Matt Forney
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Captain Capitalism: Top Shelf by Aaron Clarey

captain-capitalism-top-shelfAs I’ve written before, a book consisting solely of articles you’ve already published on your blog is a tough sell. Since the book’s content is already online for free, you will get considerably fewer takers than a book full of original content. Additionally, because essay collections lack narrative coherence, there’s less motivation to read through them then with a regular book.

Even still, if you’re a long-time blogger, it’s worth putting your best posts into paperback format.

Captain Capitalism: Top Shelf is the first in a promised series of best-of collections from Aaron Clarey, he of Enjoy the Decline and Worthless. And at over four hundred pages, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth with this book. Despite its glaring and frankly avoidable flaws, I recommend Top Shelf as an entertaining and informative collection of Clarey’s work.

Like with other essay collections, the top two reasons to buy Top Shelf are convenience and permanency. Like Roosh, Clarey has been blogging for close to a decade and has written thousands of articles in that time. Searching through them will take you hours, if not days. If you’ve got infinite amounts of free time to burn, then yeah, maybe you should pass on this book. For the rest of us though, we have real lives and things to do:

My boss explained to me that we are here to challenge the students, but not too much. That my test was unfair and I should consider tailoring it more to their skill level. Of course with hindsight I now see what the charlatan of a dean was telling me; “Dumb it down because we’re fleecing these kids for their money for a worthless degree and if you rock the boat we’ll lose some of them.” But he couldn’t come outright and say that, ergo why he was feeding me a line of bull.

Additionally, as Clarey himself points out in the introduction, Top Shelf is worth owning just because. Websites are a lot more fragile than you think, and years of sweat and labor can be blinked out of existence in an eye. Having a collection of Clarey’s (or Roosh’s, or my own) best work ensures that you won’t be left in the lurch should Google or the PC commissars descend upon our minimalist Minnesotan hero.

Despite Top Shelf’s length, Clarey’s conversational writing style and cheerful tone makes the book fly by smoothly. He broaches just about every topic you could think, though the bulk of the articles revolve around game, women and economics. The highlight of the book are Clarey’s personal stories, my favorite being “Degree Mills,” about his time teaching at a for-profit outhouse of a college, and “The Goldman Sachs Story,” about his interview for a job with the vampire squid itself:

So, after 1 hour of summarily defeating the best U of Penn Clarion had to offer (and getting some odd looks that nobody could recognize me or remember me), I hit the showers (which was my original purpose in the first place) cleaned up, hopped back into the Gutless Cutlass and headed out.

My problems with Top Shelf are two. One, the organization is slipshod and incomprehensible. Clarey seemingly throws articles at you with no concern for what the subject matter is or how it relates to what you just read. You’ll finish reading an article about the joys of bachelorhood and the one following it will be about saving for retirement, with absolutely nothing to connect the two. It would have been far better to organize the book into thematic chapters instead.

Secondly, the editing in the book is awful.

Clarey states in the introduction that he deliberately avoided cleaning up the posts in order to “remain true” to the original work, but the problem is that on a technical level, Aaron Clarey is not a good writer. His prose is full of typos, malaprops, punctuation mistakes, grammar errors and just about every mistake a writer could make. It’s a testament to his talent as a storyteller and his knowledge as a man that the book remains not only readable but enjoyable.

Look Aaron, I get it. You think English is a useless subject to major in. So do I, and I actually studied it. You also hate copyediting. So do I. That’s why we have Elance, a website where you can hire someone to fix all the typos for you, with absolutely no effort or work required on your part. It’s not free, but the extra step ensures that your product looks more professional.

Finally, this is unrelated to the book’s quality, but for some reason, the Kindle and paperback editions of Top Shelf are not linked on Amazon (i.e. you can’t go to the Kindle version from the paperback version’s page and vice versa). This wouldn’t bother me if it weren’t for the fact that at least once a month, Clarey complains about people emailing him asking whether there’s a Kindle version (only the paperback version is linked from his blog). I’ve tried explaining to him how he can fix this (as I’ve had this problem myself in the past), but here it is again, because he clearly didn’t listen to me the first couple of times:

  1. Go to your KDP dashboard.
  2. Select “Contact Us” in the lower-right corner.
  3. Select “Product Page.”
  4. Fill out the form telling Amazon that you want the Kindle and paperback versions of Top Shelf linked.

And there you go, Aaron. Amazon will do it for you automatically. Thirty seconds of work on your part will save you from being besieged with people asking you “Is there a Kindle version of Top Shelf? Is there? IS THERE?”

Despite all these issues, Captain Capitalism: Top Shelf is a worthy book and a must-own if you’re a fan of Aaron’s writings.

Click here to buy Captain Capitalism: Top Shelf for Kindle. Click here for the paperback edition.

Read Next: Worthless: The Young Person’s Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major by Aaron Clarey

  • Towgunner

    I’m very happy to have found Clarey, that guy is awesome. Can’t wait to read “Top Shelf”. Clarey is a powerful mind and a huge asset to the men’s whatever. For lack of a better word, he’s the vanguard of this emerging movement…not just men’s issues but the whole anti-establishment movement. God’s speed Aaron.

  • Yep, the content is great (sort of, I disagree with Aaron as much as I agree with him) but the editing is crap. And part of it is the nature of blogging itself. As far as I can see, there are three kinds of posts: the simple link (instapundit or Drudge or electric camel), the shortish article and the long article.

    The shortish article is generally either written fast (my method) or refined to a honed wit (much more your method). But it’s fairly consistent. But the long article, particularly one that links between topics? They often take a few days to put together, and during that time you can change the tone and tense of your text and only find it when you re read.

    Finally, for those of us who are older, spellcheckers for HTML did not exist when we started and even now they miss words. So typos abound in the old stuff. Personally, if anyone is ever foolish enough to contract me to make a book of my blog (hell is likely to freeze over first) I will be talking to an online hustler about an editorial gig.

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