Book-giving guide: Biographies.

‘Tis the season for giving gifts. And if you’re like me, books are second only to dancing stuffed frogs on your list of Completely Awesome Gifts.

Oh, Krampus.

Here are some biographies that I’ve read recently. Perhaps they will help in your gift-giving quests!

I Suck at Girls– Justin Halperin
Ol’ Justin wrote Sh*t My Dad Says, which is funny. I actually liked this book better. It’s about his quest for love – which, of course, his dad has a few choice words about.

This is just a funny book. Also, it taught me that it’s never a good idea to screw a waitress who’s willing to screw you – and anyone else – in the storage closet of the restaurant where you both work. Life lessons, friends.

Like a Lampshade In a Whorehouse: My Life In Comedy – Phyllis Diller
When Diller died, I thought of 2 things:
1. I used to babysit a little girl who always wanted to play house. I was to be the mom, and she was to be the cleaning lady – always. And she always wanted her name to be Phyllis.
2. Phyllis Diller is this icon of comedy and totally a badass, and I know next to nothing about her.
So, I laughed about #1 and remedied #2.

Diller wrote this autobiography after she’d retired from comedy in her 80s, so it offers a complete look at her career. And lemme tell you – she doesn’t hold back. Girlfriend names names. And the stories of her childhood and her marriages provide context for her comedy and why she did the professional things she did.

This book was a quick, entertaining read. I was fascinated by her personal life and how it fed her comedy but was also completely separate from it.

Then Again – Diane Keaton
I listened to this audiobook. And haaaated it.

I think it just didn’t translate well to the medium, as part of the text is Keaton’s mother’s journal, and part is her own musings. So, with an audiobook, it was really difficult to discern what was what.

My shrink loved this book and thought it was richly textured. I thought it could have been dishier. I mean, c’mon – your main relationships have been with Woody Allen and Al Pacino. Oh, and Warren Beatty. And you just kind of laugh them all off? She clearly wrote with the intent of not spilling anyone’s secrets.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) – Jenny Lawson
Perhaps you’ve heard of a little blog called The Bloggess. If not, you should run right out and read it and all of the archives. This memoir is by The Bloggess herself, and it’s honest and funny and very educational. I learned so much more about taxidermy than I ever thought possible. This is a fun book for anyone who likes social media, or laughing, or preserving dead animals, or laughing about preserving dead animals.

Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son – Anne Lamott and Sam Lamott
If you’ve ever even held a newborn, I trust you’ve read Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. It is amazing and authentic.

So, this book? Anne wrote with her son about the first year of her grandson’s life. Maybe it’s just where I am in my life, but … ick. Keep in mind that I read this book right about the time we found out we’re barren, so it’s yet another ill-timed book that definitely shouldn’t be in any “So, you just found out you’re barren” book club.

Anne just came off as so neurotic and like the mother-in-law from hell. I feel so bad typing this. But it was my gut reaction. She was authentic. But I was turned off by her authenticity. It was not a good fit for me at the time. But if you’re looking for a gift for a grandma-to-be, this might be OK.

Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass,Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office – Jen Lancaster
I am probably the last woman on Earth to read this book.

Jen was a somewhat snotty, $600-purse-carrying, fancy-car-driving VP who got laid off after 9/11. She and her husband went from fancy to brokety broke broke, and this is the tale of their fall and ultimate redemption.

Loved it. Reread parts of it. It made me laugh and also feel pretty OK about my decision to leave Corporate Behemoth.

As with so many things, if 1 is good, 5 is better, right? I worked my way through all of Lancaster’s memoirs. Bitter is the New Black remains my favorite. I have to admit that by her latest, Jeneration X: One Reluctant Adult’s Attempt to Unarrest Her Arrested Development; Or, Why It’s Never Too Late for Her Dumb Ass to Learn Why Froot Loops Are Not for Dinner, I got bored. There was no redemption. And I found that I disliked her more often than I liked her. I’m a fickle reader like that.

Autobiography of a Fat Bride: True Tales of a Pretend Adulthood – Laurie Notaro
Notaro is another memoirist who has entertained me with many books. “Fat Bride” isn’t her latest, but it’s the one I read most recently. Unlike Lancaster, I like all of Notaro’s books. However, I would be scared to eat food that came from her house. Her books just kind of make it sound like any vittles would be covered in cat hair. Considering the dog hair situation at my house, I do realize this is a pot / kettle situation.

If you have a moderately fucked-up bride-to-be on your gift list, get her this book. It will make her laugh and feel better about her daily mental breakdowns over stuff like napkins and envelopes. Also? I think all bride-to-bes qualify as “moderately fucked up.” See also: my entire blog from Aug. 2010 – April 2011.

What great biographies have you read lately? What should I add to my never-ending “to-read” list?

Disclaimer: When you purchase a book through my links, Amazon throws some spare change my way. This enables me to pay my library fines, stay out of library jail, and keep entertaining you with my hard-hitting literary criticism.

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