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You Can't Touch My Hair

Half of the podcast (and show)Two Dope Queens (her partner Jessica Williams provides the foreword), comedian Phoebe Robinson's infectious personality is on display in her debut collection of essays. She shares personal and professional experiences in a humorous and moving way in You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain (2016).

I highly recommend listening to Robinson narrate the audiobook (available via Overdrive) to hear her take on being a Black woman in America, racism and sexism in the workplace, and current and classic pop culture topics. It's funny and engaging social commentary. If you prefer to read the memoir, that's on Overdrive too.

We've got a list of Black Voices: Memoirs, Essays, & Poetry. Check it out.



Toil & Trouble

In his latest memoir, Augusten Burroughs, once again, delivers a story filled with laughter, heartache, and yes...magic. In this story of moving from the big city to the country, he reveals that he is a witch. Yes, a witch! Yes, I was a bit thrown over this revelation, but through his candid telling of his own life, I grew to appreciate him even more.

As always, he includes a fantastic cast of characters you really can connect to. If you are a fan of his work, you will not be disappointed. In Toil & Trouble (2019), he reveals much more of himself to his fans than just being a witch.

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns)

Mindy Kaling (star of The Mindy Project and numerous other TV and film credits) gives us a hilarious inside look at her life. Kaling not only shares stories of what it is like being a strong woman in Hollywood, she also dishes on her childhood, including what it was like for her growing up with immigrant parents. She also invites us to take an in-depth look at her personal life, which includes dating anecdotes, buying her first house, and admirable and envious work ethic.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) (2011) is a well written, laugh out loud book that moves with seamless transitions and is the perfect way to bring your spirits up. Borrow it today from Overdrive—read or listen.

Also check out our list of Celebrity Memoirs Read by the Author for inside peeks into the lives of other stars.



Where Am I Now?

Did you enjoy Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire, or the remake of Miracle on 34th Street? These 90s films feature a delightful performance by the adorable Mara Wilson. She's all grown up now, and has written an engaging series of essays. In Where Am I Now?True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame (2016), Wilson covers her childhood in the spotlight (both good and bad), her struggles with OCD and depression, and coming of age as an aspiring storyteller in New York City.

Don't let the childhood stardom fool you. Wilson pursued the creative arts (both performing and writing) in high school and in college at NYU. She is a gifted writer and experienced storyteller, and those talents shine throughout her memoir. It is full of heart, featuring both heartbreaking and humorous stories.

Listen to her memoir via Overdrive. Watch a video with Mara on mental health for Project UROK. 



Poppy Harmon Investigates by Lee Hollis (2018)

poppyWhen retired actress Poppy Harmon discovers that her recently deceased husband left her bankrupt, she wonders what type of job would be suitable for her. After a little thought, she decides to open the Desert Flowers Detective Agency with her best friends Iris and Violet. They find that no one wants to hire three women in their sixties, so they recruit Matt, who is Poppy's daughter's boyfriend (and a very good-looking actor) to join their team. With the addition of Violet's twelve-year-old grandson, Wyatt, in charge of all the computer (i.e. hacking) work, they are good to go.

Their first case is finding out who is responsible for a series of burglaries at a local retirement community. With lots of humor and very vivid characters, Poppy Harmon Investigates by Lee Hollis is a perfect read for those who love cozy mysteries.

 
 
 
 

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016)

51v55l2fxflWhen I checked out Born a Crime, I knew vaguely that Trevor Noah was a comedian. I even remembered sharing a post of his on social media since I thought it was funny. Yet somehow, I did not expect to have to pull my car over to the shoulder to finish listening to one of Noah's stories. I was laughing so hard, I was crying.

And if that's not a ringing endorsement of an audiobook, I don't know what is.

I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of this book because you hear Noah speaking the different South African languages with accuracy. And you get to hear Noah's voice imitation of his mother, among other people in his memoir.

Oh? And the story I had to pull over to finish on the road? I've been telling it to everyone, convincing them to read the book. If you do read Born a Crime, stop by the K&T desk upstairs and see if you can guess which story made me laugh so hard I cried.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson (2016)

msbixbysWritten from the alternating perspectives of three sixth grade boys, this exceptional novel follows their quest to create a very special "last day" for their teacher, recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and unable to finish the school year. Clever, funny, and heartwarming, this quick read will take you through a range of emotions as you are part of Steve, Brand, and Topher's mission for their beloved Ms. Bixby.

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson is among the 2019 Bluestem and Caudill Award nominees for the State of Illinois, designed for students in grades 3-5 and 4-8, respectively, but grownups, don't discount the opportunity to enjoy this book as well!

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (2013)

dadisfatI just listened to Dad is Fat on audio. Read by author Jim Gaffigan, it is a laugh-out-loud collection of essays of what it is like to be the father of five kids and their adventures of living in New York City. The humor is universal and the love for his family comes through in each chapter.

Big Mushy Happy Lumpy by Sarah Andersen (2017)

bighappymushyAfter reading Heather’s review of Adulthood is a Myth, I immediately whipped through the first in the “Sarah Scribbles” collection. Sarah Andersen’s comic strips offer sparse drawings and humorous relatable insights. Big Mushy Happy Lumpy, the second book in the collection, is also a quick and enjoyable read—but it takes a different turn, highlighting struggles with social anxiety. This shift in tone brings to mind Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh and Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.

I can’t wait to read Herding Cats, a new collection out next month.

Spotlight: Calvin and Hobbes

calvinhobbesWhy do we care so much about an egotistical, obnoxious, bratty kid, and his stuffed cat?  I know that I—along with billions of other fans— love Calvin and Hobbes, but I have to ask myself why.  Calvin is certainly not admirable in any way, other than maybe the expert use of his imagination, and his undying devotion to his tiger.  Mostly he can be counted on to be more intent on mischief than on doing good, taking an almost disturbing sense of pride in this. And when he isn’t “up to no good,” he can be found doing something totally unproductive, like watching bad television.

And yet we do love Calvin and Hobbes, because they’re undeniably charming and childlike, with that sense of abandon that we wish we still had. Plus, Hobbes is the voice of reason, after all—a good foil to Calvin’s enthusiastic hedonism and reckless sense of adventure. Though, most of the time, we have to admit Hobbes doesn’t put up much of a fight…

Check out Bill Watterson’s work.

Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen (2016)

adulthoodmythThis was my first go at a graphic novel, so I was pleased to find that this book is a collection of short graphic anecdotes. It was easy to read a few pages here and there in between other activities. Adulthood is a Myth is incredibly relatable, especially if you're a 20-30 something female, but anyone in that age bracket can definitely connect with Sarah Andersen's humorous spin on life. If you do enjoy Adulthood is a Myth, don't miss the additional installments in the Sarah Scribbles series, Big Mushy Happy Lump, which came out in 2017, and Herding Cats, due out in March 2018.

The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley (2015)

Political writer Christopher Buckley retreats to the 16th century for this hilarious story as he believed the U.S election of 2016 was sufficiently self-satirizing to demand his attention. In 1517, relic hunting was a good business for Dismas until he conspires with the artist Durer to produce a creditable shroud for sale to an affluent but corrupt noble. The noble was greatly displeased when the fraud was uncovered and Dismas escapes with his life only after agreeing to steal the true shroud for the noble. The reader then journeys with Dismas and Durer to Chambery in hopes of substituting a shroud of equal or better quality (according to Durer) for the true shroud. Many misadventures and missteps occur for the reader to enjoy until the pair of travelers are rewarded for their efforts. The reader should then read again the 2017 news report at the beginning of The Relic Master to see what the author is suggesting.

Spotlight on Horror Novels to Read This October: Part 1

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, October is finally upon us! That means it’s time for crisp autumn weather, pumpkin spiced everything, and all sorts of ghouls and goblins traveling from house to house to keep us scared and entertained. So, before everyone starts getting ready for the winter holidays on November 1st (sorry Thanksgiving), I'll tell you about five horror themed novels that you can read this October. Today, we have 3, but check back on the 27th for 2 more!

The Fireman by Joe Hill
firemanJoe Hill's newest novel tackles familiar themes of the post-apocalyptic genre, such as war ravaged civilizations, dystopian societies trying to rebuild after a catastrophic event, and, simply: the end of the world. Harper Grayson is a nurse from New England who makes it her sole priority to help treat and comfort everyone she can who has become ravaged with what is commonly referred to as Dragonscale: a mysterious new disease that has begun to spread across the globe. While no one is able to determine its origin or how it is transmitted, the only thing people know is that there’s no fate worse than catching it. Anyone who becomes afflicted with the disease may burst into flames at any moment, endangering anyone unlucky enough to be nearby.

The Fireman is a novel full of dread and comic relief. While there is plenty to be scared of in this world, there is also much to love, laugh at, and find joy in. Joe Hill creates memorable characters that we care about and want to see survive, putting them through terrible situation after situation. Every horrifying conflict that arises feels natural and all too realistic, highlighting both the good, the bad, and the in between of humanity itself. The fear that Joe Hill instills within the humans of this world and how they choose to react to it is where the true horror lives.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
houseofleavesHouse of Leaves is a novel by Mark Z. Danielewski about a documentary directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning photo journalist Will Navidson about his family’s house. After moving into their new home, the Navidson family discovers rooms that weren’t originally there when they moved in and doorways leading to dark hallways that stretch on for impossible lengths. This is the center of focus for the horror story, as the Navidson family attempts to investigate and document their journeys into these very dark, dangerous, and ever changing hallways.

House of Leaves is perhaps the most interesting and unique book I've ever read. The pages and the words seem to twist and turn in impossible ways, much like the endless rooms and hallways in the Navidsons' home. Simply flipping through the pages and scanning how the words are laid out on the pages is a remarkable experience in and of itself and the way the book is written helps the reader to dive into the madness and experience what the characters are going through. At first glance, this book seems to be made up of the ramblings of a mad man. Interestingly enough, that's exactly what it is. My suggestion is to find a copy and flip through it yourself. If your eyes are drawn to and intrigued by the layout of the pages, you may want to take this book home and let it consume you. By the end, you may find that your sanity has slipped to some degree, but that's okay. After all, we all go a little mad sometimes.

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
dirtyjobA Dirty Job follows Charlie Asher, a new father and even newer widower. Charlie is forced to now raise his newborn daughter by himself while also continuing to run and operate his second hand resale shop with only two employees: a high school goth and a retired cop. Because of the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death, Charlie has found himself to become one of the Grim Reaper’s little helpers. Charlie is now one of many in New York City that is responsible for collecting the souls of the recently departed and selling them to prospective new owners through their resale shops in order to stop an ancient evil from awakening and devouring the planet.

While this isn’t a straight horror story, the horror theme is present throughout and integral to the plot. For those that love horror stories, this is a great book to laugh with rather than be scared of. There aren’t many horror stories like that and even fewer that do it well. I laughed out loud while reading A Dirty Job more than I ever have with another book; it even caused me to stop reading because I needed a break to laugh about a good joke. And this book is just as heartwarming as it is funny. Many moments had me near tears and I genuinely cared for the characters that Christopher Moore wrote. Every character had their own unique voice and brought a level of depth and creativity to the story that many authors would find difficult to emulate.

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller (2016)

citybakerWhen renowned pastry chef Olivia Rawlings sets a banquet hall on fire with her Baked Alaska dessert, she decides that it is time to move on and find another job and another life. The safest place she can think of is Guthrie, Vermont, where her best friend Hannah lives.

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is delightful and fun to read. Olivia comes to realize that the small town offers her a sense of belonging and purpose. This sweet story from debut author Louise Miller is filled to the brim with yummy desserts and warm feelings. A treat!

Stay tuned for other foodie fiction – a featurette is coming from Jennifer later this month.

It's. Nice. Outside. by Jim Kokoris (2015)

itsniceoutsideJohn Nichols is on a road trip from Chicago to South Carolina to attend his oldest daughter Karen's wedding. Accompanying him is his nineteen-year-old son, Ethan, who has autism. Travelling with Ethan is so difficult that John feels they can only drive several hours each day. In fact, living with Ethan has put a strain on everyone in the family, and John and his wife, Mary, divorced after he had an affair. John also has a secret agenda for this trip: a spot has opened up at a group home in Maine for Ethan to live full time. Mary and John agreed a while ago that the place is perfect for Ethan. They just didn't expect an opening so soon. How will the family let Ethan go after he has been such a huge part of their lives for so many years? In It's. Nice. Outside., Jim Kokoris has written a realistic, at times humorous, look at how each member of a family is affected by living with a special needs child.
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