As far as I can tell, the main rule of the Los Angeles Public Library is: “If the book you want came out anytime in the past 3 years and seems interesting, there’s no way you’ll be able to get your hands on it. EVER.” OK, it’s not that dramatic, and you can always put yourself on the waitlist, but ugh waitlists. I’m impatient and grumpy and give my book now please!
Anyway, the library gods were smiling on me last Wednesday when, miraculously, my local library had two books I’ve been meaning to read on the shelf! The rub was that they are part of a special, high demand program where I can get both of them for only one week with no renewals. Ah. Luckily I’m a fast reader, and more importantly a stubborn library patron, so I took on the challenge.
Book 1: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
With both Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey’s books of personal essays coming out in the past twelve months, it seems like a perfect time to be a smart, good girl. It’s kind of intimidating though. I mean, these women can write like mofos, are ridiculously funny, lovely, and to top it off, seem like the normal, nice people I’d actually want to know. I’m hoping to attain one, maybe two, of those things in my lifetime. C’mon Tina/Mindy! Stop making the rest of us look bad!
That being said, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a fun book, through and through. It doesn’t have as much substance as Fey’s book Bossypants did, but really, I don’t think that’s what Kaling’s going for. Instead of expounding on women in comedy or heavy family stuff, Kaling writes short musings on how to be a best girlfriend (of course, I made sure my roommate read this section), what it’s like to work on The Office(kind of awesome, it seems), what you’re treated like as a GASP size 8 woman in the entertainment industry (not so awesome, it seems) and the basic things men should do to get a girlfriend (yay for dark jeans!). It’s light, it’s fun, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like you spent two days killing your brain cells thanks to a good streak of wit and self-deprecation. And really, look at the picture she included on the back cover. How can you not want to read this book?!
“Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life. What I’ve noticed is that almost no one who was a big star in high school is also big star later in life. For us overlooked kids, it’s so wonderfully fair.”
Book 2: Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
First of all, what the heck did the Foer parents do to get such talented kids? I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Safran Foer for a while (except when he’s wasting his talents to be all holier than thou about what food everyone should eat. Please stop, sir.), and now his younger brother has come on the scene with his very well-received book about the nature of memory and the world of memory championships.
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything is split about half and half between nonfiction accounts of a social history of memory and the personal story of Foer becoming a the memory champion of the USA. This structure was both the book’s greatest strength and weakness. The nonfiction accounts of the classical history of feats of memory and basic explanations of how the memory can be strengthened/destroyed gave a strong structure for Foer to pin his personal story on. At times though, it felt as though the reader was being shuttled back and forth, without enough time to really sink her teeth in to any one subject. Still, it is an enjoyable read, and I picked up some great memorization tips — mainly, make every word you need to memorize the dirtiest, most violent, bizarre thing you can think of. Yeah…might not need to much help with that one…
“Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next – and disappear. That’s why it’s so important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.”
Terrifying thought, huh?