Every night before bed, I try to catch the newest episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. So I was surprised and excited when I saw that one of my favorite Daily Show correspondents, Samantha Bee, had just come out with a book of humorous essays about her life. In her new book I Know I Am, But What Are You?, Bee covers everything from her upbringing by her Wiccan mother to teaching her friends about the birds and the bees using her Barbie dolls to trying to come up with the perfect gift for her husband and failing miserably. I was reading this book on a road trip to Chicago and found myself laughing out loud and sharing passages with my sister and husband, who couldn’t help but laugh out loud themselves, particularly at the passage where she described her son wanting to put the family cat in his mouth in order “to be kept safe forever in a protective human boy suit.”
Though she stays out of the realm of political humor that she is famous for on The Daily Show, Bee has no problem finding hilarious situations in her own life to write about. One of my favorites is her story of how she met her husband, fellow Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones: they were both in a traveling stage production of the childrens cartoon Sailor Moon, complete with anime-style outfits and a lot of very displeased children in the audience. You don’t have to be a fan of The Daily Show to enjoy this book; you just have to be looking for a good laugh.
As soon as I discovered that the first chapter of Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake was about her collection of plastic ponies, all gifted to her by past boyfriends, I knew I was in for a random and hilarious read. The book is a collection of humorous essays about Crosley’s life, including everything including her quest to find out the true meaning behind her name, starring as Mary in the camp Christmas play despite the fact that she’s Jewish, and her brief stint as a vegan.
Crosley’s essays are witty and relatable. I know that as a child of the ’90s, I appreciated her chapter-long ode to the computer game Oregon Trail. Because really, didn’t we all watch our oxen die as we tried to ford the river? Though some of the essays didn’t seem to go anywhere and forced me to do a bit of skimming, for the most part the book is very entertaining. One of my favorites was the story of her first real grown-up job in publishing and the suddenly evil boss she had to deal with. Her solution? Decorate a giant sugar cookie in the image of the boss’ face and give it to her. If you’re looking for a good laugh, Sloane Crosley’s book is for you.
Here it is, the hot book of the summer! A sensation in England, the movie adaptation, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, is already in pre-production and is scheduled to hit the local multi-plex in 2011. Just published in the US, One Day by David Nicholls doesn’t disappoint.
Emma and Dexter meet on July 15, 1988, the day they’re graduating from university. While there’s an instant connection between them, they go their separate ways the next day. For the next 20 years on the anniversary of their first meeting, we take a look at their lives, how they’ve grown and changed (or not), the mistakes they’ve made and their triumphs. Through it all, they remain best friends, turning to each other in good times and bad, weathering disappointments and a falling-out. Dexter becomes a tv presenter, slips into a black hole of alcohol abuse and drugs and struggles to right himself. Emma endures dead-end jobs and unhealthy relationships until finally realizing her dream of becoming an author. The constant in each of their lives is the other, an extraordinary friendship that transcends time and distance. Finally, in the end, the true significance of July 15 is revealed.
Witty, thoughtful, somber, quirky, hilarious – this is a story that will bring you to tears and also make you laugh out loud. That movie has a lot to live up to.
My favorite audiobook is NPR Funniest Driveway Moments. The premise, of course, is that you’ll be sitting in your driveway in order to finish listening to the story. I don’t know about that but I did sit at a red light on 4th Street laughing helplessly while Scott Simon interviewed the outrageous Dame Edna (aka Barry Humphries).
As far as I’m concerned, you can’t ask more than that of an audiobook. Goodbye road-rage, goodbye work stress. By the time you get home, you’re relaxed and serene.
All the NPR compilations are reliably good listening due to the fact that they are scripted and edited by consummate professionals. If you are a fan at all of public radio, you’ll appreciate the skilled interviewing and marvelous voices of Susan Stamberg, Robert Siegel, Renee Montagne and, of course, the great Scott Simon.
Size 12 is Not Fat and Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot, are the first two books featuring former teen queen and singing sensation Heather Wells. Through an unfortunate series of events, Heather’s days of singing in shopping malls have come to a halt. Her bad luck includes a mother who ran off with her entire fortune to Argentina and her father who currently resides in prison. To get back on her feet she takes a job at the fictional New York College as the resident assistant in Fisher Hall, which is also known as “Death Dorm.” In each of these mysteries, Heather plays an amateur sleuth and assistant to her landlord who, conveniently, is a private investigator and the two team up to solve the crimes that take place in Fisher Hall.
Whether she is trying to find out if her female residents are truly elevator surfing (or being thrown to their deaths) or attempting to seek out the wealthy New York College students who killed the star cheerleader for knowing too much, Heather Wells is a likeable character whose escapades will keep you laughing and guessing. The third book featuring Heather Wells, Big Boned, completes this series. Meg Cabot’s mysteries are full of humor, mayhem, murder and a little romance too.
Authors and publishers aren’t fools. It was a cold and calculated move. When those drafts were turned in over half a year ago – long before they warmed up the presses – they knew what you were going to do once you put away the winter wardrobe. Folks are starting to think about getting the heck out of dodge, and along with gas prices is a rising need to clutch a bestseller…in a hammock, passenger seat, or an audiobook blasting out of your center console.
That was kind of a roundabout way of pointing out it probably wasn’t a coincidence that several heavy hitters are dropping in June. Reserve them now.
Eric Van Lustbader — Bourne Objective
James Patterson — Private
Janet Evanovich — Sizzling Sixteen
Laurell K. Hamilton — Bullet
Dean Koontz — Frankenstein: Lost Souls
Sarah Silverman has found herself in some fairly high-profile tussles over the years regarding ironic portrayals of discriminatory language in a comedic setting. Instead of more of the same, Silverman’s first book recounts these public drubbings over taboo subjects, as well as showing some of her more vulnerable and hurtful formative experiences. It is refreshing to see what shaped the comedienne so often portrayed as the cruel bully. But, fans of her show might find the ribaldry stops with the book’s off-color title.
This sequel to Adriana Trigiani’s Very Valentine continues to follow custom shoemaker Valentine Roncalli and her vibrant Italian family. Brava, Valentine opens with the romantic wedding of her 80-year-old grandmother in Tuscany, then segues back to their shop in Greenwich Village where Valentine must learn how to deal with her brother as a freshly-ordained business partner.
The most interesting scenes, however, take place in Buenos Aires, where Valentine discovers a long lost cousin who coincidentally operates a similar business. At first cousin Roberta appears reticent and a bit defensive, actions which appear reasonable once the full, scandalous story is told. Plus, Buenos Aires is where she passionately reunites with sexy Italian tanner, Gianluca. True to Trigiani’s usual form, this new novel is both heartwarming and humorous.
The author, earlier known for her Big Stone Gap series, has also written an entertaining cookbook, Cooking with My Sisters, which includes many memorable anecdotes and photos of her colorful family.
The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom is a light, easy-read mystery is a novel choice for National Library Week. There’s a lot of dialog (maybe too much at times) but since it takes place in Northern Ireland, I guess it’s reasonable to espect a bit of blarney or wit-repartee. Enter Israel Armstrong, the primary character, now living in a converted chicken coop, and according to the first sentence is” possibly Ireland’s only English Jewish vegetarian mobile librarian.”
Israel is depressed; his girlfriend Gloria has just broken up with him, he’s about to turn 30, and he’s under suspicion in the disappearance of a local teenager. Some consider him responsible because (horror of horrors) he lent the girl a book from the library’s special “Unshelved” collection. Rather than be run out of town, he hops in the library van and does his own research, of sorts. Israel, in his frumpy cords and rather slovenly ways, is a very unlikely detective, but much of the humor comes from this self-effacing characterization. This is not classic literature, but book-lovers, especially, will find some good laughs.
If you’ve never read anything by Garrison Keillor before, you’re missing out. This humorist not only has his own National Public Radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, but has written many magazine articles and more than a dozen books, including Lake Wobegon Days.
Life Among the Lutherans also takes place in fictional Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, and has that familiar style,with more than half of the chapters beginning with that signature line, ”It has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” The chapters are short (3-5 pages) so it makes for an easy and fast read. Typical of Keillor, there are also a few poems thrown into the mix.
Each chapter is also introduced with an appropriate quote. This was my favorite: “I don’t like to generalize about Lutherans, but one thing that’s true of every single last one of them without a single exception is that the low point of their year is their summer vacation.”
I was beginning to wonder why there had been no mention of lutefisk. But then, there it was, listed as Number 2 in the Ninety-Five Theses. No account of Scandanavian Lutherans would have been complete without some mention of lutefisk!