One Red Paperclip: How a Small Piece of Stationery Turned into a Great Big Adventure by Kyle MacDonald

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One Red Paperclip: How a Small Piece of Stationery Turned into a Great Big Adventure by Kyle MacDonald

Category: Travel
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Davida Chazan
Reviewed by Davida Chazan
Summary: Kyle MacDonald takes us on his journey of bartering things you don't want until you're left with the one thing you do want, in 21 st century version of the game "Bigger and Better". His success is astonishing, and his story will make you "LOL" with all the 'awesome' and 'cool' things and people along the way.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: June 2007
Publisher: Ebury Press
ISBN: 978-0091914523

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The book "One Red Paperclip" is the true story of how Kyle MacDonald traded one, simple, little, red paperclip and kept trading until he ended up with a house, exactly one year later. Isn't that amazing? Of course, some might be appalled by this - trading junk, until you get something of real value, might seem to be a cheap trick. Those who struggled to buy our homes might feel Kyle cheated to get what others sweated for. But it takes gumption, nay, chutzpah to actually attempt this, let alone actually make it happen. Others will say MacDonald is lazy, and Kyle's admitted laziness factors highly here. He wanted a house, but he didn't want to work years to earn enough to buy one. In fact, he didn't even want a job, but he also didn't want to sponge off his girlfriend. In the end, this wild exercise netted Kyle a house. No matter if you want to call Kyle a trickster, cheater or lazy git - you have to hand it to MacDonald for his originality in achieving this dream.

As for originality, it dawned on me that Kyle's stunt simply took the kid's game "Bigger and Better" and brought it into the realm of adulthood, the 21 st century, and the Internet and cell phone era. MacDonald's story plays out through websites, emails, and his "blog", for the world to see. Plug the URL into your browser it will give you almost as much information as the book does. So although the concept isn't a new one, Kyle's spin on it is.

With this book, MacDonald also chronicles his travels to reach the people he trades with, while cleverly arranging his trips to coincide with places he has to be anyway. (Despite Amazon's categorization, this doesn't really make this a travel book.) This means that MacDonald doesn't have to put out even a penny for any of his long-distance trades. Does that also make Kyle a cheapskate? Well, he's broke actually, so you get the picture.

All that's well and good, but I was wondering if Kyle didn't "spoil" this game for everyone else. Certainly anyone who attempts to mirror MacDonald's achievement has an equal chance at succeeding (although I doubt anyone will ever top Kyle's final result). He took this idea from suburban legend of his youth, to become an internationally recognized phenomenon. His success undoubtedly depended on being unique, and many of his trades probably couldn't be replicated today. Essentially, he's expended probably all the notoriety value. Still, the popularity of this activity will probably increase exponentially from all the publicity, which can only help those who decide to follow in Kyle's footsteps.

But why publish a book if your webpage already has everything on it already? There are probably many reasons, but most likely, Kyle felt he hadn't capitalized on his scheme to the fullest. Altruistic or not, this book is charmingly written with oodles of humour, and a voice that is unique and real. Despite some over usage of words like "cool" and "awesome", I was enchanted from the get-go. Even though I read slowly, I found I just couldn't put this down, and read it all in one evening, laughing and guffawing from start to finish. MacDonald's writing style is, for want of a better phrase 'user friendly' and extremely entertaining.

But mostly, this is a book about 21st century and Internet culture. Kyle debunks the notion that the World Wide Web is nothing more than an acceptable haven for sociopaths. By emphasizing the face-to-face trades, and the fun Kyle has making new 'real life' friends, he encourages others to interact with the flesh-and-blood people behind the monitors. My only problem with this is that perhaps there should be a warning somewhere for younger people, knowing that meeting virtual people in the flesh could be dangerous. This didn't even occur to Kyle, but as a parent, it did cross my mind. But since Kyle is an adult, I guess that wasn't an issue. Getting up the courage to try something unconventional to make your dream come true is a universal lesson that Kyle's book can teach anyone.

So, while this book seems superficially to be just a bit of humourous fluff, there's more to it than meets the eye. The subject matter is interesting, it is well written, very funny, and you might learn something along the way - even if it is only how to trade one red paperclip for something you really want. The only writer I think comes anything close to this would be Bill Bryson, and I cannot think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy this.

Booklists.jpg One Red Paperclip: How a Small Piece of Stationery Turned into a Great Big Adventure by Kyle MacDonald is in the Top Ten Funniest Books.
Buy One Red Paperclip: How a Small Piece of Stationery Turned into a Great Big Adventure by Kyle MacDonald at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy One Red Paperclip: How a Small Piece of Stationery Turned into a Great Big Adventure by Kyle MacDonald at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy One Red Paperclip: How a Small Piece of Stationery Turned into a Great Big Adventure by Kyle MacDonald at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy One Red Paperclip: How a Small Piece of Stationery Turned into a Great Big Adventure by Kyle MacDonald at Amazon.com.


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