The Other Great Depression, by Richard Lewis

For my money, Richard Lewis is one of the funniest men on the planet.  The actor / comedian has had a successful career spanning three decades, and is loved by many.  However, some fifteen years ago, he nearly died after the alcoholism which he had been battling largely in private finally took it’s toll. 

This is not a comedic book, nor is it intended to be (although certain parts are laugh out loud funny).  Instead, Lewis tells us of his life from a young boy growing up in a dysfunctional family, to his descent into alcoholism, and finally his battle to overcome his addiction.  It is not a conventional autobiography, told chronologically; rather it is a collection of essays on all manner of subjects – the aforementioned family, alcoholism and recovery, and other subjects such as his idols, specific incidents in his career, and random musings, which all piece together to tell a very honest tale.

His honesty is what makes this book so readable – Lewis is, by his own admission, self-centred and narcissistic, but he also shows great compassion and understanding of what anybody battling an addiction is facing.  He is truthful in admitting that life still sucks sometimes even after one has got sober, and that overcoming his alcoholism wasn’t like a magic formula which instantly made life wonderful.  He has many neuroses and worries, which he discusses with frankness (I got the impression that writing this book was definitely a cathartic experience for him).  He doesn’t try to offer solutions for others with similar problems – he merely talks about what, finally, worked for him.

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