Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (image via amzon.com)

By Piper Kerman
Started: August 31
Finished: September 3

Guys, I broke my #1 rule: I watched all of the Netflix exclusive Orange is the New Black before reading the memoir on which the series is based. My friend Heather pretty much bullied me into watching the series, and I was immediately hooked. It was great. Fantastic. Amazing. Jenji Kohan‘s brilliance strikes again. I loved it so much, I made my boyfriend watch the entire series over Memorial Day weekend. And yet, I still wanted more, so  when I stumbled across this book in The Strand I couldn’t resist.

So where to start? Listen, if you thought Piper Chapman was annoying, self-absorbed, and entitled in the series….wait until you read the thoughts of Piper Kerman. She’s worse than her TV alter ego by a landslide. And the book is so, so different. Pennsyatucky is not crazy, she’s nice! Awesome characters like Tastyee, Poussay, Nicki, and Sophia don’t really exist. Even the person Sophia is based upon is just not as awesome and confident as TV Sophia. The book is really a completely different experience that gives an honest look at life inside a women’s prison and the penal system in general. The biggest problem I had was Kerman’s narrative voice: it just made me want to stick a shiv in her to get her to shut up (not really but, kinda)!


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Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield (image via amazon.com)

By Rob Sheffield
May 28
Finished: June 1

Rob Sheffield is the man. Not only does he know music (and pop culture in general), he consistently delivers on all those VH-1 specials. In Love is a Mixtape he manages frame a love story through music without sounding sickeningly sweet or overly romantic.

Renée is an outgoing, larger than life, southern Country girl that shy, awkward Bostonian Rob is instantly attracted to. Though they run in they same circles, it takes awhile for them to become friends, and eventually start dating. Though Rob didn’t expect to stay in Virginia, his romance with Renée makes it impossible to leave. Each chapter begins with a mixtape of songs, used to frame their friendship, romance, marriage, and Renée’s sudden and tragic death from a pulmonary embolism. If you don’t know the songs on each mixtape, I highly recommend hitting up Spotify and listening to them before reading—the song selection completely sets the mood for the entire chapter and enhances the overall narrative (actually, kinda surprised Rob Sheffield hasn’t already done that. Get on that, Sheffield!).

A note on two of my favorite details: Renée buys a dog she is insistent Rob will learn to love (he does not). Also, after Renée’s death, Rob becomes obsessed with a vinyl album called “Portrait of a Valiant Lady,” a documentary about Jackie Kennedy and how she dealt with her husband’s death. Not only did he listen to the album constantly, he moved the cover around the house with him, propping it up on the stove as he cooks or in the laundry basket as he folds clothes. It’s the strange and vulnerable detail that keeps the book grounded (what grown man would make up a detail like staring at a photo of Jackie Kennedy?) and speaks to the universal ability of music (or I suppose audio in general) as an outlet for and healer of pain, heartache, and loss.hen stove.

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (image via amazon.com)

By Mindy Kaling
Started: March 20
Finished: March 28

I always knew Mindy Kaling was funny, but I never realized how funny (and smart and witty) she really was until I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? This is another book that I (sadly) don’t really remember the specifics about, but I do remember laughing as I read it in the waiting room of my chiropractor’s office.

What I do remember, is her covering everything from her formative, awkward years to her success on The Office with charm and a wicked sense of humor. Although sometimes her views on body issues got a little sticky (they were obviously sarcastic but that can be hard to capture in print), I really loved the little details like her big break coming when she and a friend wrote & starred in a comedy one-act called Matt & Ben (based on Matt Damon and Ben Affleck).
Really, I wish I remembered more about this damn book, because it was hilarious (I guess that’s my punishment for shirking my recap duties for 11 months?). What I can say is this: if you enjoy self-deprecating but sometimes self-important humor with a dash of feminism and the possibility of snorting coffee out of your nose in a public space, read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?


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The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship (image via amazon.com)

By David Halberstam
Started: January 12, 2013
Finished: January 15, 2013

So, I picked the wrong time to read this book. It was something my cousin Sarah gave me as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago that I never really got around to reading. And, for some reason I can’t remember 11 months later, I chose to read it right after 2012 Red Sox season, 6 months of baseball filled with hate, indifference, fried chicken and beer, and worst of all Bobby Valentine.

In The Teammates, Halberstam reflects on the unique bond of four legendary Red Sox players–Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, and Ted Williams, using a 2001 road trip by Pesky & DiMaggio, who are determined to make the drive from Massachusetts to Florida to see a dying Ted Williams. Bobby Doerr elected to stay home and care for his wife, who recently suffered a stroke, but his presence–and the calming effect it had on the fiery Ted Williams–was felt throughout the story. The individual backgrounds of each player were woven into stories of their playing careers prior to the Red Sox, and the friendship formed while playing in Fenway. If anything, like the subtitle suggestion, this book illustrated how unlikable and incompatible the 2012 Red Sox line up really was.

In addition to reading this after the complete mess that was the ‘12 season, I read this after Johnny Pesky died. And reading about a group of 80-something year old men taking a 1,300 mile trip to visit a dying friend on the heels of the Pesky funeral debacle made me hate the 2012 Red Sox team even more. Pesky & DiMaggio drove all the way to Florida to visit Ted Williams, but of the Red Sox 40 man roster only FOUR Red Sox players showed up to the funeral of a Red Sox legend…which was held in Swampscott, MA (a mere 35 minutes away from Fenway Park, with traffic).

I was a little bit bitter while reading The Teammates. Luckily, it was a good, easy read that really delved into the life of a career ballplayer prior to the blockbuster contracts of today. Of course, being eleven months and one World Series trophy out from last January helps. 🙂

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Book finished: Late January

via amazon.comSigh. Another eBook. Look, it’s not my fault. I spent a lot of time traveling from my home in western Massachusetts to and from Boston and New York. And honestly, an iPad is much more efficient on a bus then having a clunky book and an iPad. Considering when I read this book it was only available in hardcover (ugh!), it would have been a pain in the ass to lug around.

Usually, I’m not big on comedic memoirs as reading material. When I do buy them, it’s because I really love the comedian who produced the book. Not just like but love. Excluding George Carlin’s When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (which I got on sale at Barnes & Noble for $5), the only other comedian books I’ve ever purchased are those written by Lewis Black and Jon Stewart. Because I absolutely love them.

30 Rock is one of my absolute favorite sitcoms currently on air. And I always loved Tina Fey on SNL (bitch is the new black, anyone?). After seeing Bossypants on the Barnes & Noble top sellers rack for what seemed like months, I figured the book might be a good read. And I purchased an eBook, since it was cheaper and not in hardcover form (that way, if the book ended up being a HUGE disappointment, I wouldn’t have to see it mocking me from my bookshelf later on).

Ms. Fey didn’t disappoint; Tina was her usual candid self, and it gave some pretty great insight into her Liz Lemon character on 30 Rock. I loved how open and honest she was about basically everything in her life: her first interactions with LGBT friends while participating in community theater, the crappy jobs she worked while struggling for a break in Chicago, how she was a virgin until she met her husband at 24 (not something most actresses go around broadcasting), and the complete disaster that was her honeymoon cruise. Tina struck a really good balance of treating her life with humor while showing how difficult it is to be taken seriously in a job/industry dominated by men (without whiny ‘poor me, poor me’ the entire time).

A few reviews that I’ve stumbled across make it pretty clear that the key to this book is being familiar with Tina Fey, and especially her comedic timing and delivery. In a few parts of the book, you could hear the Liz Lemon voice basically echoing in your head as you read. So caution: if you’re not a fan of 30 Rock, this book may not be the best choice for you.

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