Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a HalfI don’t have a ton of experience with the wonder that is Hyperbole and a Half, but I’m pretty sure it is some sort of comic/diary mashup and I am positive that everything I’ve read on it is awesome. I was introduced to the site via Brosh’s fantastic post about the mystical alot, and later the CLEAN ALL THE THINGS post; more recently Brosh put up two posts about depression that made the rounds of my internets and were actually quite informative though also sad-making.

Those may possibly the only posts I’ve seen on that site itself, so I was excited to read this book and see what I’d been missing — like other blogs to books, it is comprised of posts from the blog as well as some new content, though I could not tell you which might be which.

The book starts (well, after the introduction) with an essay about a time capsule Brosh left for herself at ten and dug up at 27, which contains a letter asking lots of questions about Future Allie, enumerating the kinds of dogs Ten-Year-Old Allie liked, and requesting that Future Allie please write back. Brosh takes this request to heart and writes back to several of her past iterations to give them some useful advice, though if they could have taken the advice we would not have this amusing essay or the rest of this book, so…

Several of the essays recount stories of Brosh’s two adorably mentally challenged puppies (is there any other kind?), and these might be my favorites just because I miss my own puppies and their ridiculous personalities but that is totally valid. Puppies are weird! They make strange noises and try to protect you from things that don’t even exist! These are truths I think anyone can relate to, unless they’ve managed never to have a pet, which is a situation that should be rectified immediately. But maybe not with one of Brosh’s dogs.

Actually, my favorite story might be the one in which Brosh’s mother takes her children for a nice walk in the woods that turns into a more-than-seven-hour attempt to find a way back to civilization. Brosh’s mother does not want to worry the children and sends them off to find all the pine cones while she figures out what to do, but of course she does not know what to do and her children are left wondering why they aren’t allowed to go home anymore. Brosh makes one of my worst nightmares a delightfully comical experience — probably because, spoiler alert, she survives to tell the tale.

Brosh makes a lot of things delightfully comical, whether they start out terrifying or sad or mundane, and her simple drawings make everything just that much better. I really didn’t need more things to read on the internet, but I think Hyperbole and a Half might just make the cut in my RSS reader.

Recommendation: For lovers of truth bombs, dysfunctional childhoods, puppies, and fun.

Rating: 9/10

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

Let's Pretend This Never HappenedOne of the things I like about the 14-hour drive up to my parents and in-laws is that I get to listen to audiobooks along the way! I so rarely listen to them anymore that it’s nice to have some dedicated time where I’m really not going to do anything else.

I picked this particular audiobook to listen to because I highly enjoy the author’s blog, TheBloggess.com, and I’ve subjected my dear husband to a lot of the more ridiculous stories that she tells, usually starting them with, “So you know that crazy chicken lady?”

I haven’t gone back to read the entire site archives, so I don’t know if most of the essays in the book are also on the blog; I only noticed a couple of familiar entries myself, and those were still funny a second time so I’m not sure it really matters.

If you are not familiar with Lawson’s blog, you will probably still be entertained by this book, which includes your usual memoir fare — growing up, making friends, surviving college and marriage and children — but manages to be anything but usual. Lawson’s childhood involved a taxidermist father who would play practical jokes on his children with roadkill, and her adulthood seems largely comprised of trying to understand people whose parents didn’t do things like that.

Even better is Lawson herself reading the book; she knows exactly how weird most of her stories sound, and how sad some of them really are, and you get exactly the impression that Lawson intended when she wrote them.

I’d say the only downside to listening to this in the car is that sometimes you’ll find yourself so distracted by what Lawson is saying and how that could even be possible that you might, say, miss a turn. Or two. Maybe it would be safest to save this for your regular commute. But it’s definitely most entertaining when shared with a similarly humored friend.

Recommendation: For those who like the memoirs of, say, Tina Fey or Mindy Kaling or David Sedaris, and who don’t mind a dirty word or a thousand.

Rating: 9/10

Wreck the Halls, by Jen Yates

Hee hee hee hee hee! I love Cake Wrecks, and also Cake Wrecks, and really just cake wrecks in general. I love stopping by the cakes on display at Publix and hoping one of them might be terrible enough to go on the internet, but also hoping that none of them are.

Unlike the previous general-wrecks book, this one is particularly focused on the end-of-year holidays. And Star Wars. Obviously. There are phallic poo-turkeys and a Super Bowel cake, really terrifying Santas and gingerbread men and Care Bears, and the last cake on this page that made a finals-addled husband of mine practically pee his pants laughing. It’s not that funny, but law school is apparently very difficult.

There’s also the patented Jen Yates patter, which here includes some re-written Christmas carols and several pun-laden paragraphs, which I would reproduce for you here except I do want to you keep reading my blog. Let’s just say there’s some fantastic wordplay involving bread and also poo, because this woman cannot stop talking about it.

Someday I will get that coffee table and then I will purchase this and its predecessor and any future Cake Wrecks books and scare people away from my home with them. And you should, too.

Rating: 8/10

The Book of Awesome, by Neil Pasricha

So I started reading this book waaaay back in January, and then got distracted by work and audiobooks and never managed to make it back to the book until I got that irksome little notice I get so often that says, “Hey, you. Yes, you. Stop hoarding library books. No, you can’t renew it. Yes, I want it back in three days. Get on that.”

I couldn’t rescue the other three books mentioned in the notice… sigh… but since I was quite close to finishing this I zoomed through it, sneaking the last bit during a slow time at work. Don’t tell my boss. 🙂

So. This here book is based on the website 1000 Awesome Things, which, in looking up that link, I discover is ready to become a second book, there are so many awesome things in the world. I can get behind that.

And that’s what the book is — it’s basically an annotated list of things that make life awesome, from old friends like finding money in your pocket and getting a snow day to things I hadn’t realized were awesome until I read them and thought, “Hey, that is awesome,” like that first scoop of peanut butter in the jar and the feeling of new socks fresh out of the package. Dude, awesome.

Some of the entries are really short, some go on a few pages, the entry on silence is, well, blank. It’s not really a sit-down-and-read-this-in-one-go book, though obviously you can, but more of a book to reach for when you need a reminder of awesomeness. And it is awesome.

Recommendation: Not for people who have a problem with the word “awesome,” which makes up probably 20% of the book’s words (possibly an exaggeration). Otherwise, for everyone!

Rating: 9/10
(A to Z Challenge)

Cake Wrecks, by Jen Yates

Haaaaaaave you read Cake Wrecks? No? Well, read this first, ’cause it’s short, and once you click on that link I can’t be held responsible for your lack of productivity over the next several hours/days/weeks.

The book version is perfect for my hypothetical coffee table (I should really get one of these) — it’s small, it’s mostly pictures, and it is hilarious. There are cakes on which the baker has written the customer’s instructions, like a white cake with (“Olympics Rings”) written in red. There are cake decorations that look like poos and cake decorations that look like phalluses (Chrome informs me that “phalluses” is not a word, but “phalli” just looks silly). There are misspellings, like “Heppy Bertty” and “I Lave You.” There are wedding cakes gone horribly, terribly wrong.

A few of the cakes in this book I’ve seen in my browsing of the web site, but the introduction informs me that there are never-before-seen cakes as well. Yay! There are also some funny cake stories, in case you start to forget how to read after looking at all the terrible cakes.

Okay. Go look at some wrecks now, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Rating: 8/10
(A to Z Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Things That Make Us [Sic], by Martha Brockenbrough (10 April — 11 April)

Did you enjoy Eats, Shoots & Leaves? You will probably enjoy this book. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read on.

Things That Make Us [Sic], besides having an awesome title, is a book about grammar and punctuation in the real world. Brockenbrough lays out the fundamental rules of grammar and punctuation in an easy-to-understand way and throws in a few references to Princess Bride and lesser pop culture, too. So if, say, you have no idea what a comma splice is or whether to insure or ensure, you can read this book and find out.

Brockenbrough starts each chapter with a letter to someone complaining about various grammar slights they have perpetrated. This is often amusing, especially when the Toronto Maple Leafs fight back (with what I consider a good argument). She also gives lots of lists of proper usage of various constructs and covers a lot of the big complaints (split infinitives and the like). What I like about her stance is that it’s both prescriptive and descriptive, which is as things should be. But, of course, “irregardless” has to go.

Also of course, if you’re nerdy enough to pick up this book, you probably don’t need it. There were a few times I found myself skimming her lists to find the jokes because I just didn’t want to think about all those words that other people use incorrectly. And, for a book on grammar that also makes fun of people for bad spelling, I found the mangled “Germam, Shepherds” (instead of “German Shepherds”) baffling. I’m sure the next edition will fix that.

Rating: 8/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

P.S. Brockenbrough has a blog which is, like the book, often entertaining.