SNL star and honorary Hoosier (it’s okay to call her that, right? Is any fictional character a better example of a Hoosier than Leslie Knope?) has gifted us with a collection of biographical essays and comical observations. In them we learn about Poehler’s start in improv with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and her reoccurring role as Andy Richter’s little sister Stacy on the Late Night With Conan O’Brien Show. When recounting her rise to fame, Poehler is filled with humility and praise for those around her. While there are plenty of laugh out loud moments in the book, a strong message of empowerment permeates throughout. Not a self-help book, but at times it feels like Amy Poehler is your own personal cheerleader.
Written by Amy Poehler’s real life BFF and fellow SNL alumna, Fey’s book is also a collection of humorous stories but also includes thoughtful observations about being a woman in charge in a field primarily dominated by men. Through the more personal essays we see Fey’s transformation from an awkward, intelligent little girl to a writer and star of SNL. Protip- listen to the audiobook! Fey’s delivery is priceless!
Hilary Winston was perusing a Los Angeles bookstore when she stumbled upon the newly published book by her ex-boyfriend. Against better judgment she picked it up to read the summary-and found it shockingly familiar. As in it was a fictional account of her relationship with him, and fictional Hilary was referred to a number of times by an unsavory nickname. Winston, a writer for the TV shows Community and My Name is Earl decides to write her own book-and filled it with stories of doomed relationships, awkward situations, stories about the Olive Garden, and cats.
You may recognize Kaling as Kelly from The Office or from The Mindy Project. Is Everyone… is a tour of Kaling’s life through stories, anecdotes, lists and pictures. Fun fact: Kaling rose to fame after portraying Ben Affleck in an off-Broadway show titled “Matt and Ben.” More a conversation than a memoir, Kaling’s book is quirky and pleasant and a great way to spend an afternoon. Highlights include: “narcissistic Blackberry” photos; Irish Exits; and why do men put their shoes on so slowly? Look for Kaling's next book Why Me later this year!
Sloane Crosley doesn’t work in television-though she has appeared on an episode of Gossip Girl, but her collection of essays are on par with the hilarious and talented women mentioned above. Crosley focuses on the oddity and selfishness of adulthood. Her essays are highly entertaining and relatable, especially for those who grew up in the late 80s/early 90s. Highlights include: The Oregon Trail (computer game not historical event); an out of control My Little Pony Collection and despoiling a butterfly exhibit at the Natural History Museum.
This quiet introspective read is not for everyone. In it, British novelist Rachel Cusk, examines relationships and self-identity in a series of ten conversations that make up the book. The action occurs in the span of one week while a narrator travels to Greece for a week long writing seminar that she is teaching.
Caveat: this is one of the most unusual novels I have ever read. The author’s voice is sure, steady, and at times mesmerizing. It’s not an action novel in any sense, but rich with everyday life in a way that recalls Virginia Woolf’s works. Philosophical with wry humor and a deep sense of what makes people tick.
The first dialogue begins on the plane with her seatmate, a wealthy Greek, who is twice, make that thrice divorced. As happens so often in life, the two passengers share many secrets about their lives. We learn that the Greek has a disabled brother and disabled child. His ex, the mother of his son, wanted to institutionalize the boy, but the Read more about Outline
The Martian has taken the literary world by storm. It has become such a hit that the movie based off the novel will be released in November of this year. While you're waiting for your copy of the Martian to come in, why not give one of these titles a try.
A team of six astronauts is in the beginning stages of their mission on Mars when a dust storm unexpectedly interrupts their work on the surface of the Red Planet. Three of the astronauts see Mark Whatney hit by debris and assume he is dead. They can’t recover his body and save themselves so they leave him on Mars while they make the long journey back to Earth. Unfortunately for Mark, he was only knocked unconscious and now has to figure out a way to survive on the unforgiving planet for four more years until the next mission is scheduled to arrive. Told mostly through diary entries written by Mark, this science fiction (emphasis on science) novel is funny, suspenseful and fast-paced. Weir is able to explain highly technical and complex processes in language that novices can understand and keep up with. This is the ultimate novel about survival in harsh and lonely conditions.
Robert Neville is the last man-living man that is, on Earth. An incurable plague that somehow Robert is immune to, has taken over the planet and turned every human into a vampire. Robert spends his days in hiding and his nights hunting down the non-living. He teeters on the edge of sanity as he grapples with the meaning of life and survival when he is the only one of his species left. A stressful and intense short story, I Am Legend is an essential story of survival and a testament the human drive to survive.
French naturalist Dr. Aronnax begins an expedition to hunt down a sea monster but upon discovering the Nautilus- a futuristic submarine, he becomes of prisoner of its creator, Captain Nemo. Together Dr. Arronax and Captain Nemo explore the majesties of the ocean. A futuristic novel of many years past, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a fantastical story of exploration and survival.
Into the Wild isn’t Science Fiction. Instead it’s the real life story of exploration and survival. Chris McCandless was a young man who gave his possessions away and embarked on a journey into the wilds of Alaska-and whose body was found a mere four months later. Investigative reporter Jon Krakauer pieces together McCandless's journey and delivers a haunting and thought provoking account of one young man’s adventure.
I’m not one for doing the whole of anything: the Appalachian Trail, canoeing the Amazon, skiing across Antarctica, but yes I can see the attraction of visiting every country in the world. The problem is that it is a moving target. Governments change, countries come and go, and unless you are super rich “doing” the world in a timely fashion is not possible.
Yet the inventive, gutsy, rule-breaking Podell finally managed to complete them all though it did take a half century. He began his foreign travels with a quick trip to Canada when he was 24. And yes, he considered this international travel light.
He just completed a degree in international studies. A few years later, as editor of an adventure magazine, he decided he was tired of sending people off on exotic jaunts and staying home, so he set off with a friend to complete the longest land journey ever attempted with his good friend Steve. They got sponsors to pay for the trip and hired a photographer. Read more about Around the World in 50 Days: my adventure to every country on Earth
Are you a grammar aficionado? Do you love learning the ins and outs of different jobs? Do you like reaffirming that your grammar and punctuation is spot-on, or why and how it has strayed from the path of correctness? If so, Mary Norris’s Between You & Me is exactly right for you.
Norris describes her life before and during her thirty year tenure at The New Yorker as a copy writer with the detailed knowledge to make sure that the correct word, usage and punctuation is always employed. To accomplish that, her best tool (other than her comprehensive knowledge of grammar) was her noteworthy stash of No. 1 pencils. What an odyssey it was to keep a supply of the best proofreading pencil in the world. And those in a perfect working state. Solution: a passionate epistolary correspondence with one manufacturer of the yellow-painted rods.
With humor and great descriptive ability Norris describes her first jobs, as a foot checker at a public swimming pool (checking for Athletes foot before swimmers entered the pool), and milkman—make that milkwoman--a job those under fifty may not even know existed. Later, she went to graduate school in literature, and moved to New York where she took a few lowly desk jobs before she scored an interview at America’s most prestigious literary magazine, The New Yorker. Read more about Between You & Me: confessions of a comma queen
Aristotle and Dante is a sensitive, thoughtful portrayal of friendship and finding yourself. Both of the main characters are teen boys who feel out of place in the world around them, until they find each other. Together they navigate the ups and downs of teenage life; friends (or lack of them), family, independence, and love.
An added bonus of this particular book are the complex parent child relationships. Unlike many YA novels, the parents in this book are very present in their sons' lives. Dante is the only child of intellectuals and Aristotle is the youngest child of self made, hard working people. Both of them love their parents, but both of them find different aspects of their lives hard, if not impossible, to share with them.
This is a great realistic fiction for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. The world is a big place, just because you haven't found where you belong yet, doesn't mean you won't.