Summer Reading: May

A couple months ago, I posted my summer reading list. As I predicted, I’ve already ditched a few, and I’ve also bingewatched Parks & Recreation in an embarrassingly short amount of time. This of course accounts for the lack of book blogging, but now that I’ve finished Parks and don’t have Leslie’s antics to distract me, I’ve decided to catch up on reviews.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

While it isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, Yes Please is certainly one of the funniest. Whether she’s going behind the scenes on SNL or writing acrostic poems with the letters in Tina Fey’s name, Amy Poehler knows how to keep the laughter coming. Her cast of characters can get overwhelming at times, but she balances the name-dropping with grade-A snark and packs a few punches on behalf of feminism along the way, so of course I was in heaven. If you haven’t watched Parks, though, you might want to skip the chapter titled “Let’s Build a Park.” Otherwise, you’ll find yourself reading a bunch of spoilers. 3.5/5 stars

Bossypants by Tina Fey
If you read Amy Poehler’s book, you have to read Tina Fey’s, too; they’re a package deal. The good news is, Bossypants is just as funny and insightful as Yes Please, and while the books overlap when it comes to topics such as SNL, women in comedy, and women in general, their perspectives differ enough to keep the pages turning. In fact, I enjoyed Tina’s book a little bit more than Amy’s. She’s smart and sharp and incredibly snarky, but beneath all the humor, she’s deadly serious in her arguments, be they in favor of feminism, civil rights, or the perils of impersonating Sarah Palin. 4/5 stars

 

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan

I started watching old gymnastics meets on Youtube the fall of junior year during a particularly nasty bout with insomnia. Though the insomnia left, my interest in gymnastics didn’t, and it didn’t take long for the addiction to kick in. Pretty soon I was watching every meet I could find, ranging from Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 in 1976 to the Magnificent Seven’s gold-medal win in 1996. In an attempt to supplement my knowledge, I started reading gymnastics biographies, and that’s how I found Joan Ryan’s 1995 exposé. Vowing to explore “the making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters,” she investigates everything from abusive coaches to eating disorders and reveals the ugly underbelly to America’s most beloved sports. Though the book is dated, making it hard to gauge its relevancy for today, its insights into the world of 1980s and 90s gymnastics are riveting. 5/5 stars

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett will be the first to tell you that she prefers fiction over nonfiction; she’s written six novels and only two full-length works of nonfiction, and even though she supported herself as a freelance writer for the better part of ten years, her fiction is what’s earned her fame. However, her 2013 memoir This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is as close to perfect as a book can get.
Though it’s a book of essays, it reads like a memoir, and the pieces are in constant dialogue with each other. Ann writes about opera, nuns, and a dying dog. She tries out for the Los Angeles Police Academy, learns to jump a 6-foot wall, and opens a bookstore that everyone assures her will fail. The essays cover everything from mourning to motor homes, but through them all, Patchett weaves a theme of commitment, showing readers what it’s like to devote one’s life to writing, to reading, to a spouse, a business, a gray-haired nun. It isn’t often that I finish a book and immediately begin it again, but that’s exactly what I did with Happy Marriage. Ann’s essays are just that good. 6/5 stars
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