Sunday, September 25, 2011

Multiple Partners

Sometimes, one is not enough. It feels impossible to commit. You become enamored of one, then get bored, and pick up another. That one is too intense, so you flirt with the first again.

I'm speaking, of course, of books. Or, as I like to call them, "Multiple reading partners."

I don't think there's been a time since I started reading chapter books when I had less than two books going at the same time. It's probably grown from my library trips, in which I am determined to take home a well-rounded assortment of reading material. Many times when I get the books home, I try out a chapter or two of each, trying to get a feel for the book and deciding whether I want to read it. I almost always want to continue, because it's hard for me to give up on a book I've already picked out, no matter how poor the writing is at first. So there I am, a few feet deep into each tome, and running out of bookmarks.

Some books are meant to be read in one glorious sitting, at the beach, by the pool, or during a long, lazy rainy day. At the end of those books, you feel self-indulgent, but very satisfied. I'm talking about light, fun women's fiction, about baking or fashion or romantic mishaps, or quick-read mysteries. I'm also referring to major life events like the release of a Harry Potter book. (I remember exactly when and where I read each one. I do not understand how it is possible for anyone to put them down, let alone not finish one.)

But most books are slower reads. You pick them up and read a few chapters before bed. You throw them into your briefcase and grab a few minutes to read during your lunch break. You leave them sitting on the shelf, bookmark sticking haphazardly out of the top, dusting over with reproach and waiting for you to remember it's there. These are the books whose plots are beautifully written, but move slowly. Or they have a drier subject, such as the mating habits of bees or accounting for dummies- things you want to know about, but can't manage to swallow much of at a time.

And of course, there are books that live in-between. Not one-day binges, not nibbled at over months, but books to snack on for a week or two.

Here's what I am reading right now:

Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Run by Ann Patchett
On Writing by Stephen King
The Confession by John Grisham (on my Kindle, which is kept in my briefcase)
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (on audiobook, in my car)

What are your multiple reading partners?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Glass Castle/ Half Broke Horses

I think I've mentioned a few times that I really enjoy memoirs. The two that I've profiled so far have been celebrity memoirs, but I also enjoy reading about average folk: hairdressers, unemployed Prada lovers, the formerly overweight. "Average," though, hardly applies to the characters in Jeannette Walls' memoir/ novels, The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses

In The Glass Castle, Walls introduces us to her own childhood, starring her wayward parents, Rex and Rose Mary Walls. Her family is very poor, poorer than poor. Rex and Rose Mary are inventors, artists and above all, adventurers. They drag their children along, nomad-fashion, in the desert Southwest, searching for new excitement. Eventually, their money runs out and they move to West Virginia, where increasingly, the four children learn to fend for themselves, as their parents steal the grocery money and run, or simply rationalize away the crumbling walls and lack of proper clothing. The children eat out of the dumpster and paint their own skin to hide the fact that their clothes have holes. In time, one by one, the children escape to New York and start their own lives there, but Rex and Rose Mary follow them and join the ranks of the homeless and the squatters on the streets of Manhattan. 

What is amazing about this book is that it feels both impossible and starkly truthful at the same time. Everything Walls writes has the ring of truth. Though it would be easy to take a bitter, unforgiving tone toward her parents while looking back on what they put her through, she treats them with compassion and understanding. She is able to see them as people with multiple faults and many redeeming qualities, and not in the light of unfit parents, though it's hard for the reader not to see them that way. The story is fascinating, but so are the characters. The writing is full of color and descriptions both enchantingly beautiful and revoltingly ugly. 

Half Broke Horses is in some respects a prequel to The Glass Castle, but it's not strictly a memoir. Walls calls it "A true-life novel." It is told from the voice of Jeannette Walls' grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. The plot is based on all the stories Walls heard from her grandmother as a child, as well as Rose Mary's recollections of her own mother. Lily's life takes place in the early 1900s Southwest, primarily on ranches, but also in small frontier towns where she taught children to read and impressed the menfolk with her riding skills. She experienced the march of progress as the towns she lived in filled out and grew up, and her love for horses grew to include a love for driving cars and then a love for flying airplanes. Her plucky actions include accidentally marrying a bigamist; riding solo for 28 days through the desert to reach her first job; and selling bootleg liquor during the Prohibition. Lily is spunky, bright, and the perfect pioneer woman: Annie Oakley meets Laura Ingalls. The book ends with her meeting her daughter Rosemary's (the original of Rose Mary) future husband Rex, and watching her shake her head in disapproval over the lifestyle we read about in The Glass Castle. 

I read these books months, maybe years apart, but if you haven't read either yet, I'd suggest trying them in succession. I think it would bring out even more nuance from Lily's, Rosemary's, and Jeannette's characters when experiencing all three of their childhoods in one span of time. 

A special thanks to my mother-in-law for introducing me to both of these books!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

168 Hours

I think the phrase "this book/movie/song changed my life" can be overused, but I have to apply it, at least lightly, to this book:

I'm a person who likes to accomplish a lot every day. I have a full-time job, but I also write every day: I work on my novel, I journal, I blog, I research. I teach private music lessons 2 afternoons a week. I exercise at least 5 times a week for an hour or more. I keep the house clean. I prepare healthy meals for myself and my husband. I call and spend time with my loved ones. I play my flute. I read (obviously). I get 7 hours of sleep a night. All of these things add up, and even though I don't spend a lot of time watching TV or other non-essential activities, I often find that I can't keep up with my own expectations. But instead of lowering my expectations, I read this book.

Laura Vanderkam reverses a lot of oft-repeated American beliefs. Using the American Time Use Study, a very accurate annual survey of how thousands of Americans spend their time, she proves that our country's citizens are not nearly as overworked as we think. The study shows that many people who spend large chunks of their week at work are not actually working for a lot of that time. If they could find a way to schedule their time more wisely, they might not have to be at work so many hours. Even if a person does spend 40 hours a week at work, Vanderkam invites us to see how low that number actually is. Everyone gets 168 hours per week. No more, no less. Most of us work 40 hours or less. (This is verified by the American Time Use Study). Most of us also sleep more than we claim (about 7.5 hours per night). That's about 52 hours per week. So between sleeping and working, we've used up about 92 hours out of our 168. Which means that we have 76 hours to use for the rest of our life activities. When you think about that, an hour a day of exercise, or two hours a week to spend with an elderly relative, feels like a simple commitment, if one could only schedule it properly.

Vanderkam also challenges the social stigma that many middle-class families have about things like hiring a maid or getting groceries delivered. These services sound decadent- why should we hire someone to do something we could do ourselves?- but she points out that if the time we save could help us increase our income in some way, or even if it simply increases the pleasure we take in our lives, it is worth it. Again, she emphasizes, we all have a finite number of hours to use each week. She also questions the fact that we feel awkward about sending out our laundry, but we don't mind hiring someone to watch our children. Can anyone else really raise our children better than we can? Can anyone else do our laundry better than we can? Vanderkam's answers are "No" and "Yes."

You may not agree with all of her conclusions, but I guarantee this book will get you thinking about how you spend your time, and what your priorities are. After reading this book, I don't have any trouble fitting in all of the activities I desire.

Laura Vanderkam is also an accomplished blogger at And the woman does know what it's like to budget your time- she holds down several jobs, writes regularly for national publications, and is raising three children.

Thank you for spending a small fraction of your 168 hours reading this blog!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Comfort Books

Some people have comfort food: chocolate chip cookies, macaroni and cheese, dark russet potato chips. When I get sad/ lonely/ depressed, or if I'm just in a darker place in my life, I turn to my comfort books. They're the ones that I've been reading since childhood. They're the ones that make me feel hopeful about humanity. They're the ones whose characters feel like an extension of myself, as if I could somehow slip into their skin. They're the ones that embrace love and happiness and childlike wonder. When I'm reading them, I feel like I'm with a trusted friend.

I can divide these books into two categories: the ones I am happy to acknowledge, and the ones that I'm... not. Just as someone might say, "I was so sad, I ate a pint of ice cream last night," and wouldn't be judged, but that same person might say, "I was so depressed I went out to KFC and ate an entire bucket of fried chicken, two sides of macaroni and cheese, and four biscuits with butter" and the listener might actually puke from disgust.

Let's call them "happy" comfort books and "guilty" comfort books.

Here are some of my happy comfort books:

1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (I wanted to be just like Anne when I was a kid)

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (I also wanted to marry Mr. Darcy. Who wouldn't?)

3. The Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella (Oh, Becky Bloomwood. Has there ever been a character more simultaneously endearing and exasperating as you?)

4. The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill (All about cooperation and self-sacrifice. Also very funny, in a child-like way.)

5. Jemima J by Jane Green (A great book for when you're feeling down on your body image.)

6. And of course, the entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Because there's nothing like spending time with Harry, Ron and Hermione, forever battling evil forces, to make you feel good about life.

I can't reveal all of my guilty comfort books. But I'll share two. And believe me, they are embarrassing.

1. The Babysitters Club series. Yeah. I know. I read them all between the ages of eight and twelve. Well, all the ones that currently existed, anyway. It wasn't so much that I loved the stories, or that I enjoyed babysitting. I just really liked Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacy, Dawn, Mallory and Jessi. (There are a few more now, I think.) I liked that each book was voiced by a different character. (See, the multiple perspective preference started early.) And now when I pick them up, it just feels like I'm regressing back to my much-younger self, a time when things were safe, and my whole world was just school and family and friends.

2. These aren't even really books, which makes them even more embarrassing: Archie comic books. I read them whenever I need to de-stress. I have a whole boxful. (This is worse than The Babysitters Club problem, because I don't actually own any of those. Or maybe it's better, because I don't have to go to the library for Archie comic books. Yes, it is embarrassing to check out "Kristy's Big Day," and yes, I do pretend that I have a much younger cousin that I read to.)

I do know exactly why I like Archie comic books, though. Their world is safe and imminently predictable. You always know exactly how the characters are going to wind up in any given situation: right back where they started. Archie's never going to be able to choose between Betty and Veronica; Moose is always going to beat up the guy who hits on Midge; and Jughead will always make a beeline for the food. It feels like reading about a time much before my own. Of course, they are also some of the most sexist and anti-feminist reading material of all time. For that reason, I will never let my (as yet unborn) children read them.

I'm almost reluctant to post this. It's hard to let go of guilty secrets! But I bet everyone out there has some reading material that they always revisit when they need a little comforting, and some of that may cause them a little embarrassment. So go ahead, leave me a comment with your guilty comfort books. Or make fun of mine. I don't mind. If I feel bad about it, I know just where my Archie comic books are.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Chick Lit" & Then Came You

So far, I've given my thoughts on a novel, two showbiz memoirs, a mystery, a history, and a YA series. I want to keep mixing it up, so tonight I'm going to write about women's fiction, specifically the latest novel by Jennifer Weiner called Then Came You.

Before I begin on the novel, though, I want to make it clear that I can't stand the term "chick lit." The name is too fluffy, too silly, and most of all too derogatory to apply to a category of fiction as diverse and meaningful as women's fiction. What is women's fiction, anyway? To me, it's simply a collection of novels that focus on women's issues and relationships, generally written by and for women. I think that "chick lit" is something invented by the same guy who coined the phrase "chick flick," meaning something he would not be comfortable reading or viewing for fear of being spotted by another man. Which is something I hope will change in the future, but that's another opinion for another blog.

Then Came You is a multiple perspective novel, written from the points of view of Jules, a Princeton senior who is both incredibly beautiful and strapped for cash; Annie, a wife and mother of two who is struggling to find both her identity and the means to finish her dream home; India, the stereotypical "younger woman" to her rich husband, whose true past is a mystery; and Bettina, India's very reluctant stepdaughter, straight-laced, distrustful and protective of her father. The four women's stories are tied together by a life, the life of a baby that becomes both wanted and loved by all four. India is the woman desperate for a child, whose IVF efforts have failed; Jules, due to her intelligence and beauty, is the quintessential egg donor; Annie is the surrogate who welcomes the change to her body and her life; and Bettina, through a twist of fate, steps into a role in the baby's life far beyond that of half-sister.

Multiple perspective novels, when written well, are always among my favorites. Jodi Picoult uses this technique so well, and now I'm going to add Jennifer Weiner to the list. (Incidentally, the novel I am writing is in multiple perspectives, so these women are my current idols.) The voices of all four women are distinct, and their motivations are clear. Generally when a novel switches points of view, I'm disappointed and excited in turns to see the different characters' names at the top of each chapter, depending on how much I like their voices. But in this book, I enjoyed them all, despite their wide variety. I liked Bettina's anger, Jules's confusion, India's intrigue, and Annie's warmth. Jennifer Weiner also handles her plot very well, saving some big surprises for the end, and playing out each woman's story both to serve the character's personal desires as well as the group dynamic at the end.

I have to say I wasn't a big fan of Jennifer Weiner's earlier work, even some of the books she got initial recognition for, like In Her Shoes (which did make a great movie). But I liked last year's Best Friends Forever, and she won me over with Then Came You. I might even be willing to go back and revisit some of her previous books. Maybe I was wrong, or maybe reading it with fresh eyes will make the difference. Whether I like the older books or not, I'll be adding Jennifer Weiner's next novel to my women's fiction (NOT CHICK LIT!) reading list.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Don't Trip Over the Ottoman!

I'm a big fan of classic television. When I was a kid, we didn't have a TV for awhile, and the years that we did, we only got PBS. (This is how I became a reader.) So whenever we went on vacation, it was a big treat to watch TV, and my dad took advantage of this excitement to introduce my sister and me to his favorite shows as a kid. We'd plan our evenings around watching Nick at Nite. Does anyone remember how they used to advertise "Mary Tyler Mondays" "Lucy Tuesdays" and so on through the week? I don't remember what the other nights were, but I know we used to race back to the hotel to watch 4 or 5 episodes in a row. 

My all-time favorite is I Love Lucy, but a close second is The Dick Van Dyke Show. And so when I was at the library this weekend and saw Dick Van Dyke's memoir on the bookshelf, I snatched it up. I ended up reading the entire thing that same afternoon/evening. 

It was such a smooth read, and though there weren't a lot of high drama or plot twists, this being a memoir, the pacing was so good that it kept my attention. Dick Van Dyke has lived a long and interesting life. Several times I wondered how he was able to fit all of these events into what he said was a space of a few years. It wasn't all about the show he's best known for, either. He writes about his early years performing vaudevillian acts in clubs and disc jockeying on the radio. He talks about his experiences working on Broadway, learning to dance, and eventually getting noticed by the great choreographer Gower Champion, who cast him in Bye, Bye, Birdie, and Walt Disney, who cast him in Mary Poppins. He speaks very, very highly of both Carl Reiner, who was the writer/ producer of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and of Mary Tyler Moore, his costar. With a light hand and a unique combination of serious and funny, he writes about his philosophies, religion, and politics. He shares of himself in a way that makes you want to sit down with him over coffee and Laurel and Hardy films.

In case you're wondering, he does write candidly about his struggles with alcoholism and his affair with the woman who turned out to be his partner of 35 years. But he doesn't make either of these the focus of his writing. He says right off in the forward that "if you are looking for dirt, stop reading now. I have had some tough times and battled a few demons, but there is nothing salacious here. I may be a Hollywood anachronism... I have tried to write an honest story, with lightness, insight, hope, and some laughs. I have also woven in bits of wisdom... like this, my favorite: You can spread jelly on the peanut butter but you can't spread peanut butter on the jelly."

That same easygoing, comforting voice keeps you company throughout the book, the voice of Rob Petrie, of Albert Petersen, and maybe even a little Bert, without the Cockney. 

If you're a fan of his show, classic television or Hollywood in its heyday, take a "jolly holiday" with Dick Van Dyke, and don't trip over the ottoman!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Choosing Books

Last weekend I was out with my friend at a local bookstore and she asked me, "How do you decide what to read?"

It's a great question, because there are so many books out there that interest me, but even if I read all day and all night (what a great job that would be!) I could only read a small fraction of the ones that capture my attention. So I have to be somewhat discriminating. I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite sources for finding great books.

My absolute number one source is the library. I am a huge fan of the public library system. I read so much that I couldn't possibly afford to purchase or find room for all the books, so 90% of what I read is borrowed from the library or leant by a friend. One of my favorite things to do is go to the main branch and browse, although I tend to do that less often now that the online system for searching and requesting books is so easy. I used to have sort of a system for my library browsing though, because I wanted to choose a well-rounded stack of books to bring home for the next week or two. It sort of went like this:

1. Check out the new fiction. I almost always picked up a book from this section.
2. Venture into the cavernous halls of nonfiction and browse through subjects that interested me: history, music, arts and crafts, health. Sometimes I found things I liked, sometimes not. But I loved being in that section because it smelled like old, musty books.
3. Go to the mystery shelves and pick up an Agatha Christie, preferably one starring Hercule Poirot. I'm sorry to say that I've read them all. But I think I've forgotten most of the endings by now, so maybe it's time to read them again.
4. Go to the general fiction section. This is where I got creative. I knew I couldn't possibly browse through the whole section each time I visited, or I'd be there for hours. So each time I went, I chose a letter from the alphabet and only looked at those authors. I wasn't totally regimented about it, though. I could have gone from A to Z in a year, but I just picked random letters. If I had less time, I'd pick something like O or E. If I had more, I'd go with M or S. Once I'd picked a letter, I'd choose a few books, depending on what caught my eye or whether there were particular authors I'd heard of but never tried. After that, I'd go hunting through the rest of the fiction stacks for whoever were my favorite authors at the time.
5. Finish with the YA and audiobook section because in the main branch of my library, they used to be in the same room, right near the checkout desk. I love audiobooks, although I am careful with my selections, because the reader really makes or breaks the book. I listen to them in the car on the way to work, and consequently, I love my commute.

By the time I left the library, I always had a stack of books I could hardly carry. It never seemed to occur to me to bring a shopping bag.

A more recent source of book searching is the website Good Reads, which has lists of top rated books in each genre and also shows you what your friends on the site are reading. I also like browsing Amazon and walking through Barnes and Noble with a pumpkin spice latte in hand. My Barnes and Noble browsing is similar to my library browsing, except I tend to spend more time in the memoir section these days. I also walk out with far fewer books.

I also check out recommendations on authors' blogs. I figure they're in the business and must have their fingers on the pulse. One of my favorite memoirist/novelists is Jen Lancaster, who blogs frequently at Jennsylvania. Every season she puts out a couple of lists of books she's screened from the advance copies she receives. I recently read one of her summer recommendations, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, and it was fantastic.

Finally, I listen to recommendations from friends and family, especially my mother and mother-in-law, who always seem to know what I'll like.

How do you find good books?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lies My Teacher Told Me

In honor of the first week of school, here's a nonfiction favorite of mine, James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.

While the title is a great hook (and feeds into the popular teachers-as-villains theme this country is enjoying right now) it's not really framed around teachers. Instead, Loewen looks carefully at twelve major high school American history textbooks and critiques each one for its historical accuracy and hidden agenda. Sound boring? To most high school students, it supposedly does. But the way Loewen writes, with passion for history dripping out of every line, it's a great nonfiction read, and not in the least bit dry. 

Here are a few things you'll learn in this book, if you didn't know them already:

- We all know that Columbus didn't really "discover" America. It was already here and inhabited by thousands of thriving civilizations. What's more, he wasn't even really the first European to find the New World. Many groups of outsiders landed on our shores before the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. There is archeological evidence of immigrants from Africa, Russia and even Indonesia. Textbooks, however, only look at the event from the Western European point of view, not from the view of the Native Americans, who were quickly killed off in the millions by white man's weapons and diseases. 

- Helen Keller was much more than the "blind and deaf girl" whose inspiring relationship with Anne Sullivan prompted thousands of social studies teachers to run to Blockbuster (haha, remember Blockbuster?) and rent The Miracle Worker. She was a staunch feminist and radical socialist, and helped found the ACLU. She lived her life far beyond the reach of her disability, which is all most textbooks credit her for. 

- Guess which colony was the first to legalize slavery? It wasn't Virginia or North Carolina. It was Massachusetts. 

Loewen also attacks a lot of textbook themes that echo classic American idioms, such as "America is the land of opportunity" and "Progress is our most important product." He submits many historical examples to debunk each of these ideals, and one gets the impression that he could continue to expound on the subject if his editor would let him. 

I do believe that Loewen has a bit of a liberal slant, but he backs up all of his opinion by fact, and very clearly shows how textbooks skew actual history to feed the idealism of American teenagers.

Whether you want to learn more about history from another point of view, or feel like participating in an angry rant against the textbook writers of America, this book is a interesting read.

Best of luck on the first week of school to all of you wonderful, HONEST teachers out there!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Book That Let Me Down- Part 2

My second disappointing book experience this summer was...

Okay, it wasn't actually The Hunger Games, book 1. It wasn't even Catching Fire, book 2. It was really...

Let me start from the beginning. I had heard a bit of buzz about this series, and found that they were on sale as a three-book bundle in the Kindle store. So I went ahead and made my purchase. I have to say, I really loved The Hunger Games. In fact, it's a good thing that the Kindle allows me to read one-handed, because I pretty much walked around holding it in front of my face for two days. For those of you who haven't read the series, it's based on a futuristic world called Panem, where twelve districts (formerly thirteen) serve a corrupt and gluttonous Capitol. Each year, for the enjoyment of the Capitol, the districts are required to send one girl and one boy, chosen by lottery (in a scene very similar to Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery") to the Hunger Games. They are released into an arena where they have only two objectives: to survive the environment, and to be the last one alive.

The main character, Katniss, is exactly the kind of main character a science fiction series needs: unique yet relatable, strong on her own yet emotionally connected to others. The world of pain and emotional torture Suzanne Collins devises is incredibly imaginative and yet easy to envision. I spent most of the book honestly wondering if Katniss was going to survive the arena, even though I knew there were two more books to come.

I was slightly less in love with Catching Fire, book 2, but I did spend the following two days in the same nose-to-Kindle position.

Where Suzanne Collins lost and disappointed me was in Mockingjay, the final book of the series. For those of you who are interested in reading the series (and I do still recommend this, because of the first two) I won't give out any spoilers. But I will say that Katniss became a completely different character to me: whiny, weak and frustrating. All of her former strength seems to disappear in the face of very similar adversities. Collins seems to be showing us through Katniss's actions and choices that the girl is now insane, but she doesn't think like an insane person. Moreover, the plot is not nearly as clearly laid out as in the first two books. The story jumps around a lot, and Katniss, who is the point-of-view character, misses some crucial action, namely a certain rescue scene that is a major plot point. There are some scenes that just need to be described, not glossed over.

As always, if you disagree, feel free to comment. If you haven't read them, I still think the first two are well worth the read, and the third as well, if only because a series should be finished. Even if "Return of the Jedi" was terrible, people would still watch it to see what happened to Han and Luke and Leia. (Of course, it is not terrible. It is, in fact, the best of the three. All Hail George Lucas.)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Book That Let Me Down- Part 1

I had two experiences this summer where I was very disappointed by a book. The first was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I'd heard a lot of praise for this book and series from several people whose reading opinions I respect. It was one of the first books I purchased on my Kindle and I felt sure that I would enjoy it. A murder mystery in Sweden with intriguingly dark characters- what's not to love? But by the time I had read about ten percent of the book (for those of you who don't have Kindles, that's what you see instead of page numbers) I was frustrated. I wasn't getting why everyone loved it so much. I tried again and again to keep on reading, and I finally got to around thirty percent before I gave up.

It took me awhile to figure out what wasn't grabbing me. It wasn't the technical jargon or the slight awkwardness to the language. It was the fact that I honestly did not care what happened to these characters. Stieg Larsson certainly made them complex. They all had dimension and desire, and they all felt very real. I just didn't find any part of them endearing or interesting or relatable. That's no criticism of Larsson, whom I admire, and no criticism of his many fans. It just wasn't for me, and I found that disappointing after all the rave reviews.

If anyone read the book and loved it, I'd be interested to hear your take. It's still stored in my Kindle and I'm willing to make another attempt if convinced. It's certainly possible that if I tried to finish it, I would change my mind. But I ask you, if you're not enjoying a book after thirty percent, if you have to force yourself to read it, wouldn't you stop reading too?

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I can't say I've been a particular fan of Tina Fey in the past, but I am after reading this memoir. I read this one while we were on a cruise ship in Alaska, and I swear my husband got sick of me sitting on my deck chair or in our room, randomly exploding in laughter over and over again. It was probably one of the funniest books I've ever read, possibly excluding Ellen DeGeneres's books, which are funny in a completely different way.

When we got home, I started watching 30 Rock for the first time, just to see some of the scenes she references in the book. I enjoyed the show, particularly the relationship between Liz and Jack. I also went back and watched the Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday shows from the 2008 election season when Tina Fey played Sarah Palin, which is also referenced in the book. But I'm not here to talk about television.

Synopsis: I could keep this very short and just say, "Tina Fey talks about her life in a humorous way." But that would be a little unfair. Among other things, Tina writes about: how she found out what it means to be a woman, including a list of how many things can be wrong with your body; passing out in Planned Parenthood; falling in love with gay men at theater camp; her horror of a honeymoon; and bombing on stage at Second City, all the way up to her current life as a mother and producer/writer/actor for 30 Rock. This all sounds a bit dry and strictly autobiographical, but trust me, the way she writes it, it's hysterical. Here's one of the lines I laughed out loud to:

"People often ask me about the difference between male and female comedians. Do men and women find different things funny?... Here's the truth. There is an actual difference between male and female comedy writers, and I'm going to reveal it now. The men urinate in cups. And sometimes jars."

Review: It's funny. Read it.