Whatever, Whatever

Category: Books

Getting weird looks for laughing in public: a list of my favorite memoirs by funny women

If you enjoy a good book and a good laugh, the kind that gets you looks from strangers when reading in public – this is for you!

In the past seven or eight years I’ve gotten into reading books by female comedians, usually memoirs. Much like the list of thrillers from my last book post, this is a themed list of reviews.

As you may know, I read on the train during my commute every day. It’s about 40-45 minutes, twice a day, where I get to sit in the quiet car and read. The quiet car is the designated car on the Metra that doesn’t allow talking – in fact, the rare noisy passengers get death-stares from those too timid to say something or are strongly told off, shushed, or asked to leave by the brave defenders. It is almost always blissfully quiet and the perfect environment for reading.

I usually try to rotate my books by genre so I don’t get too bogged down by thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi or dystopian young adult series, and when I need a complete shift I like to pick up a funny book. Sometimes I can keep the giggles to myself, or it’s the kind of funny that’s like “ha!” in your head and not the out-loud kind of laughter. But sometimes a book will be so funny that my stomach will hurt from trying to stifle my chuckles. I’ll be on the verge of tears and need to take a breather to try and stop myself from snorting. Those are the books that are rated 5/5 – that I couldn’t read on the train.

 

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

5/5

If you have a short attention span or are frequently interrupted while reading, this is a great place to start. I Was Told There’d Be Cake is a series of short essays about the author’s experiences living in New York, starting out on her own, and some random thoughts and anecdotes that come together seamlessly. Not only is Sloane Crosley an excellent writer and immensely funny, she’s also intimate and indiscrete. She’s the voice inside your head when you’re obsessing over bits from your past, only slightly less self-deprecating and much wittier. I found it relatable, honest, and at times a little crude (in a good way). It’s refreshing and full of almost-in-tears laughter. Do not read in public.

 

Bossypants by Tina Fey

4/5

I feel like everyone read this when it came out in 2011, but in case you were living under a rock or were waiting until the hype died down and then never got around to it, I highly recommend picking up Bossypants. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Fey: a funny, off-kilter collection of stories from her life and career, sprinkled with a few touching moments and life lessons, observations and sincerity. Probably wouldn’t get kicked off the quiet car – has many very funny moments, but it’s safe to read in public.

 

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

3.5/5

Looking for a similar vibe to her BFF’s memoir, I picked up Yes, Please as soon as it came out. I was slightly disappointed though, since it seemed like the whole book was about how hard it was to write the book. It felt a little unfinished and some of it was too meta, but learning about Amy’s life was so much fun. Usually I don’t like getting life advice directly from books, as it can make the author seem pretentious, but I didn’t mind it from Amy. She doesn’t brag or boast. She’s honest and genuine. One of my favorite bits was this: “You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.” Even though parts of it felt padded, there were enough bright spots to save it and it was still an enjoyable read. Safe to read in public, and I recommend picking it up.

 

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

5/5

Honestly, I didn’t know who Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess, was before picking up this book, but after my mom recommended it and I skimmed the back cover, I knew I had to read it. I’m having trouble finding a way to describe how funny this book is or compare it to anything. Lawson’s life is pure comedy with steadying bits of humility. Her deadpan style and incomparable quirk left me nearly in tears throughout. I would have to stop reading to catch my breath from laughing too hard (this was when I was alone – I quickly learned not to take this book on the train otherwise I’d disturb the other passengers). I can’t recommend this book enough – it’s both very weird and very charming. Definitely get it if you’re in need of a good laugh. Read at home and try not to drink anything (for risk of it coming out of your nose).

 

The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman

4.5/5

I’ve always been a fan of Sarah Silverman, but I understand that she can be a little too much for some people. I believe though, that this book would be enjoyable even for people who aren’t as into her brand of humor. She’s able to make fun of herself and reveal more serious aspects of her life, including her struggles with anxiety and depression. But she does it with honesty and class and without making you feel sorry for her. It has both highs and lows and is packed with candid memories, silly encounters and corresponding photos. I didn’t read this one in public coincidentally (I think it was over a summer or holiday break during college), but I’d be cautious since it has a lot of laughs.

 

Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch

4/5

Because I read Fey and Poehler’s books, I felt it was only right to read Dratch’s as well. It dives into her time at SNL, but is also sprinkled with early life and current stories. This book is short and entertaining, definitely on-par with others like it but with a more refreshing point of view. Not having known much about her going into it, I ended up not only feeling like I got to know Dratch, but also wanting to know more. It was interesting seeing her side of her career and how it compares to those of her peers. Feel free to read in public, but get ready to stifle a giggle here and there.

 

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling

3/5

I read the majority of Kaling’s book on a Megabus to Minneapolis to spend a week with my best friend Roz over winter break my junior year of college. Not known for being a quiet environment, it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d laughed aloud either way. Though humorous and fun, this book was not my favorite. I really liked the parts about her early life and family, but the bits where’s she’d jump into giving advice felt a little unwarranted. Compared to others, the book came off as kind of self-serving. I haven’t read her second book, but I’d hope it to be more grounded. Worth reading, but not life-changing.

 

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

4.5/5

Kendrick is charming and forthright in this short and sweet memoir. I found myself relating to her quite a bit, which made it even more enjoyable. I loved her insights into life as a celebrity and how she keeps herself steady, as well as her background in acting and how she rose to fame. It’s a fast read with really funny moments and good storytelling. Kendrick’s short, almost Mitch Hedberg-like one-liners and set-ups are flawless. I found myself laughing aloud often, so think twice before taking this book out and about.

 

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham 

4.5/5

It’s hard to accurately summarize what the show Gilmore Girls means to me, so just know that it’s my favorite of all time and it’s my go-to comfort show. I watch at least part of an episode almost every single day (usually before bed), and have most of it memorized. Graham’s character had a huge impact on my life and while it’s nice that she’s similar to Lorelai in a lot of ways, I’m glad she’s also different and that both come out in her writing. I read Graham’s novel, Someday, Someday Maybe and really enjoyed it. It was well-written and fun. Since it was loosely based on her early life as an actress, I had some insight going into Talking As Fast As I Can. I’ve also read a lot of interviews with her over the years. But the most interesting parts were the things I didn’t know – like that she spent a large part of her childhood living on a houseboat and that she always dreamed of having her picture on the wall of the first theatre company she was part of. The best parts of the whole book (as a diehard Gilmore fan) though, were her reflections re-watching the series and the section from her diary during the filming of the Netflix reboot. Graham is witty and charming and gives fans exactly what they want. Safe to read in public and immensely enjoyable for fellow Stars Hollow residents.

Put a Girl on it. My ratings of various female-led thrillers.

I read a lot. Mainly advance reading copies (ARCs) from my mom who is a bookseller. I read during my commute and I love a good female-led thriller. They’re very popular right now. Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train — my mom thought of starting a new hashtag #ggott for Gone Girl On The Train. It really does feel like if you’re going to write a modern thriller you should put the word Girl in it. Instant best seller. (The title of this post is a play on Put a Bird On It from Portlandia – in case that wasn’t clear.)

Explaining my jokes. This blog is the best.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

4.5/5

A girl enwrapped in the made-up lives of people she sees from the train on her daily commute becomes more involved in their actual lives than she could have imagined. 

One of the original and arguably one of the best. It’s probably the barometer of this genre, not just for me as a reader, but for other crime authors as well. As the characters show their true colors and the mystery unravels you’re not only totally engrossed but also completely blindsided by each twist. It jumps around in time and setting – throwing you off just when you think everything has become clear. Truly a unique experience. And perfect for those of us who read on the train. READ THE BOOK AND THEN SEE THE MOVIE. The movie was good, but read the damn book first.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

5/5

The main character thinks she has left her past behind, but when an old friend asks her to attend her bachelorette party, she learns the past is nearly impossible to escape.

As far as female-led thrillers go, this one is exceptional and it doesn’t even have Girl in the title! It was engaging, thrilling, and I could still sleep after reading it. I like thrillers that are intense but not too scary and this was just that. The main character is relatable and readable and the whole time you feel the need to figure out how the hell this is all happening – right up to the end. Apparently this will also be a movie at some point? I heard rumors but haven’t seen any followthrough. Fingers crossed!

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

4/5

Aboard a cruise ship, a travel journalist becomes obsessed with a mysterious murder that may or may not even have occurred.

Also by Ruth Ware! This is her newer book and I enjoyed it a lot, but it wasn’t quite as unique as In a Dark, Dark Wood. While a tiny bit predictable at times and a little slower to build, it was still an engaging and creative read. I found myself hurrying home to finish a chapter when my train pulled into the station at the end of the day – that’s saying something! The main character’s skepticism, both of other characters and of herself, keeps you guessing again and again. A great vacation book! But maybe not a cruise vacation.

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

3/5

A teenage drama queen gets involved in a sticky situation (lol it’s her murder – it’s the central plot; this isn’t a spoiler) when trying to “find herself” in this small town-centered murder mystery.

So this is only partially female-led — it switches perspectives (and jumps around in time) between the girl, the town sherif, and an unhappy townsperson. This ARC was getting *all the hype* but unfortunately I wasn’t as excited by it once I started in on it. I think it was partially due to the personality of the main character and probably also her age. It’s a little too adult for teenagers but it also felt very young-adult-ish to me and that put me off (don’t get me wrong, I like young adult novels but this just wasn’t what I was expecting). I finished it because I wanted to see how it turned out, but I wouldn’t necessarily read it again. Plus I didn’t like reading it in public because the cover is a close up of a young white girl’s face and it made me feel like I was reading a Gossip Girl novel or something terrible. Judging the book by the cover… It happens.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

4/5

An unhappy husband meets an intriguing stranger and gets caught in a Heathers-like game of “what if I murdered my spouse…”

This one is written by a man! It’s not entirely female-led, but it has two lead female characters as well as a male. It’s more of a standard crime fiction book but since I put it in the same category in my head, here it is. I actually had trouble putting this book down – I liked how it moved seamlessly between characters and perspectives and how fast the plot moved along. It’s unique (though as I mentioned in the synopsis, it’s a little like the movie Heathers but with adults)  and totally takes you on a ride as you learn more about each character, their pasts, and their motives. Threw me for a loop a few times – and I’m usually able to sniff out an upcoming plot move. The writing and particularly the dialog wasn’t amazing but it’s a good read.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

3.5/5

A dysfunctional couple deals with a whirlwind of drama and trauma as they figure out who they can and cannot trust after their newborn baby goes missing.

I really wanted to like this book, but after about half way through I started to lose interest. It’s fairly predictable and I didn’t really like the characters, but has some gripping parts and is overall pretty original. It was a good book for my commute: engaging, but not so much where I had trouble putting it down when I needed to get off the train – it was easy to leave and pick back up later. A few moments were a little thrilling, but it was more emotionally stressful than the others in this list. I was disappointed that I was able to figure out the two main twists way before they occurred, which I don’t like! I want to be totally surprised!

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

4/5

After a girl goes missing, mirroring her friend’s disappearance from ten years ago, Nic Farrell is roped back to into her hometown life. A reminder that history repeats itself and the people you thought you left behind never really let you go. Nic catches up with her past in this unwinding mystery. 

So the big device in this one is that it’s told backwards. It’s actually pretty fun. I was surprised by the twist in this one, which is big for me because I can usually sniff it out pretty quick. The writing is above-average and the characters are detailed but mysterious enough to keep you guessing. The whole “small town everyone knows your secrets” thing gets a little over-told, but doesn’t ruin it. Having been to small towns in North Carolina myself, the setting was familiar and easy to imagine, but I suppose it wouldn’t be hard if you’ve been to any tiny town in America. All The Missing Girls is Miranda’s first adult novel, and even though at times you can feel her slipping into her young-adult style, it’s a page turner and a great read for the genre.

 

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Check back as I continue reading mystery books with “Girl” in the title!