub, happily recounting his adventures over a pint or two. (I imagine the audio book would enhance this image even further.) This familiarity made As You Do an easy and enjoyable read.

As expected, the writing style is informal and conversational. Some might find Richard a bit too talkative and argue that he's not concise enough. I won't. It is true that there is a great level of detail - maybe even bordering on too much information at times - but I didn't mind it. Hammond comes across as a genuinely nice guy with a childlike enthusiasm for everything he does, and that enthusiasm is catching. (If you've ever watched Top Gear, you will know what I mean.)

The book is a fun look at some of the things we never got to see on television, and I found it particularly interesting to read about all the work and preparations that went into making the Polar special episode. I also loved reading about the Botswana special, which happens to be my favourite TG episode, however this subject was touched much more lightly upon and the single chapter left me wanting more.

Having seen the Top Gear episodes being discussed in the book will probably make it a more enjoyable read as you will know exactly what is being is referring to (although you really should see them even if you don't read the book, because they are a lot of fun!).

But Richard Hammond is more than just fun and games. This he proves especially in the touching (perhaps surprisingly so) last chapter about the making of documentary about his childhood hero Evel Knievel. This chapter is probably the strongest part of the book and well worth a read for anyone, whoever your hero.

Bottom line
As You Do is a witty and honest account of some of the amazing experiences in a year of this popular television presenter's life and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

My rating:

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