When a book is more than a book

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks is more than just a book to me. Here’s why.

First of all, this is Tom Hanks we’re talking about. When it comes to celebrities, I either love them or hate them – there is no in between. Tom Hanks is firmly in the ‘love’ camp. I want to support him in his work. I want to be his friend. And therefore I am always ready to love whatever he comes up with.

Secondly, this showcases Tom Hanks’ brilliance. It’s amazing that an actor who has two Oscars can also write with such ease. Is there anything he can’t do? Uncommon Type is a collection of short stories. There is no common theme, but there is one item that ties everything together – every story involves a typewriter. It isn’t even always part of the plot. Sometimes it’s only in the background, mentioned in passing. Tom Hanks is famously obsessed with typewriters – heck, the man made an app for it. Except it isn’t free and I can’t afford to buy apps. And here’s the thing: I don’t like short stories. Even though the one Lit class I took in college was about short stories, I never found them particularly appealing. I think they’re sad because by their very structure, nothing seems to be ever fully resolved. Their length means you’re only given a glimpse of a life, and that’s not the way I like my literature. I like to escape and fully immerse myself in stories. But I read these particular stories because Tom Hanks wrote them. And I was drawn into these vignettes – a son finding out about his father’s secret on a random surfing trip; a time travelling businessman (there it is again with the time travel) trying to find love; and a group of friends building a rocket ship to take them to the moon. (The moon is another one of Hanks’ passions, which I know because I LOVE HIM.) So even if all I wanted was to have something on my shelf with Hanks’ name on it, I still ended up going on an emotional journey.

Lastly, this book is inextricably linked with probably the best memory I have of my trip to Europe. That whole trip was traumatic because my supposed travel companion didn’t turn out to be a good one. Someone who kept leaving me behind, whether walking down the street or through train stations in foreign countries I was visiting for the first time. The whole time I was scared and constantly trying to catch up, with only half of me appreciating the scenery around me. But in Prague, a childhood friend met up with us. And for a brief moment, I had a true companion – someone who did not leave me behind, someone who actually walked with me, let me enjoy the sights, and who realized that a normal human being had to go to the bathroom from time to time. Basically the complete opposite of my “companion” and – I almost forgot this at the time – the bare minimum of how a decent person behaves. How is all that related to this book, you may ask? Before we had to leave Prague, we were looking for a way to get rid of our extra money because it was cheaper to buy something rather than exchange it for Euros. So we went impromptu shopping for things to spend our last money on. I stumbled upon a real Czech book shop – the Academia Book Shop. So I got to blow all my money (happily) on a beautiful notebook and this book – Uncommon Type – that I saw in the English section. So for me, every time I see this book on my shelf, it brings back all those memories and that wonderful feeling of finding solace when I needed it. I was saved by a friend and Tom Hanks. And that is why this is much, much more than a book.