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Empty shelf: Funny even though it’s true

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the weed agency

Title: The Weed Agency: A Comic Tale of Federal Bureaucracy Without Limits

Author: Jim Geraghty

What’s it about: This book is the epitome of fake but accurate. It’s the non-factual, true story of an imaginary federal agency that tells the real history of government corruption, incompetence, and general tomfoolery. Geraghty weaves actual events into his story so well, it can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. He helpfully provides footnotes to separate fact from fiction. As someone who spent the 1990s working for a non-profit in Washington and then married into the federal bureaucracy, this story was frighteningly familiar, but somehow Geraghty made the horror entertaining.
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Why I read it: I wanted something fun and interesting for our 16 hour road trip. It was indeed fun and interesting, but also infuriating and frustrating. Ultimately, fun wins out, but I won’t pretend there weren’t a couple “too close to home” moments that made me want to throw things.  In other hands, this very well could have been a horror story or a moralistic cautionary tale. I’m impressed Geraghty pulled off a comedy.

What I thought: I think the topic might be off-putting to the average, non-government connected Jane or Joe, but you shouldn’t let it dissuade you. First, it really is an entertaining tale, and anyone who has any experience with large institutions or bureaucracies will recognize the characters and situations. Second, this is a clear, non-wonky explanation of how debacles like the Veteran’s Affairs debacle happened and the IRS $100,000 home videos happened.

The average person’s experience with the federal government is superficial. All they know is that they have to jump through endless hoops, fill out innumerable forms in triplicate (notarized), and repeat the process three or four times until it finally sticks. Or they give up in despair. But they don’t really know what’s going on in there. This book paints a hilariously accurate picture of how the sausage is made, and you might be tempted to burn down the factory.

Where you can get it: Here!

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