An anthology of David Sedaris’ work, The Best of Me is a great introduction to his style for the new reader, or a type of “greatest hits” album for his longtime fans. It abridges his former books including Me Talk Pretty One Day, Calypso, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, among others. As you read, you move through Sedaris’ whole life up to the present (or just about), laughing all the way.
The effect is interesting because where each of his previous essay collections had individual moods, this book has all of them– just about every conceivable feeling is present. The bittersweet feeling of aging and loss from Calypso is there, alongside the whimsical and sardonic tone of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. His iconic struggle with learning French, full of self-deprecation and humility, is present, as are plenty of childhood reminiscences and portraits of his activities and fixations as a settled, partnered adult (shopping for taxidermy and terrible clothes, living abroad, collecting trash, etc.). This is probably the closest a book can come to a portrait of a life and a representation of a body of work — and, typical of Sedaris, the result is readable, funny, soothing, thought-provoking, and relatable in different ways.
Besides being funny, and easier to carry around than a collection of 5 to 7 individual books, this book is honest, and for me it served as a comforting reminder that no matter how quirky your tastes may be, it’s always possible to craft a life that works for you. For that matter, it’s also good to be reminded that none of us are quite as saintly as we may like to think we are; Sedaris is an expert at giving voice to the less altruistic feelings and motives we all secretly relate to – while not trying to justify them or rally readers behind these feelings. Also interesting is the thread running through several essays about how different it was for Sedaris to grow up as a gay man than it is to be in the LGBTQ community now.
Basically, this book is full of good humor and helpful reminders about the realities of human nature – including not to take yourself too seriously. Highly recommended for those wanting to revisit, or discover, the unique reading experience that is David Sedaris.