3 (more) Memoirs to Add to Your Bookshelf

Monday, October 27, 2014

...or should I say burgeoning memoir collection? First off, thanks for all the recommendations after my 3 Memoirs to Add to Your Bookshelf post. The recommendations I received fell into 2 distinct categories: funny or very, very serious. I chose to read some funny ones first, but am equally looking forward to tackling some of the deeper reads.

So the theme of this post: funny memoirs written by successful women in show business. What could be better? 

1. Bossypants by Tina Fey

This is a must-read. Fey inspires all with her incredible storyfrom growing up near Philadelphia, to commuting on the L to work at the YMCA outside of Chicago, to getting her start on Second City, to SNL, to 30 Rock and more. She shares honest insights about motherhood (and pressure from outsiders to have baby #2) which are refreshing. Throughout the whole book, her heartfelt accounts make her seem so down-to-earth. (Fun fact: Tina Fey doesn't have her driver's license.)

My favorite piece of career advice from Tina:

"My unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: "Is this person in between me and what I want to do?" If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you're in charge, don't hire the people who were jerky to you." Amen.

Pro Tip: If your company gives you money to buy "Professional Development" books (no idea which company I'm alluding to) I've heard you can get this one approved. If you've already read it, it makes a perfect Christmas gift for a sister, mom, or girlfriend in your life. Because everyone knows Professional Development money is best spent on others.

2. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Mindy is younger than Tina (so doesn't have motherhood aspects), but traces her story from childhood embarrassments to her Dartmouth days, to barely-getting-by in Brooklyn, through breaking into the comedy scene. I found many of Mindy's passages hysterical and earnest.

She did have a few chapters that I felt were kind of "fillers." Example, we'd be tracing the story of her struggling in Brooklyn and suddenly: a chapter on her feelings about proper karaoke etiquette. But some of these more conversational chapters (that didn't really move along the "plot-line") were pretty hilarious. The "Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real"chapter was dead-on, where she compares romantic comedies flicks to sci-fi movies (existing in an alternate (but still enjoyable) world) And she did have an entire (albeit short) chapter entitled "Why Do Men Put Their Shoes on So Slowly?" which is a question I've been pondering myself for many years now. I'd read Bossypants first, but this second. We can't all be Tina Fey, and I think Mindy has a long, successful comedy career ahead of her.

Fun note: Tina and Mindy BOTH have chapters on the horrors of magazine photo shoots. So if you've ever had fantasies about being shot for the cover of a mag (and you're not a size 0), I'd recommend reading at least those chapters and squashing said fantasies.

3. Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

This book was a little less memoir (not a lot of details from Ms. DeGeneres' life, unfortunately) and a little more "series of funny blog posts (a la karaoke chapter from Mindy's book.) But, in true DeGeneres style, some of the chapters were laugh-out-loud funny. Quite literally. I read this on the plane rides from San Fran to Madison, and was actually laughing out loud in my seat. Oops.

Just like on her talk show, DeGeneres manages to be funny without being vulgar. I always find that so impressive (it's not an easy feat.) This was probably my least favorite of the three, only because I wanted more actual life information about beloved Ellen. She did go into her thoughts on being an American Idol judge and mentioned she is from Louisiana (I had no idea!) This book is more of a "if you want to laugh on an airplane" read than a "must read" -- but it's still better than the trashy mag you were going to read.

And you thought you'd make it through a whole post without a picture of Tywin.
What are you reading now? I'm really enjoying A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. It's a throwback about a family living in poverty in Brooklyn in 1912, but so fascinating. (The poor immigrant family lives in the same (now-nice) neighborhood that Mindy Kaling couldn't afford to move to when she moved to NYC -- what are the chances?)  For my next memoir I'm thinking of checking out the (much) more serious Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Chang. Lena Dunham's Not that Kind of Girl and B.J. Novak's One More Thing are also on my short-list, since I was lucky enough to get both of them for my birthday :) Hope everyone has a great Monday!

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