Awesome moments go viral

Queen’s Alum Neil Pasricha’s The Book of Awesome is inspired by his award-winning and popular blog

Neil Pasricha, author of The Book of Awesome, says he’s gotten notes from people worldwide who are inspired by the book.
Neil Pasricha, author of The Book of Awesome, says he’s gotten notes from people worldwide who are inspired by the book.

In a society where we constantly read about tragedy and gossip, the blogosphere has finally emerged with a place to embrace the simple, awesome things that make us smile every day, and people are catching on fast., an award-winning blog, was created in 2008. The blog’s creator, Neil Pasricha, posts one awesome thing that happens in everyday life each weekday.

The blog, featuring awesome moments such as “seeing a licence plate from really far away in your hometown” and “the smell of Play-Doh,” gets around 40,000 hits a day.

The Book of Awesome, based on Pasricha’s blog, was published in April.

Pasricha, a Comm ’02 Queen’s alum, worked at Golden Words during his four years at Queen’s and was a co-editor in his final year.

“I lived in Morris Hall then in the ghetto for three years. I love the #13 at Wok-In, being first in the Bubba’s lineup, and walking across campus with friends when it’s late and dark and quiet,” he told the Journal via e-mail.

Pasricha said he was inspired to start the blog in response to all the depressing news we hear every day.

“Awesome is just an escape from the sad news and bad news pouring down every day,” he said. “It’s a place where global warming, terrorist threats, and health care debates sit backseat to warm underwear out of the dryer, the cool side of the pillow, and popping bubble wrap.”

Despite his enthusiasm, Pasricha said he did not expect his blog to garner such a following.

“Honestly, when I first started the site I was excited when my mom forwarded it to my dad and the traffic doubled. Then I was excited when strangers started emailing me and friends and I would say to each other: ‘You know what’s awesome? When there’s still time left on the parking meter! When cashiers open up new lanes at the grocery store! When you get the milk-to-cereal ratio just right!’” is read by people worldwide and from a variety of demographics.

“I guess maybe these tiny little moments make a big difference in a lot of our rushed, jam-packed lives. Maybe these small moments add up to a big deal at the end of the day,” Pasricha said. “I’ve been extremely flattered by all the notes I get from folks around the world. Cancer patients have told me these awesome things remind them of how many magic moments life really holds and how many joys they experience every day.”

“Children have written me cute emails telling me they love neighbours with pools and popping bubble wrap too and high school students have interviewed me and said awesome things make all their friends say ‘YES! THAT IS AWESOME!’ every morning.”

Pasricha said The Book of Awesome grew from his blog in large part due to the internet and social networking.

“Once upon a time my blog launched and a few weeks later a big website called linked to a post about ‘old, dangerous playground equipment.’ It was picked up by places like Wired and soon blogs were chattering about it,” he said.

“Soon I started getting calls from radio stations and newspapers and then a couple months later I won two Webby Awards [an international annual award rewarding exceptional people in the Internet] in the Best Culture Blog category and flew to New York City to accept it. At the same time a bunch of big-city literary agents tracked me down and then within a few more weeks I had a book deal.”

Pasricha said The Book of Awesome differs from the blog because there is a lot more content and also includes photographs, taken by award-winning photographer Sam Javanrouh, who runs a daily photo blog.

“We jam-packed 400 pages of awesome things with classics like ‘finding money in your coat pocket’ and ‘the smell of gasoline’ with new entries like ‘tripping and realizing nobody saw you’ and ‘fixing electronics by smacking them.’”

The main difference between the two mediums is that The Book of Awesome is a tangible object, he said.

“It’s an actual book! It’s a big thick square full of pages and pictures! It fits on a bookshelf and sits on a bedside table. It’s a birthday present or a feel better present. It sits on top of the toilet or travels with you through airport terminals. You toss it on a beach towel while swimming or cuddle up with it on the porch when it’s raining.”

Pasricha said his inspiration for writing dates back to his childhood.

“I still remember when I was a tiny little kid and I picked up an old, dog-eared copy of Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sacher from the library,” he said. “The pages were yellow and somebody spilled grape juice on a few chapters, but I remember the words popping off the page, I remember laughing in bed, I remember reading it over and over, and I remember it made me want to write.” “These days I am constantly inspired and amazed by the genius of David Sedaris who I think is probably the funniest writer alive. Other than that, I mostly just read fast-food menus, highway signs, and the dirty newspaper lying on the subway floor.”

Pasricha said the main message of the book is a positive outlook of humanity.

“The Book of Awesome is the big high five for humanity reminding us of the special moments that make life sweet.”

The book has such a different meaning for each person that it’s hard to tell people what the book is supposed to mean for them, he said.

“I’d hate to be in a bookstore trying to decide what shelf to put The Book of Awesome on. Some say it goes in happiness, others say self-help, and some say it’s humor ... If you’re looking for inspiration, spirituality, or just a few good laughs you’ll find as you flip through the 400 pages.”

Pasricha gets his ideas for determining what’s awesome through the simple things everyone experiences every day.

“Awesome things are simple, tiny, free and easy daily experiences we all love. Of course, the easiest way to tell if something’s awesome is if you find yourself nodding and smiling to yourself while thinking ‘That’s awesome!’ while doing it,” he said.

What’s great about these awesome things is that we’re surrounded by them every day, Pasricha said.

“The reason these get people nodding and say ‘YES!!!’ is because we’ve all thought of them before. We all know hitting a bunch of green lights on the way home from work is awesome. We all know the smell of a bakery is awesome. We all know watching your odometer click over a major milestone is

awesome. I’m just a guy writing them down.”

Starting the blog has also opened up his eyes to the little awesome things that happen every day as well, he said.

“These days I smile a little longer when I finally find my keys after looking forever. I enjoy it a little more when I fall asleep in fresh new bed sheets. And I laugh a little louder when I pick the perfect nacho off someone else’s plate,” he said.

“I guess I’ve started to feel that maybe there’s something pretty powerful buried deep in these tiny little moments and there’s something special about talking about them with everybody every day.” Pasricha also credits his alma mater as part of his inspiration for finding the awesome things in life.

“Queen’s is such a beautiful place and it certainly stoked my passion for all things awesome. I remember the sheer insanity of putting chocolate milk into my residence bowls of cocoa puffs like it was yesterday,” he said. “I absolutely love and miss the Queen’s community and the way people treat each other there. The bubble holds us all captive in a secret world of all-nighters, bent-up bedhead, and steamy poutine gravy. And that’s a secret world I love.”

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