It’s been a few years since Peter Stjernstorm’s novel The Best Book in the World made it to shelves, intriguing readers and writers alike with a title that demands a closer look.
Reviewers from Elle France, the Herald Scotland, and the Edinburgh Book Review all expressed praise for the book, with many readers responding positively to the novel’s satirical punches and crazy twists. As for Stjernstorm himself, he told the London Magazine in a 2013 interview that there’s no such thing as the best book in the world. He explained that “there are no absolute truths about quality… so it’s up to you to decide.”
The Best Book in the World introduces readers to Titus Jensen, a middle-aged alcoholic author whose career has seen better days. A former national treasure, he makes ends meet by performing public readings of obscure tech manuals and royal histories in Swedish festivals. Enter charismatic love poet Eddie X, who is young and at the height of his career. The two become horribly drunk together after a successful festival show, and through an alcoholic daze have a flash of genius: a book that will end all other books; one that is all the other books at the same time. In other words — the best book in the world.
The novel is a book within a book (within a book), following the race between two authors hell-bent on achieving global recognition. The goal is a genre-transcending book that will top all bestseller lists in every conceivable category, from thriller novels and business books to diet bibles and cookbooks. Readers follow the rigorous, and often outrageous, steps Jensen takes to get his life back on track, including a laptop with a breathalyzer lock and a recipe for the perfect Four Seasons pizza.
Overall, the book is rich with irreverent, satirical remarks on paranoia, alcoholism, and the ferociously competitive publishing industry. It pokes fun on the unrealistic dreams of writers and editors, and does not pull any punches with its ridicule of popular authors like Paulo Coehlo, whom the book refers to as “Pablo Blando.”
After all, Sjernstrom has no shortage of experience in the publishing industry. The man is a novelist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and founder of Grand Agency – all jobs that allow him to explore the different facets of the field. Because of this, the comedy is edged with a grimmer reality that many in the publishing world would know. But even those outside of it will be treated to what Foxy Bingo describes as “a race to the last page with plenty of satirical hilarity along the way”. But what does Sjernstorm consider to be the best book in the world?
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, he shared with Nyx Book Reviews in 2013. One can’t help but wonder, of course, how much is satire and how much is an honest sentiment in Titus’ foreword, which read:
“Now I demand of you, you pathetic clown of a reviewer, that you read this magnificent book with the most open attitude that your withered and poisoned brain is capable of. May you burn in hell if you are incapable of appreciating the magnificence of this innovative work of literature.”
Stjernstorm’s The Best Book in the World may not be the best book in the world, but it certainly is a compelling, funny, and fast-paced exercise in satire and metafiction.