Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling’s publisher sent me a copy of the book out of the blue last week. I’m not entirely clear why, since it’s been out for a year or more now, and is readily available at your local Target (which is where I started reading it, taking up space in an aisle as I shot through the first few chapters). It’s not a new edition, not updated. I have no idea why they sent it, but I’m very glad they did because I really wanted to read it.
This little book is a set of essays and other bits, arranged in a nominally chronological order throughout her life, from childhood on up to adulthood and her career in Hollywood, with occasional random wanderings onto other topics that crop up along the way. She’s an excellent and very funny writer and I’ve been enjoying the book immensely. It’s a bit of a small book, though, so it might be a book to get from the library. I’m glad I own my copy, though. I am utterly charmed and would hate to have to give it back.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
When a book is so well-reviewed and famous that the back cover (and a good part of the front cover) is dedicated to listing all of the awards it has won, I probably don’t need to say a whole lot to sing its praises, do I? Well, I will anyway. The book is fantastic.
It’s the story of Sam Clay and Joe Kavalier. Sam Clay is a New York City kid trying to make some money and get some work writing and drawing comics, in the early days of World War II. Joe Kavalier is his cousin, a Jewish refugee, magician, and artist who has fled Europe (in the coffin of a Golem, no less). They meet, become close friends, and begin creating comic books, starting with a character that goes on to fame called The Escapist.
The book goes on a great deal from there. It’s the life and times of early pulp artists, and it’s remarkably accurate. This is a topic I’ve long been fond of anyway (the early history of pulp science fiction and comics is chaotic, brilliant reading) and Michael Chabon clearly knows his stuff. There’s shades of Will Eisner and Jerry Iger in the characters of Kavalier and Clay, but they aren’t a rip-off. They’re their own people, and they have their own lives. Also, somewhere in the middle, the book broke my heart completely and has spent the next several hundred pages breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces. It is such powerful storytelling, and I badly wish I hadn’t waited this long to discover Michael Chabon.
The Noodle Narratives by Frederick Errington, Tatsuro Fujikura, and Deborah Gewertz
Have you ever thought about instant noodles? I hadn’t, especially, but when I saw this book, I snapped it up instantly. It’s a brilliant, incredibly simple topic that’s exciting to explore. When were instant noodles – like every pack of ramen noodles you’ve ever bought – invented, and by whom, and how did they become such a huge international commodity? Did you know that instant noodle packets are so pervasive and useful, they are monitored by economists, because you can actually track the health of the economy based on the sale of instant noodles? Do you know what the first flavor of instant ramen noodles was? (it was chicken, because, the book informs me, the creator understood that no religions or cultures had taboos against eating chickens, which made it easier to spread).
The book goes on at length and is very well-written and is the sort of book you’ll be reading bits of knowledge out to people around you almost constantly. However, it is an academic text from the University of California, put together by anthropologists, and as such, it might be difficult if you aren’t used to reading academic-ish texts. Borrow a copy if you can, and if you can’t then risk it all and buy. It’s a terrific read and will make you the life of parties. (This may not be true.)
Verdict: Borrow. Or Buy! Whatever you want! Live your own life!
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