I Wouldn’t Do That If I Were Me: Modern Blunders and Modest Triumphs (but Mostly Blunders) by Jason Gay, Hachette Books 2022, 208 pages, $23.82

Wall Street Journal columnist (and former Vineyard Gazette reporter) Jason Gay had a bestseller with his 2015 Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living, and his new book I Wouldn’t Do That If I Were Me: Modern Blunders and Modest Triumphs (but Mostly Blunders) very much works in the same vein. This is a likable writer who’s very good at wry commentary on modern life. If you’re already a fan of authors such as David Sedaris or Dave Barry, Mr. Gay is a writer you should try.

I Wouldn’t Do That If I Were Me is a collection of short misadventures experienced by Mr. Gay and his wife Bessie and their two sons, Jesse and his younger brother Jojo. Some of these misadventures will strike even newcomers to this kind of writing as intensely familiar; Erma Bombeck was writing about similar misadventures back when Mr. Gay was a baby. But the joy of a collection like this has nothing to do with its originality and everything to do with its narrative energy — which Mr. Gay provides by the truckload.

He dives right into telling funny stories about everything from taxes to golf to fishing. He regales readers with the tale of the time his son convinced him to go to the Daytona 500 despite knowing nothing about the event or the cars that fill it — even though he’s a specialist in all things sports.

“I’d managed to negotiate my way to middle age and a sports columnist’s job with barely a passing knowledge of anything to do with one of America’s greatest spectator sports,” he writes with the kind of lovable self-deprecation he uses throughout the book. “If you are embarrassed by this admission, imagine how I feel.”

In addition to that consistent tone of not taking himself too seriously, there’s another element that surprisingly crops up often in these pages: the family cat, Baxter — even though Baxter himself is one of the only characters in the book who’s not exactly ready for a Disney special. Instead, he tends to vary between indifference and hostility.

“You know those lovable cats they have in bookstores, the ones that meow and roll around on top of the Ansel Adams coffee table books and beg you to scratch them on their tummy?” Mr. Gay writes. “Okay, now imagine the opposite. That’s Baxter.”

And yet, thanks to Mr. Gay’s spirited skills at storytelling, even Baxter will win readers over. He even has a bit of an adventure that will actually have readers on the edge of their seats.

But in addition to these fun family misadventures, Mr. Gay also interestingly touches on many aspects of writing itself and the columnist’s life, especially in the age of distraction. After all, how does such a seemingly antiquated thing as a newspaper columnist manage to retain any relevance to readers hooked on TikTok, which Mr. Gay describes as “a fast-moving video-sharing application created to make thirty-somethings feel ten thousand years old?” And he doesn’t exempt himself from the plague of vagueness.

“I’m just as distracted as anyone else,” he confesses. “Just in the time it took to write this sentence, I stopped typing, watched a video of a panda wrestling a hockey stick, watched another video of a panda wrestling a hockey stick, vacuumed the bedroom, bought a pair of slippers on Instagram, ordered a BLT, watched two classic episodes of The Office, watched a supercut of Roger Sterling’s best lines from Mad Men, and I also registered for a jump rope class.”

Mr. Gay quips that holdouts, people who still maintain their ability to concentrate — in other words, people who can still muster the concentration necessary to read his own columns and this book — are as rare as astronauts and ought to be celebrated. He doesn’t include himself in their number, and he clearly worries that the number itself is in freefall.

But those kinds of readers are still out there in their numbers and books like I Wouldn’t Do That If I Were Me are a bright, thoroughly readable part of the reason why.