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

This week started out disastrously. Well, to be fair, this week actually started out with a lovely three plus miler that was successful mainly because I was listening to Mindy Kaling read this book.  I had no time to complain, get bored, or check the time because she distracted me with stories that made her sound a lot less like Kelly Kapoor from The Office and a lot more like an awkward geek writer who also happens to be obsessed with comedy…and fashion. I kept laughing aloud during my run, which I think weirded people out marginally more because when I work out, I always look about two steps from  a heart attack. There’s nothing people want less than to have to help a chubby, sweating girl in cardiac arrest, unless it’s to help one also having some sort of psychotic break. But I wasn’t (having either a heart attack or breakdown) – I just couldn’t help but laugh when I heard some of my own embarrassing experiences happening to someone else.

It wasn’t until I was in the car driving home, trying to do that thing where I hover over the seat to avoid creating a sweat stain on the leather, when my mother called. “Do you know there’s something wrong with the blog?” She asked. Without a doubt, my mother is my number one fan, which is probably why she sounded like someone had run over the dog when she asked me this, and also why she noticed that she hadn’t received Monday’s post in her email yet. I obviously don’t follow myself (narcissism has to draw a line somewhere), so I don’t get any notification when posts appear, and since I had finished it late Sunday night, I probably wouldn’t have looked again until someone had commented. In short, my answer was no.

I pulled over, told her I’d have to call her back when I got home (and yes, my car does have hands-free calling, which is only relevant because someday I’ll go on a rant about people talking on cellphones while driving and I don’t want a bunch of people pointing to this entry and calling me out; furthermore, I only answered in this instance because I was on an empty back road and was high on endorphins – normally, I ignore the hell out of that thing, in or out of the car). I checked my email, saw no special notification and drove home in a sort of angry haze of panic. The rational part of my brain said “Shh –  everything will be fine,” while the hysterical computer-phobic wussy side was already weeping furiously. The drive home took less  than ten minutes, and when I got back, after confirming that the site had been shut down due to a breach in the Terms of Service agreement, I forced myself take a shower so I wouldn’t punch a hole through my monitor Hulk-style.

In retrospect, I think I was mostly upset for two reasons. One: nothing so effectively kills a hard-earned audiobook jogging buzz like a time-consuming and unexpected internet issue. Two: If you have read this blog for more than a few weeks, you probably have gathered that I’m an anxious person who hates confrontation and even a perceived breach of authority. I am a rule follower. I don’t cheat, steal…well, I do jaywalk, but I’m originally from Boston, so I consider that an excusable crime.

Basically, to have this site shut down without any written warning beforehand made me feel like a criminal. I was not told what I had done specifically to deserve the action, and although I deduced that it was related to posting Amazon affiliate links, I had carefully read the Terms of Service before I started posting them a few months ago and thought I was in the clear (if you’re curious, here’s why I believed that, from the ToS: “Amazon.com and other select affiliate links are permitted so long as they are not the primary content of the blog in question. Other exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis.”) For the record, I’ve made twelve cents since I started adding those. Do you know what you can buy with twelve cents? Like, three of those mini Tootsie rolls.

I’m not running a scam. I’m not pimping any particular authors, and I haven’t received compensation for these reviews. I just like giving my readers the opportunity to buy the books quickly and cheaply, and I thought it would be nice for the authors to get the occasional buy from my recommendations. It’s a hard business selling books, and if I can make a writer’s day a little better by spreading the word about a book I genuinely enjoyed, great! If not, that’s fine too (since, as previously mentioned, I get nothing either way).

Although the service rep I dealt with was very pleasant, and he told me what I needed to do to get the site back up quickly (remove the links from every post, which, for the record, cannot be done with anything but slow, tedious clicking), I was shocked and hurt that WordPress would think so poorly of one of its users as to refuse to give me the benefit of the doubt before throwing me into a frenzy, when what I really should have been doing on a Monday morning was working on writing I do get compensated for.

Now, I’m sure they use some sort of automated system to scan for ToS breaches. And I’m sure the company does have to enforce its rules with a draconian hand to keep a tight lid on scammers. I’m not asking them to change the rules, and if I misunderstood the Terms, it’s not a big deal to lose the links. It would have been nice to get an email though – preferably before, but really, even after the fact – so that I could take care of the situation as quickly as possible to avoid inconveniencing my readers. The bottom line is, it felt badly to be treated like I had intentionally or ignorantly trampled on the rules, when it was actually just a misunderstanding.

Fortunately for me, Kaling has had a lot of drama in her life, and as I listened to the rest of her book on Monday and Tuesday, I tried to allow the frustration to drain away. It’s not like it didn’t work out in the end, right? It’s not like it was even a serious situation to begin with; rather, it’s what my dad, in his newly retired zen-like state would call “an inconvenience.”

And on the plus side, I realized two valuable lessons from all of this. One, audiobooks are my new best friend when it comes to working out joyfully. Two, writing these reviews and hearing from people around the world who love books as much as I do has become hugely important to me. You, with your enthusiasm for the written word, keep me up late reading books on my blindingly bright (grumbles my husband) cell phone just so I have something interesting to write about. You have even proven to be the motivation I needed to jump into this new phase of listening to books while I’m on the move because I have to keep up with the insatiable desire we share to talk about the next surprisingly wonderful story. I’m lucky to have you all, and I’m really glad to still be here.

PS If you missed Monday’s post in all the kerfuffle, you can check it out here.

Mindy Kaling (nee Vera Chokalingam) can be found all over the web, but I personally enjoy following her on twitter @mindykaling

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program…

…to bring you a few more thoughts on the joys of writing. I didn’t have time to read much at since Monday because I’ve been working on revising last year’s novel from National Novel Writing Month. It’s a project that’s been nagging me since June (when I decided I had put it off long enough). Ha! Even people like me, who despise procrastination and fight it with every ounce of will stored in these anal retentive genes, find that certain tasks are…well, easy to ignore.

For me, editing is an easily ignored task. Do I know that it makes for a more polished (or in the case of this particular novel, more comprehensible) final product? Of course. Does that mean I want to sit down and get to it when I could be reading, reviewing, or writing for pay? Of course not. For me, editing falls only slightly above research on the Necessities of Writing checklist, and let me tell you, research is very far down the list.

This week, however, my paid project was on halt while my writing partner was in Pennsylvania leading a retreat, and for some reason, I could not settle down into any of the books I have waiting for me. I wandered around the house failing to vacuum, dust, or put away a single thing. I went on a few meandering, slow runs. I longed for grueling workouts at the gym just because they were a distraction from my complete lack of productivity. I called my dad twice; the first time, he was delighted – he second, he smelled a rat, and I had to admit I was killing time until my brain kicked into gear. He was not amused. Finally, after checking Twitter for the fortieth time in an hour, I couldn’t avoid it any longer…my novel wanted to be read, and it wanted to be read now.

It was, in a word, schlocky. You want two more? Try “hot mess.” Over the course of two and a half days, I cut about four thousand (of fifty) words, and if I were to go through it again, I’m sure plenty more could go. One of the tricks I inadvertently use during my November novel-writing frenzy is to write six sentences where one (or even none) would do. I don’t know how many times I found myself hesitating even when it was obvious a line had to go. “The phrasing,” I thought to myself, “the phrasing is so clever! How can I ever let this beautiful sentence be lost?” Then I would read it again, this time out loud, give into a fit of laughter (because honestly, I wrote the most maudlin adventure/love story imaginable) and cut the entire paragraph.

About six chapters in, however, I got a big surprise, sandwiched between awkward romance and leather breeches (yes, one of the characters wears breeches, and he wears them well). I realized I had absolutely no recollection of writing a whole section of the plot, and it…wasn’t terrible. As it turns out, I had actually forgotten about sixty percent of the story. When I got to the last page, my first thought was, what kind of idiot writer would leave the story mid-paragraph?! Cliff hangar much? I railed about this for an embarrassing minute before remembering that, in fact, I was that idiot writer, and I had probably ended it there because I hit the fifty thousand word mark and my laptop battery was dying.

What really struck me about that moment though, was that it meant, even in the midst of all that chopping and margin-scribbling, I had gotten swept up in the story to the point that I was genuinely curious about what happened next. Sure, the book was filled with over-wrought glances and hokey fantasy clichés, but I liked it enough to want more, and I don’t think anything is as thrilling to a writer as knowing that even one person wants more. Sure, that one person is me, but I count, right? I’ve read more than 100 books this year alone, and I would conservatively estimate 10,000 over the course of my lifetime, since as a child, I regularly read ten to twenty chapter books a week. I’m completely biased of course, but this pleasant reaction to my own work brings me to the point I really want to make.

If you write, and it intrigues even one person – you –  it is a worthwhile endeavor. I love talking about the wonderful stories other writers publish, but I also believe it’s  important to pause on occasion and remember that we all have the power to create something  worth sharing. We may not end up on the bestseller list, but that’s not essential in order to be a productive and joyful member of the literary community. What I find to be the most rewarding part is the opportunity to be surprised by the written word. It moves me when I write something that builds anticipation, earns a  laugh, encourages angst – even when I know it doesn’t compare to the emotional resonance achieved by my favorite authors. I love books, both my own and (even more) those written by others, for what they ask of me as a reader: they serve, as Kafka so eloquently says, as the ax for the frozen sea within us.

So go – write, read, edit, create – allow yourself to be at the mercy of the written word, and see where it takes you.

Beekeeping for Beginners, Laurie R King

After my successful experience with the audiobook Bossypants, I decided I should try out some more authors before I committed to downloading a few for the two fourteen hour flights I have in October. Since I had to go to San Diego last weekend anyway, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore my options. I called my mother (she used to write reviews for the magazine AudioFile and has been an avid listener for fifteen years at least) to get some advice, and although I couldn’t find all of the titles she recommended either at the library (why does the library make it so difficult to download audio books?!) or through iTunes, I did manage to pick a few, including a short story about Sherlock Holmes by King.

King has written quite a few of these stories, and the one recommended to me was more of a background piece than a stand-alone novel; however, the fortunate thing about Sherlock Holmes is that, given all the interpretations on the original character, it isn’t too difficult to pick up anywhere and follow along. The only real necessity is familiarity with the characters, and thanks to the recent fascination with Holmes on big screen and small, many people who have never read the original text have a solid background in that regard.

I have to admit that both the BBC’s brilliant version and the more comical Downey/Law interpretation have piqued my interest right along with the masses, and although I generally don’t have much interest in detective stories, I now find myself drawn into the stories of Sherlock Holmes’ compelling intellect. One of things I find especially interesting, and which is particularly relevant to my experience listening to Beekeeping for Beginners (which introduces a woman named Mary Russell as his apprentice, and apparently, a later love interest) is how differently Holmes is painted, not as a detective, but as a romantic character by different writers.

My own fascination with this part of his personality has only increased after the most recent depictions of Holmes lean hard on the idea that his relationship with Watson is more than friendship. Fans, especially of the BBC show, are intensely invested in these two men as a couple, and although I certainly see what they see (the tenderness exhibited by both Watson and Holmes, the love and protection and support provided by each at unexpected moments, the enjoyment in each other’s company over all others), I love even more the idea of Sherlock as a man uninterested in romantic attachments of any kind.

Perhaps it’s because I have a number of friends with little to no interest in finding a life partner that I find it almost offensive that we place desires in Holmes simply because, I believe, we want him to be a little more relatable.  People are marginalized in many ways because of who they want to love and how they want to love them, but it’s also true that we shun the idea that anyone might want a life without sexual attachments. This doesn’t mean such people don’t seek deep friendships or work just as hard to build community – it’s just that a part of them also chooses to remain separate.

My experiences working with children on the Autistic spectrum has given me continuous insight into the complexity of the ability to develop “typical” relationships. Please understand I’m not suggesting that people uninterested in romantic relationships are on that spectrum, but rather, that working with those children opened my mind to the huge number of possibilities outside of my own narrow band of experiences. When I read or watch stories about Sherlock Holmes, I often feel, as I did a bit in Beekeeping for Beginners, that we are trying to project a softness in him that simply doesn’t exist. The magic of the character is, for me at least, in his highly rational, unparalleled intellect. Those uncanny deductions that allow writers to create complex mysteries around him also keep Holmes apart from the rest of the world.

I finally went to Wikipedia to see if I could confirm any of my own impressions about the man, and here is what I found under “Relationships”:

Although Holmes appears to show initial interest in some female clients, Watson says he inevitably “manifested no further interest in the client when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his problems”. Holmes finds their youth, beauty, and energy (and the cases they bring him) invigorating, distinct from any romantic interest. These episodes show Holmes possesses a degree of charm; yet apart from the case of Irene Adler (“A Scandal in Bohemia”), there is no indication of a serious or long-term interest. Watson states that Holmes has an “aversion to women” but “a peculiarly ingratiating way with [them]”. Holmes states, “I am not a whole-souled admirer of womankind”; in fact, he finds “the motives of women… so inscrutable…. How can you build on such quicksand? Their most trivial actions may mean volumes;… their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin”.

Since the person fans most suspect Sherlock of being in love with is, in fact, Watson, this understanding of his relationships with women makes sense. If he is in love with another man, of course he wouldn’t pursue these characters (although King certainly believes that he could and would do so). Why though, does he have to be in love with Watson? Why can he not just be grateful (and a little off-balance) at the appearance of a devoted friend in his life?

I think it all comes back to our desire to relate more intimately with this brilliant and remote character. We do this with every book we read, with every experience we hear about – everything and everyone means more to us when we can find a connection to ourselves – but Holmes is meant to be an enigma. We are supposed to relate to Watson or to Mrs. Hudson, and through them, we experience the fascination and frustrations that come with caring about a person like Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes acts without warning, experiences deep depressions, uses drugs to alleviate his distress, and can be infuriating when on a case. He is truthful to a fault and has a brain that works at such an unpredictably deep level that for most people he encounters (and this includes us as readers), we will be put off, whether we intend to be or not. He is a difficult, brilliant man and even when he is voiced by the warm-throated Robert Ian MacKenzie, he is not the chap you meet up with at a pub. He is a deeply flawed super hero with the ability to protect us from horrors we might not ever see coming. We need men and women like that, but we don’t always need to make those people exactly like us.

Learn more about Laurie R King here.

The Children of Noisy Village, Astrid Lindgren

I suspect most people who have heard of Astrid Lindgren know her through reading her most popular character, Pippi Longstocking. I was never a Pippi fan myself, although I have nothing against the books; in fact, before looking at Lindgren’s Wikipedia page to ascertain she was Swedish (instead of Norwegian, as I had always thought), I hadn’t made the connection between one of my beloved children’s books, Christmas in Noisy Village and the author of the pig-tailed heroine.

To me, the only book Astrid Lindgren had ever written (or ever needed to have written) was the one my grandmother gave me when I went off to college. After years of begging her to let me bring it home so I could read it again and again, she finally gifted me her beat-up, stolen from a library (in front of my mother, she claimed it was from a library sale, but I’m not convinced), brown-paged, torn-up copy of Christmas in Noisy Village.

I just checked. I could have bought my own on Amazon for somewhere between a penny and 6.99. For some reason though, I always believed hers was the only one…and I don’t want you to think I only believed that as a child. Until I went to Powell’s Books last week (it was epic – don’t even get me started on how I could live in that place for a year), I figured we probably owned the only copy in the world. Why shouldn’t I think that? I had never seen another one in any library or bookstore I had visited. No one I spoke to had ever heard of it. It’s not exactly a Caldecott winner. I just figured that it was one of thousands of children’s books that gets published every year, and somehow, my grandmother had managed to hang onto a copy from 1964.

And to be fair, I didn’t actually see Christmas in Noisy Village on the shelves at Powell’s, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it were there. No, as I was walking back to our predetermined (due to a potential lack of cell phone coverage – because, seriously, that place is huge) meeting place, I stopped to rebalance my stack of books and happened to glance up at the end cap to see Staff Picks. Although I rarely buy books from a section like this one, I’m always curious to see how my tastes line up with people who work in bookshops; on a good day, I’ve read maybe half of the suggested  titles, but on average, I would say it’s more like a quarter.

So imagine my surprise when, amidst copies of Fifty Shades of Kindle Porn and Wheat Belly: How to Hate Your Life By Giving Up Your Favorite Foods (I’m just kidding – I think we can all agree that no self-respecting bookstore employee would admit to reading those, whether they have or not, and in fact, if you go to Powell’s Staff Picks, you can see just how great every single employee is at picking out books – it will blow your mind) I found a tiny volume that made me start to cry all over my precious book pile. Almost a year after my grandmother’s death, here was The Children of Noisy Village, a collection of stories about the seven children she had introduced me to all those years ago.

But why was it here?! How could this be a staff pick? It was just a little volume published in 1961 that had no right sharing space with the current crop of NYT’s bestsellers and hip indy books everyone pretended not to hate in high school. And yet there it was, with its familiar illustrations and the rhythmic writing that always called to mind my grandmother’s voice. I’ve already read it three times. I bought two copies, of course, although I’m holding my mother’s hostage for the moment. Every time I sit down with it, I’ve been reminded of my very favorite part of childhood – being read to – and I want to bottle that giddiness up.

My parents both read to us all the time when we were little, and my grandparents too. Both my brother and I were both reading fiends by the first grade because books were what my family did, what we loved. When my father couldn’t be home for dinner, my mother had novels that she read to us while we ate. When we moved to be closer to my dad’s job, and he made it home by six most nights, we started reading as a family after dinner instead. For Christmas most years, my mom would often write a story for one of us to be read aloud after all the other presents have been opened (and mostly forgotten). And from the time I was very young, bedtime reading was a given – a sacred part of the day that could not be compromised.

This was how I first heard Anne of Green Gables, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Princess and the Goblin.  It was where my love of picture books developed, I’m sure, because my parents were never as patient or relaxed as when we looking through a book together. Even when, for years on end, my favorite story was Miss Rumphius – well, let’s just say that I went back and read it a few years ago to see if my preschoolers might be interested, and all I could think was that my father deserves a medal for the number of times he read it without a trace of sarcasm.

Finding this new book with the ability to connect me so deeply to the books I read as a child and loved – it was something special. I still can’t imagine how it came to be on that shelf on just the day I happened by on my first and only visit to Portland, but I trust implicitly in the magical properties of bookstores. That book was meant to find me, so it did what it had to in order to make it happen. Enough said.

To learn more about Astrid Lindgren, check out the official site.

Does God Have a Big Toe, Marc Gellman

I’ve had this book on the shelf for about two years now, and I was actually almost entirely certain that I was never going to read it. I bought it after a particular moving sermon mentioned the title in passing (and for $4.00, why not, I thought…because you could have bought a Pumpkin Spice latte for that much, that’s why! said my caffeine addicted brain). So much time has passed that I have no idea what the context  was, or why exactly I decided I needed a book that basically translates important stories from the Old Testament (Marc Gellman is a rabbi) into bite sized stories for children.

Having read it, I admit that I still have no idea. The stories are sweet, if a little bland (it doesn’t hold a candle to the cartoon Bible I had when I was little…or at least I assume it doesn’t, since I mostly used that particular book to make a bunk bed for one of my barbies in the amazing house I constructed. I didn’t really get how to play with those dolls, but I loved to build junk for them). As I was reading them, I tried to decide if this was something I wanted to keep for my kids. Could I imagine myself reading this interpretation to them someday? Would it supplement what they learned in Sunday School or Youth group? They certainly were written to appeal to a very young audience (sort of the Frog and Toad of biblical translation), and I didn’t read anything objectionable in them.

I think what bothered me though, was how simplistic and one-sided they were. I don’t really remember how I learned what I know now about my own faith or others, but it certainly wasn’t from Sunday School – a waste of time where I’d goof off because I was the minister’s daughter and could – behavior I assume acted as a relief valve since I wouldn’t dream of misbehaving in what I considered “real school” Monday through Friday. I feel like church for children is mostly about coloring and learning to sit still; I had a friend in college whose parents would bribe her with lifesavers to get through a service, and I know for a fact her family was not the only one that employed such measure to keep the peace.

So then, how do we learn a code of conduct when we are very young if not with the help of a religious institution or books like these? I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my family, it was a combination of the examples set by my parents and what I learned from the books I loved the most. I’m obviously not talking about books like Gellar’s, although it was well-written with enough humor and doctrine to be a worthwhile read if this sort of thing works in your household. No, I’m talking about the books I read over and over when I was little, the ones that instilled values in me without my even noticing.

Mostly, the books I liked best were about independent children (usually without any parents, a staple of that genre) who were capable, mischievous, and ultimately brave and willing to sacrifice when it came to protecting friends, animals, or what was just. They were respectful and intelligent without being stuffy. They were everything that I strive for now as an adult, and they have been with me constantly as I’ve made my way through the treacheries of growing up.

Between reading those books and having the opportunity to watch my parents fight, again and again, for equal rights for all people, including those who might be incarcerated, marginalized, or excluded, I figured out how faith and day-to-day life can coexist. While I’m knowledgable to some extent about all five world religions and have spent time reading texts from each, I don’t believe that’s where I’ve grasped the really challenging concepts of my faith. The stories were important and interesting, but ultimately, a little flat. The really tough stuff, I had to live out.

Has it helped to have a strong background in one of those religions as guidance? Maybe. But I know plenty of people with no interest in religion who get along just fine, so I can’t say for sure that it matters. All I know is that books like this one, while well-intentioned, probably do more to make a parent feel better about doing his or her due diligence than they do making any real impression on the child.

Gellar did capture two moments that I particularly liked though, so I’ll leave you with them:

After a long while, God spoke to them saying “The tomato plant is dead.” Adam and Eve cried. They asked God, “Why did it have to die? Nothing dies here in the garden.” But God would not answer this question no matter how many times they asked.

So they became angry with God. They demanded that God let them out of the Garden of Eden so they could take care of the tomato plant . God said to them, “You can leave, but you can’t come back.”

Well, Adam and Eve got up and walked right out of the garden and right over  to the little tomato plant  that had drooped over and turned brown. Inside the garden nothing needed help, and even though outside the garden everything needed help, they were not sorry they could not return. (p24)

and

The man and the woman asked, “What’s a partner?” And God answered, “A partner is someone you work with on a big thing that neither of you can do alone. If you have a partner, it means that you can never give up, because your partner is depending on you. On the days you think I am not doing enough and on the days I think you are not doing enough, even on those days, we are still partners and we must not stop trying to finish the world….” (p 3)

For more about Marc Gellman, go here.

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection (2 of 2, finally), AJ Jacobs

So I finally got around to finishing this book, and I have to admit, the fact that my stomach was hurting and my legs were terribly cramped from a tough training session made reading it, if anything, even more excruciating than the last time (when I was also on the injured list – I’m terribly clumsy and have the immune system of a new-born thrust into an elementary school). It is just tough to read about someone undergoing such a concentrated effort to make every part of himself – from his hearing to his posture to his diet to his stress level (and so on) – and not feel like a complete failure at health!

Now, as far as this book goes, I don’t think he accomplished his goal (to be the healthiest man in the world) as successfully as he embodied the mission of his last book (to spend a year “living biblically”), but he certainly did his best. The problem lies more in the project itself, since it was essentially never-ending and impossible to keep up, than it does in his efforts to succeed. Jacobs went to see specialists about his hands, his sleep, the toxicity levels in his home…on and on, and it turns out, every doctor or expert considers his or her field the most important (and often overlooked) aspect of health. The lists of things he was trying to do every month to maintain optimum health were insane, and most likely damaging to both his emotional health and family life.

Now, I am definitely no expert in health. I love sloth and gluttony as much as the next guy (undoubtedly more than some), but even I was able to glean the truth from Jacobs’ experiences. The top two suggestions were the same as those we hear from our doctors at every visit – eat whole, healthy foods, and exercise every day. There is absolutely nothing flashy about that plan, but it works. If you want to go above and beyond this, you can improve your sleep, your mental outlook, and almost any body part (as long as you’re willing to commit to the specific exercises or therapies that will strengthen weak parts of the anatomy). If you want to go even further, well, I suggest your read this book first and get an idea of what that undertaking really looks like.

Good health is a wonderful gift, but many other things in life also deserve attention. Family, friends, career, hobbies, faith, service work  – each of these are commitments that require time and energy – and if you choose to devote your entire life only to optimizing your body, you’ll miss out. At least, that’s what Jacobs’ discovered, and I’m inclined to believe him. He spent two plus years pushing himself to every extreme, and in the end, moderation was the most successful solution for him. Sure, he spends more time walking and running, and his diet is largely plant-based now, but those are relatively easy changes for any of us to make if we want to. Also, honestly, it was interesting to watch him geek out over his health, if only because it meant I could take the easier road after learning from his example. And if there’s on thing I’ve learned from all this, it’s that easy is always right! (Is what nobody healthy said ever.)

Check out AJ Jacobs’ adventures for yourself here.

Bossypants, Tina Fey

So, I know I promised to finish posting about AJ Jacobs’ Drop Dead Healthy today, but I have a confession to make: I haven’t finished it. I thought this vacation was going to be filled with time to read (or at least filled with enough time to get through the last thirty percent of the book), but it wasn’t. Not at all. I think I had about ten minutes to read sometime last Friday, and after that, I didn’t pull out my Kindle once.

So how, you might ask, did I finish a whole different book while I was away? Well, folks, I’ll tell you. Bossypants was my first ever audiobook. I’ve heard bits and pieces of them over the years since my mother has been a faithful listener for about as long as the library has been stocking books on tape (CD…mp3s…), but I neither spend enough time in the car nor have strong enough auditory skills to have been tempted before this. In fact, I would say I have been strongly anti-audiobook, an oddity since I often complain about the fact that reading in a plane, train or automobile makes me horrifically queasy (and consequently, bored), but my love of the printed word is so strong that the audiobook felt like an almost tainted experience.

My husband has no such hang-ups. Although he’s also a newcomer to the world of audiobooks, the prospect of a 1600 mile road trip had him itching for something besides music and conversation to fill the long hours. I don’t blame him. We had two days of nine plus hours on the road (plus two days of six to seven hour drives), and after hour four or five, even we start to run out of things to say.

Enter Tina Fey. We are already diehard 30 Rock fans, and a good friend had recommended Fey’s memoir to me months ago. She had listened to it on her commute, and she said she found herself looking for excuses to drive around just to hear more. I was skeptical, but since the book is narrated by Fey herself, I figured it was a safe bet for us. One of the biggest additional bonuses from my perspective was that it had no plot to follow. I get bored easily when I don’t have any visual clues to keep me focused, and I was afraid that the combination of listening and driving would make it difficult for me to follow a more action oriented story, so Fey’s autobiographical short story-esque chapters seemed ideal. It was also only about seven hours long, so even if we got bored, we could get through it in one long day’s drive.

We didn’t get bored. I was only glad that we had switched driving duties by the time Fey began her chapter on beauty tips. I was laughing so hard that my head was stuck between my knees and I couldn’t stop crying. The tears were just pouring down my face. I’m sure I looked completely deranged, but I couldn’t contain myself. My husband helpfully pointed out that all the parts I found outrageously funny were the ones that described, almost in my own words, me.

Yes, it turns out, I’m about one-third Tina Fey…and I’m positive it’s not the third that’s the successful, well-respected comedian. No, no…

Once or twice a week I would set my alarm for six am so I could get up and plug in Hot Stix…I would study the curls in the mirror, impressed with both the appliance and my newfound ability to use it.

Then, without fail, at the last second before leaving for school, I would ask myself, “Am I supposed to brush it out or leave it?” Why could I never remember?! That feeling of “I’m pretty sure this next step is wrong, but I’m just gonna do it anyway” is part of the same set of instincts that makes me such a great cook. (pg unknown)

As I was relistening to this chapter to type out the quote, my husband, unprompted, popped his head out of the bathroom and said, “Hey! Isn’t that the part when we decided you’re sort of like Tina Fey?” Unfortunately, I couldn’t answer him because my head was back down on the table and I was laughing so hard I got the hiccups.

I loved this book. I loved listening to Tina Fey read it. I felt like I was reading/watching a play/listening to a television in another room and instead of bothering me, it was, well, delightful. I started getting grandiose ideas about listening to books while running much further than my usual three miles. I imagined the books I could review without having to put on my glasses or even get out of bed. Think of the sick days! The long hours in a cramped airplane seat that would simply fly by!

Maybe I’m getting carried away (but I have a fourteen hour non-stop flight to Australia next month that will be a solid test of my commitment). All I know is, libraries better start making it easier for me to download the audiobooks I want because my wallet cannot sustain a new book habit…certainly not one that makes it possible for me to read while doing all the things that used to get in the way of reading (cooking, cleaning, and errands, I’m looking at you)…

Tina Fey doesn’t have a website, but more information is available online.