Webcomics collected for the printed page rarely hang together as cohesive singular works, and this book is no exception. They also rarely deliver a consistent laughs-per-page number or manage to be as fresh on page 50 as they are on page 1; and for these, Hark! A Vagrant is indeed an exception. Kate Beaton’s comic is very funny and accessible; she pokes fun at various literary and historical figures (both infamous and obscure), in addition to hipsters and teenagers and even superheroes. If you like smarmy, witty, smart comedy and drawings that range from the moody and surreal to the supremely cute, this book is a great choice!

Since the humor is hard to describe, just check out this comic. If you like humor about 200 year old inventors or have a soft spot for Tesla…

Source: http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=256

For more awesome, check out Kate Beaton’s comics at their original home: harkavagrant.com.

If you have a passing familiarity with Star Trek, you’ve probably heard the term “redshirt” before.  It refers to a random low-ranking crew member (always wearing a red shirt) who gets sent on an away mission with the main characters.  The redshirt inevitably dies early in the episode.  The novel Redshirts, written by prolific sci-fi author John Scalzi, lovingly pokes fun at this phenomena.  Ensign Andrew Dahl is assigned to the Universal Union’s flagship, the Intrepid, and he soon starts to notice the high mortality rate on the ship’s away missions.  His suspicions are raised when he notices that while the captain, the lieutenant, and the chief science officer are always on these missions and always come out alive (though often with dramatic injuries), a lower-ranking officer always seems to die pretty much as soon as the ship lands.  Along with a few of his fellow new crew members, Andrew begins to investigate and is shocked to discover that things are not as they seem on the Intrepid.

Even though I felt like the book started to lose steam around halfway through, it is still funny and entertaining.  If you’ve ever seen classic Star Trek episodes, you’ll enjoy all the inside jokes and the way that Scalzi parodies the series.  But don’t worry, this novel is accessible even if you’ve never seen a single episode.  The humor still manages to come through, and the more poignant moments (particularly in the three codas that follow the story) will still move you.  If you like sci-fi, space travel, Star Trek, or humorous fiction, I’d recommend giving this fun and quick novel a chance.

These true tales range from the funny and flippant to the gritty and gruesome. Give nonfiction audio a try! You may find that nonfiction (which doesn’t always have a strong narrative thread you need to follow) is ideal for listening in stops and starts.

  • Devil in the White City by Erik Larson; this gripping tale of a serial killer at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago is so spellbinding, you’ll want to extend your commute to hear more!
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey, read by the author: this book is shriekingly funny. Truly one of the best audio books around – Fey is witty and direct, never sappy, and always gut-bustingly hilarious.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot; a universally praised book that mixes science with history and family drama.
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling Lexie reviewed the book, and I agree with her: this book is FUNNY. You’ll want to be best friends with Mindy by the end.
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron: Ephron’s candid observations on life and getting older are enjoyable and crisply humorous.
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers: The gritty true story of the tribulations of Abduhlraman Zeitoun and his family in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
  • At Home by Bill Bryson, read by the author: see my review for a longer rant on the excellence of this very excellent book.
  • The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell, read by the author: You know Sarah Vowell’s voice already – she vocalized for Violet in Pixar’s The Incredibles. You’ll also recognize the many luminaries/musicians/comedians/TV personalities who make cameos in her delectable book – Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert, for example. Oh, and it’s full of intelligent and interesting essays about history and American culture, too.

Who says summer road trips have to be boring? Load up the family and hit the open road: the trip will fly by when you bring an audiobook from DPL! Unlike your child’s Nintendo DS or iPod Touch, audiobooks don’t require charging and they will entertain more than one person at a time, including the driver.

These recorded books are winners for the entire family:

Harry Potter series, read for you by Jim Dale: The whole family is sure to love the expertly performed Harry Potter series. Jim Dale’s narration is absolutely perfect; even if you’ve already read the novels, you’ll find something new to love in the recordings. If your children are a bit younger, there are admirable recordings of the Magic Tree House series. For the kids who’ve already read (or aren’t interested in) HP, try Artemis Fowl or Percy Jackson.


Bring a box of tissues along with the kids’ classic Bridge to Terabithia, warmly brought to life by narrator Tom Stechschulte. The poignant story of Jess and Leslie has been a favorite since Katherine Paterson penned it in the ’70s. For kids 10+.

Recordings of Suzanne Collins’ runaway hits The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay will be a hit with everyone: mature themes and violence probably make this too grown up for the littlest ones, but don’t let the YA label fool you – adults adore the series too. For kids 12+.

In Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus, 8th grader Maureen risks life and limb – ok, she risks embarrassing herself in front of the whole school – to stand up to the popular girls who bully her. A funny, relatable story about friendship and the perils of middle school. For kids 12+.

Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody series makes for a charming listening experience – Judy’s misadventures show kids how to handle things when their grand plans don’t work out, and narrator Kate Forbes captures her spunky spirit. Just Grace, about another spirited grade schooler, is a fun choice for the kids who’ve already enjoyed Judy Moody. For kids 8+.

All kinds of great books for kids are available from DPL, from classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harriet the Spy to popular new hits like The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Warriors series. Princesses, Sports, Dragons, Animals – whatever your child is interested in, we have an audiobook for it!

*Age recommendations reflect the guidelines printed by the publisher, not DPL’s opinion. Always take your child’s unique level of maturity and experience into account when helping him or her choose books to read.


Journey 2 – Mysterious Island – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens

The new journey begins when young adventurer Sean receives a coded distress signal from a mysterious island where no island should exist, a place of strange life forms, mountains of gold, deadly volcanoes, and more than one astonishing secret. Unable to stop him from going, Sean’s new stepfather joins the quest. Together with a helicopter pilot and his beautiful, strong-willed daughter, they set out to find the island. PG


Sherlock Holmes – Game of Shadows – Robert Downey Jr., Noomi Rapace, Jude Law

Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room, until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large, Professor James Moriarty, and not only is he Holmes’s intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may give him an advantage over the renowned detective. Holmes’s investigation into Moriarty’s plot becomes more dangerous as it leads him and Watson out of London to France, Germany, and finally Switzerland. PG

American Reunion – Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Eugene Levy

The whole American Pie gang returns to East Great Falls for the first time since their legendary senior year to turn their reunion into the most unforgettable weekend since high school. Old friends will reconnect, old flames will reignite, and everyone will rediscover just how much fun you can pack into one outrageous reunion. Unrated.


Salmon Fishing in Yemen – Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Amr Waked

A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.PG – 13

Friends with Kids – Jon Hamm, Kristin Wiig, Chris O’Dowd,

A daring and hilarious ensemble comedy about a close-knit circle of friends whose lives change once they have kids. The last two singles in the group observe the effect that kids have had on their friends’ relationships and wonder if there’s a better way to make it work. When they decide to have a child together, and date other people, their unconventional ‘experiment’ leads everyone in the group to question the nature of friendship, family, and, above all, true love. R.

Three Stooges – Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso

The Three Stooges (Moe, Larry, Curly) are on a mission. Left on the doorstep of an orphanage run by nuns, the young trio grows up finger-poking, nyuk-nyuking, and woo-woo-wooing their way into trouble. Now years later, with the orphanage forced to close its doors, the Three Stooges embark on a wacky mission to save it. Hilarious mischief and mayhem ensue.PG 13


Wrath of the Titans – Liam Neeson, Sam Worthington

Perseus braves the treacherous underworld to rescue his father, Zeus, captured by his son, Ares, and brother Hades who unleash the ancient Titans upon the world. PG 13





This novel is everything good and everything bad about so-called “chick lit.” Bet Me is a contemporary romance that follows an actuary, Minerva Dobbs, who falls in love with a businessman, Cal Morrisey. All the great things about chick lit are here: a comforting happy ending, a heroine who struggles with her weight (how relatable!), a sizzling romantic connection, and the kind of supportive female friendship that anyone would wish to be part of. But all the cliche chick lit negatives are here too: love at first sight and rapid-fire courtships, a heroine with a negative body image (how typical!), Krispy Kreme donuts used as a tool of seduction, overbearing and critical moms, boring B-stories, way too many descriptions of shoes, a poorly realized setting (neglected no doubt to give more text to the developing romance, which doesn’t need it), absurd coincidences, and a ridiculously neat happy ending.

It’s a pretty sharp novel overall; the characters aren’t deep or unique, but they’re not hateful or wooden either. The dialog is crisp and cute and the whole book reads really quickly, so it’s a great choice for light reading. If you’re picky, be warned: there are quite a few breaks with reality. There are only about a dozen characters in this book and they all interact very intimately, whether they’re lovers, ex-lovers, old friends, family, or strangers – it reads very high school even though these are all supposedly career-oriented individuals in their thirties. The wedding subplot with Min’s sister as a bride is hopelessly unrealistic (at one point, Min has to take over catering the rehearsal dinner, which is for only 14 people AND it doesn’t include an actual wedding rehearsal. what?!). Min lets a feral cat into her house and feeds and sleeps with it without even giving it a bath or a once-over with a comb, let alone taking a trip to the vet. This is another classic problem of chick lit: authors tend to steamroll over realism to achieve the symbolism or plot developments that they have planned, and it’s just plain distracting. You can’t tell me that Min is a smart woman and then show me her sleeping with a mangy wild cat in her bed; one of those two things is a lie. If that kind of light touch doesn’t bother you, Bet Me is as scrumptious and sweet as a Krispy Kreme – but like the fabled donut, it’s mostly hot air.

It’s hard to choose a favorite supporting character on The Office, but I consistently enjoy the self-absorbed airheadedness of Kelly Kapoor, played perfectly by writer and actress Mindy Kaling.  So imagine my excitement when I found out that Mindy was about to release a book of humorous essays called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns.  In the book, Mindy tells stories about her childhood, how she dealt with living in New York  in her 20s while trying to get discovered, and what it’s really like to work on The Office.  There are also a lot of funny and seemingly-random chapters on things like “karaoke etiquette”, why she likes guys with chest hair and her top eleven favorite comedic moments in film and TV.  By the end, despite the fact that I was thoroughly entertained, I was mostly sad that Mindy and I aren’t best friends.  She writes in such a laid-back, conversational tone and is so relatable despite her fame that it really feels like you’re chatting with one of your good friends.

I find it hard to summarize books like this, so instead, here are a few of my favorite parts and things I learned:

  • Mindy wrote my two favorite episodes of The Office:  The Injury and The Dundies.  If you haven’t seen these, go watch them as soon as you finish reading this so that you can be even more impressed with Ms. Kaling.
  • Her views on romantic comedies:  “I enjoy watching people fall in love on-screen so much that I can suspend my disbelief for the contrived situations that only happen in the heightened world of romantic comedies….I simply regard romantic comedies as a sub-genre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.”
  • One of my favorite chapters was the incredibly truthful “Best Friends Rights and Responsibilities”, a list of things your best friend is expected to do for you and vice versa.  For example, “I will try to like your boyfriend five times” and “I must be 100% honest about how you look, but gentle”.
  • Her big break was when Greg Daniels saw her perform in the off-Broadway play that she and a friend wrote called “Matt & Ben”.  Mindy played Ben Affleck.
  • On being a chubby girl when she was young:  “My mom’s a doctor, but because she came from India and then Africa, where childhood obesity was not a problem, she put no premium on having skinny kids. In fact she and my dad didn’t mind having a chubby daughter. Part of me wonders if it even made them feel a little prosperous, like ‘Have you seen our overweight Indian child? Do you know how statistically rare this is?'”
  • And finally, to get herself through a workout on the treadmill, Mindy has to come up with elaborate revenge fantasies to pass the time.  I won’t spoil them here, but trust me when I say this chapter is just as funny as it sounds.

This book inevitably gets compared to Tina Fey’s Bossypants (another excellent book that you can read more about here), and while Kaling and Fey are very different women, both have written laugh-out-loud books that I highly recommend.

Hearty praise for Bill Bryson isn’t new to the Info Cafe blog (both Lynn and Ann have gushed about him in the past), but he is new to me! The audiobook of At Home: A Short History of Private Life, read by the author, was the first Bryson book I’ve read, and one of the most entertaining nonfiction books I’ve ever encountered on any subject. Part of the appeal comes from the irresistible subject matter: Bryson deals with the everyday, but elevates it beyond the mundane into something fascinating. The greater part of the book’s success is Bryson himself – dry wit that had me laughing and quoting passages to friends, great writing that’s both intelligent and accessible, and (crucially) excellent narration.

No matter what you’re interested in, there is something for you in At Home: architecture, cooking, engineering, etymology, inventing, transportation, medicine, sanitation and hygiene, social history, entertainment, a dash of politics, and mostly, British and American history. If history isn’t your thing, don’t be intimidated – though much of the book deals with historical matters, it never feels stuffy or boring (with the possible, arguable exception of a lengthy chapter on British architecture that suffers from a lack of the visual aids present in the printed book). The comforts we’re accustomed to – bright lights, running water, soap, sturdy clothing, efficient laundry, regular bathing, doctors who wash their hands, and a reasonable expectation that rats will NOT nest inside your mattress even as you sleep above them – these things are all shockingly new.

I particularly recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of historical novels, from Jane Austen through Diana Gabaldon; once you learn about the privy fixtures and habits of cleanliness in the pre-modern era, your reading of Emma will never be the same!

Super-duper seal of approval: after hearing a snippet while riding in my car, my book-phobic husband insisted on taking it off my hands to listen himself!

Did you stop by the library to pick up one of Chelsea Handler’s hilarious books only to discover that they’re all checked out?  While you’re on the waiting list for a copy of Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, My Horizontal Life, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, or Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, check out some other books that you might enjoy:

Pretty In Plaid, My Fair Lazy, and Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster:  Humorous memoirs about the author’s life with stories about dieting and food, sororities, lots of clothes, drinking, and reality TV.

You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start In The Morning by Celia Rivenbark:  A collection of humorous essays written by a brash Southern woman.  The title alone tells me that this book is something Chelsea Handler would approve of.

Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin:  Stories of the comedienne’s life  peppered with Kathy’s trademark humor concerning all things celebrity.

The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman:  The famously crude comedienne tells the story of her life, managing to bring her signature humor into even the most serious stories about depression and late-in-life bedwetting.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley:  A collection of witty essays about a 20-something trying to make it in Manhattan.  I particularly enjoyed her evil boss stories and her explanation of her bizzare collection of plastic ponies.

September 9

Hanna – Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett

Raised by her father, an ex-CIA agent, in the wilds of Finland, Hanna’s upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one. Sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe, eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own. Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence.

X-Men First Class –  James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender

The thrilling, eye-opening chapter you’ve been waiting for. Witness the beginning of the X-Men universe. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their superhuman powers for the first time, working together in a desperate attempt to stop the Hellfire Club and a global nuclear war.

September 13

Bill Cunningham New York

Bill Cunningham has been obsessively and inventively chronicling fashion trends and high society charity soirees for the New York Times Style section in his columns On the Street and Evening Hours for decades. Presented is a delicate, funny, and often poignant portrait of a dedicated artist whose only wealth is his own humanity and unassuming grace.

Thor – Chris Hemsworth,  Natalie Portman, Jeremy Renner

When the arrogant warrior Thor is banished to Earth from his homeworld of Asgard, he must fight to reclaim his lost powers. Pursued by an invasion force sent to destroy him, the fallen God of Thunder must rise to the battle and learn what it takes to become a true hero.

September 20

Bridesmaids – Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph

Annie’s life is a mess. But when she finds out her lifetime best friend is engaged, she simply must serve as Lillian’s maid of honor. Though lovelorn and broke, Annie bluffs her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals. With one chance to get it perfect, she’ll show Lillian and her bridesmaids just how far you’ll go for someone you love.