Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling. Crown Archetype. 222 pp.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling. Crown Archetype. 222 pp.

The only thing I knew about Mindy Kaling before reading this book is that she played Kelly Kapoor on the US version of The Office, a show that’s grown on me immensely over the years. Oh! I also Twitter-stalked her one afternoon and she seemed funny. (I later learned that she wrote the Office episode where Michael burns his foot on a George Foreman grill, so I now know she’s funny.) Those two things were the driving forces behind my purchase of this book — well, that and the fact that it was cheaper than Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which is the reason I was on Amazon’s site at all that day.

I expected this to be a series of humorous anecdotes about Kaling’s life in showbiz. Yes, there are some work-related stories included, but this reads more like a quippy autobiography than a collection of essays, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Mindy portrays herself as a successful Everygirl; her writing style is mildly self-deprecating, but she still manages to remind the reader of her talent. It’s a hard balance to strike, but she manages to make herself sound impressive and relatable all at once, and that (to me) makes her immensely likable.

After reading about Mindy’s childhood, her budding love of comedy, and her triumphs (and mishaps) in the world of Hollywood, I became a fan, not just of The Office but of her. I will admit that I expected this to be a laugh-out-loud sort of memoir (closer to Aisha Tyler’s Self-Inflicted Wounds, which I also loved), and it wasn’t, but that didn’t detract from my reading experience. In fact, I couldn’t put it down because I couldn’t get enough of her dry humor and ability to make me smirk while reading. The only thing about this book that irked me — and it isn’t a big deal, but I can’t help but notice — is that the title has absolutely nothing to do with the book.

All in all: I enjoyed Kaling’s tone so much that I’m hoping to find time to check out The Mindy Project. And for someone with limited free time, that’s saying something.

Review: I Heart My Little A-Holes by Karen Alpert

I Heart My Little A-Holes by Karen Alpert. Baby Sideburns. 272 pp.

I Heart My Little A-Holes by Karen Alpert. Baby Sideburns. 272 pp.

This was a Kindle daily deal, and I tend to enjoy stories of parenting told with a healthy dose of humor, so I snatched it up without a second thought. I didn’t realize this when I made my purchase, but the author is a blogger. A lot of reviewers seemed disappointed by the fact that many of the pieces in this book were cribbed from the blog, but since I hadn’t visited the blog this didn’t bother me at all.

This probably isn’t a book for potential or soon-to-be parents; it just wouldn’t be as funny. (In fact, I can imagine some readers judging parents for having some of these thoughts…and expectant couples might be terrified by the horrors that await them.)

However, for parents? Almost entirely brilliant. Like most stand-up comedy routines, there are a few flops, some bits that you sit through while you wait for the humor to kick back in, but for the most part it’s pretty darn funny. I flew through it, enjoying myself immensely, then read my favorite sections aloud to my husband. I could barely get through a few because I was laughing so hard, and we were both in stitches and tears.

My only complaint is that a lot of the foul language seemed shoved in there to prove a point. (See how cool I am? I curse!) I don’t really have a problem with “inappropriate” language if it fits, but in this book, I found it distracting much of the time.

All in all: Worth reading, particularly if you’re a parent with a sense of humor.

Review: Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler

SelfInflictedWounds

Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler. 256 pp. It Books.

Aisha Tyler is many things that I am not: tall, childless, funny, confident, fearless. But she and I also share some qualities, if you can call them that. We’re both neurotic, both nerds, both prone to going off on tangents while telling a story. But let’s be honest: it doesn’t matter if an author and I have absolutely nothing in common, really, as long as she makes her writing work. And Aisha Tyler does just that.

Self-Inflicted Wounds is a memoir of sorts in which Tyler recounts all the times in her life, beginning at the ripe old age of five, when she (inadvertently) screwed herself over. From setting the kitchen on fire to boy problems to broken bones, she’s had a remarkable amount of incidents where she can blame no one but herself. Footnotes are liberally sprinkled throughout the cringe-inducing tales. This is an excellent format for the asides that a stand-up comedian can’t help but make when telling a story.

Although she often drops a mini-lesson at the end of a chapter, the best part about these episodes is that they’re funny. In fact, they’re so funny that I tried my son’s patience more than once. See, I’m still nursing him once or twice a day. And when you’re reading a funny book and don’t want your nipple bitten off, you try not to laugh. But as any private-school girl knows, withholding laughter just means lots of snorting and jerky shoulders. So my kid’s head is bouncing on my arm, and I’m trying to stop laughing, which is only making me laugh harder, and then I have to stop reading and use the advice from my scuba certification course: just focus on your breathing. She’s that funny.

To be honest, I didn’t know who Aisha Tyler was before Friends. I still haven’t seen her stand-up (but may need to, since I enjoyed this book so much), but I’m a big fan of Archer and think she’s pretty great on there. And now that I know how much I enjoy her particular brand of ranting, self-deprecating humor, I’m even more excited about her gig as host on the revival of Whose Line Is It Anyway? Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I was a tentative Tyler fan before, but now I’ll look forward to her upcoming projects with increased zeal. And isn’t that a successful venture for an artist?

All in all: Read this if a) you like comedy and b) you don’t mind lots of 17+ language.

Note: Only read this in public if you don’t mind people staring at you as you try your hardest not to bust out laughing.