Weekend Shorts: Further Adventures of Awesome Ladies on Audio

I’m chipping away at my backlog some more today, and continuing the theme of much of my audio listening of late — awesome lady memoirs. Need to feel like you haven’t done anything with your life? I’ve got you covered.

Forward, by Abby Wambach
ForwardI’m not a huge sports fan, but I’ll watch a game here or there if my team’s doing well, and of course the US Women’s National Team is almost always doing well. I like these ladies, like, a lot. So when an Abby Wambach memoir popped up in the midst of my audio memoir obsession, who was I to say no?

This is very different from the other memoirs I’ve been reading — those are all written by writers or funny people or funny writer people, and, unsurprisingly, Wambach’s voice is very different. This book is fairly straightforward with the whole, I grew up here, I did this, I went there, I thought this, etc., and Wambach as narrator is equally straightforward in her reading, except at some pretty emotional points.

As a person who only dips into sports occasionally, I’ve never really bothered to learn about any particular player, so all of the stories in this book about Wambach’s professional life — her captainship, her moderate to crippling alcoholism, her relationships with her teammates, her possibly literally insane work ethic — I don’t know if these are well-known stories or not, but they were all new and moderately interesting to me. Mostly depressing, actually, but I’m learning that that comes with the memoir territory.

I wasn’t especially captivated by this memoir, but I’m definitely glad I spent the time with Wambach’s voice and life. Political trigger warning: this book was written and published before Election Day 2016, and there are some bits near the end about Wambach’s involvement with the Clinton campaign, so. You know. Dramatic irony abounds.

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, by Mara Wilson
Where Am I Now?If I wasn’t captivated by Wambach’s memoir, holy cow was I captivated by Wilson’s. I was SO excited about this book, since, like all precocious girls of a certain age, I have always felt a kinship with a little girl called Matilda. I know in my brain that Wilson has played other characters in things, but in my heart and, according to this memoir, the hearts of MANY others, she will always be Matilda.

Or would have been, except that Wilson is a fabulous writer with interesting stories to tell and, you know, The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in My House, so she’s got a lot going for her these days.

Stories about Wilson’s life as a child actor take up most of this book, and the stories about getting awesome jobs and working with amazing people and the short tribute to Robin Williams are delightful. But her stories about growing up, scrounging for the jobs that remain to former child actors, and dealing with obsessive-compulsive behavior and related mental disorders are the stuff that no-longer-a-precocious-child me found the most interesting. I don’t want to spoil the story too much, but I will say that the anecdote from this book that has stuck with me the most is about the book that Wilson finds and reads as a teenager that helps her come to terms with her obsessive behaviors. The world works in very strange ways, it seems.

Scrappy Little Nobody, by Anna Kendrick
Scrappy Little NobodyI picked this book up in the midst of my lady-memoir frenzy for very little reason other than 1) lady memoir and 2) Pitch Perfect <3. Unfortunately, it left a similarly vague impression on my brain, to the point where I'm trying to remember some anecdotes and then I'm thinking, no, that one was Mara Wilson. Shoot.

It doesn't help that this book is very similar to Wilson's, tracing the path of a child actor to adulthood. I had no idea that Kendrick existed before Pitch Perfect, so it was kind of interesting to find out that she was a reasonably big deal in theatre and also was in Twilight. Huh.

Although I can no longer relate any scintillating specifics from the book, I do have an overall good impression of the memoir and of Kendrick’s writing, and if you’re a fan of hers you’ll definitely want to read it. But now I’m mostly craving yet another re-watch of Pitch Perfect. Which, really, is not a terrible way to spend a couple of hours, so I’ll recommend that, too!

You’re Not Doing It Right, by Michael Ian Black

You're Not Doing It RightLet me just say right away that this book was really not what I expected, and thus I was not a huge fan. I was expecting something like Bossypants or Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (which I conveniently talked about last week) or anything by David Sedaris — humorous essays, a few good chuckles, and a new appreciation for Michael Ian Black.

This expectation was not helped by the fact that I heard Black read most of a chapter called “I Hate My Baby” on NPR a few days before I started the book. I thought that that chapter was greatly amusing and chuckle-inducing, and I appreciated Black for affirming my belief that I am going to want to kill my hypothetical child for not sleeping like a human. (He says it gets better but I totally don’t believe that.)

That chapter was awesome. The rest of the book? Not a lot of funny. Black talks a lot about how he met his wife as the “other man” and got married and made babies and stopped wanting to be married so much and took to drinking and became addicted to Ambien and if any of it is supposed to be funny it is not coming across in the text. The blurbs say it’s funny! Does Black read his own audiobook? -checks- He does. Maybe I should go check that out.

I can definitely see how I would have liked this book more if I had known how it would go and planned accordingly, like not reading it on a long boring road trip. If anyone listens to this, let me know if that’s a better idea!

Rating: 7/10

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without MeSo, true story, I actually read this book nearly three months ago. I grabbed the audiobook, read delightfully by Ms. Kaling, and took it with me on a relatively short but very boring road trip to Tallahassee. But near the end Kaling skipped past a chapter of photos since, you know, audio, and I felt like I didn’t really want to talk about the book until I’d obtained a print copy and read that chapter. I put it on hold immediately after I got home. Mmhmm.

I didn’t know much about Kaling outside of, “She’s that girl from The Office, a show I used to watch,” but like Tina Fey before her I’d heard enough vague statements about her awesomeness to be convinced. And apparently so had the rest of the world, with that long line ahead of me! Luckily she totally lives up to that reputation.

The book is a collection of short essays about Kaling’s life: growing up as a chubby Indian kid, working in show biz, what she looks for in a guy, how she sees herself. Mostly topics I can relate to, except for the whole “writing for a popular TV show” thing. Some of the essays are a little boring, like, unfortunately, that picture-based essay I waited all these months for, but some are absolutely fantastic.

Awesome essays:

“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Or How I Made My First Real Friend)” — Here Kaling talks about friends and cliques and how things that seem super duper important one day can seem totally unimportant the next. Especially in high school.

“Day Jobs” — In which Kaling takes on a few less-than-ideal jobs but still manages to get herself some pizza bagels and a free ride to work.

“Guys Need to Do Almost Nothing to Be Great” — This is a chapter that all guys should make copies of for themselves and all their friends.

“Married People Need to Step It Up” — As a person in a happy marriage, I have been called upon by Mindy Kaling to tell you all that it’s totally possible. Being pals is the best.

“Strict Instructions for My Funeral” and “A Eulogy for Mindy Kaling, by Michael Schur” — It worries me a little bit, the amount of thought that Kaling has put into her funeral. It’s maybe a little weird that I laughed the most at the part of the book not written by Kaling, but of course it wouldn’t be funny at all without the rest of the book as a primer.

Recommendation: Do read, or definitely listen if you have that option. Kaling has a great voice.

Rating: 9/10