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Posts Tagged ‘Thurber Prize for American humor’

Q: What did one book say to the other?

A: I just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page!

Here at the The Book Jam we are seriously on the same page of laughing and literature since for the past few weeks both Lisas have been helping to coordinate Laughing Matters: A Celebration of Books and Humor, a series of events benefitting our stellar local library. We are proud and energized  to be a part of Laughing Matters because literature, laughing, and libraries are all high on the list of things that matter to us MOST.

In honor of this theme we’ve chosen to highlight some of our favorite, recently published laugh-out-loud books and some others that just make us feel better and smile. Many were discussed last night during a Laughing Matters event featuring one of the funniest people we know – local comedian Cindy Pierce (if you don’t know who she is yet, you will!). An amazing storyteller, college speaker, and educator for women – and men – on issues of sexuality, she had the crowd rolling as she delivered a “book report” of sorts riffing on some of her favorite humor titles  such as , How to Be a Woman, Bossypants and Sleepwalk with Me, all of which are reviewed below.

So, on today of all days: Go forth, read, laugh, frequent your local library, and VOTE!

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (2012) – First, Lisa Christie: I have not yet read WILD, but it is now on the top of my list due to this gem of a book.  This collection of essays of questions and answers from Ms. Strayed’s Dear Sugar internet advice column is lovely.  You will tear up, laugh, smile a lot and feel better knowing someone like this exists in the world.  Bonus – you might pick up some great advice for your own life (basically it all boils down to the words — to do better, you are going to have to try (p 146)).

And, Lisa Cadow chiming in at this point in the review to give a double plug for this wise, thoughtful, deep, moving, surprising, hopeful, and -yes- funny book. Who knew advice columnists could write like this? And these aren’t just your one paragraph “Dear Annie” responses to life’s difficult questions. These are roadmaps, gems of responses considered from every angle and reflected back with grace and beauty. This book took my breath away and then gave me enough back to laugh and cry. You will want to keep a copy of this book on your bedside table to help you navigate life a little better. ~Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011)- I usually avoid books by celebrities (one exception being listening to and enjoying Michael J. Fox read his first book – Lucky Man). So, it took awhile to read this one, and I am glad I finally did.  While enjoying her amazing humor and self-deprecating outline of her life to date, I irritated my poor husband by laughing out loud when he was trying to sleep.  Turn about is fair play however — I fell asleep with this book on my chest and woke to him having stolen it and waking me with his laughter.  This exchange among spouses offers conclusive proof females can be funny (a theme from the book) and that this book is good no matter what your gender.  Pick it up, read and laugh. ~ Lisa Christie

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran (2012). Don’t let the cover of this masterpiece put you off (I don’t know, for me I felt a little like I might be setting out to read the memoirs of Cruella Deville – not that that would be a bad thing but not necessarily what I was looking for). Every sentence in this book has exquisite insight and side-splitting humor to offer about subjects such as women’s shoes, Germaine Greer, strident feminism, motherhood, handbags, hair styles, pornography, surviving puberty, and making it through dating with your self-worth intact — in sum, how to be a woman. Except Moran, in addition to adding her raucous, offbeat sense of British humor to the whole affair, is also generously sharing with readers the story of her life, which certainly wasn’t a walk in Hyde Park. Growing up in a family of eight with a small income, an even smaller house, and struggling with issues of obesity, puberty  was challenging for Moran. She is a wise woman, though, as becomes clear through her deft telling of this story. She also has much to offer women as they reflect on their own journeys, and those of their daughters. You may not agree with everything she says but boy – I mean, girl! – does she have a lot to say and say it well she does.   One of my favorite humor books and memoirs of the 2012. ~Lisa Cadow

 Sleepwalk With Me by Mike Birbiglia (2010) –  Just out in paperback, this memoir chronicles what it takes for one man to become a successful stand up comedian (This American Life, Thurber Prize for American Humor). In Mr. Birbiglia’s case, his path to stardom includes unique make out sessions as a teen, parents he loves but does not understand, avoidance of drugs, and a tendency to sleepwalk which lands him in unusual spaces. Read this to remember (or discover) what growing up in the 80s and 90s really meant, and how to be funny in the midst of poverty and often while in pain. One other note, a neighboring teen found this insightful as he navigates his life’s choices as well. So, the appeal of this book is multi-generational. ~ Lisa Christie

And some more don’t miss humor writers:

Bill Bryson – Only Bill Bryson can make boy scouts being eaten by bears funny.  Some of our favorite titles are:  A Walk in the Woods – about walking the AT, and I’m a Stranger Here Myself – about being in the US after 20 years abroad. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Listening to ANYTHING by David Sedaris  – for example, Me Talk Pretty One Day, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Holidays on Ice. His delivery is impeccible, his voice is so individual, and at times, his material makes you stop breathing you are laughing so hard. ~ Lisa Christie

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Since we highlighted books for moms in 2011, we thought it only right to balance things out by recognizing good reads for dads. Posting the day after Father’s Day seemed like excellent timing.

Sadly, we couldn’t find an equivalent or, more importantly, an appropriate “Porn for Dads” title  to suggest on par with the Porn For New Moms book that inspired our Mother’s Day 2011 piece, so we decided instead to focus on books that consider parenting from the dad’s point of view.

File:Michael Landon Pa Ingalls Little House on the Prairie 1974.jpg

Before our search began in earnest, we took a little detour and our thoughts veered towards favorite father figures from young adult literature.We reminisced, of course, about “Pa” from the Little House on the Prairie series that marked our childhoods.  What wasn’t to like? He rode horses with bravado, played lullabies on the fiddle, could hunt and gather like no one’s business, fiercely loved his wife and kids and was darn handsome to boot (one look at Michael Landon in the TV series proves this to be true).
Gregory Peck also looms large for us in his portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.  Again, how can you go wrong with Atticus? He was a kind and wise  lawyer on the side of all that is right who allows his two children complete freedom and insights only when asked? Admittedly, he attracts danger at times, but that serves to make him an even more exciting Dad.

After this brief trip down memory lane, we  refocused and began looking for modern-day dads who write about and speak to the particular joys and challenges of millennial parenting. We realize that times are very different from when Pa was taming the frontier and that the noble Atticuses of the world raised their children over fifty years ago. So for this post we found fathers who are charting the journey now. Their accounts are fraught with occasional stumbles, honesty, and always humor. So here it is – a list of great gifts for your favorite dads or great reads for yourself about and by dads:

 Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (2009) – A collection of essays by a well-known and well-reviewed author, whose topics cover everything from the positive traits embedded in the loneliness of a suburban childhood, to questions from one’s children about one’s own use of drugs, to being raised by a single mom, to living with a complicated passionate wife, to being in Chicago with his young son when Obama won, to watching a daughter’s bat mitzvah.  But ultimately the essays, so very often simultaneously poignant and funny, are about the questions one encounters in trying to live a life.  Mr. Chabon’s answers and more importantly his questions, have me thinking, and also looking forward to reading his upcoming piece of fiction – Telegraph Avenue: A Novel (September 2012).  Read this if you are questioning things yourself – his insight and experiences might just propel you in an unknown direction. ~ J. Lisa Christie

Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son by Buzz Bissinger (2012). This is not just a book for dads but one for all parents.  “Father’s Day” is a moving, exceptionally well-written and extremely honest memoir about a cross-country road trip that Bissinger takes with his 26-year-old son, Zach. It is a book that, as he explains it, has been in the writing for many years, since his twin sons Gerry and Zach were born three minutes apart. This short three minutes made a big difference in each of their lives: Gerry went on to live a “normal” life filled with girls, college, and graduate school; Zach, who experienced oxygen deprivation was effected cognitively and has spent his life  in special programs and under the care of his parents. Traveling across America with his son Zach, Bissinger explores his journey as a father, his relationship with his own parents, and the complexities of his own adult journey.  Father’s Day is about the expectations of parenthood and, in the case of Bissinger, the reality of the experience of raising an extraordinary son. (Note: If the name Buzz Bissinger sounds familiar, he is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and also the author of Friday Night Lights).

Shortlisted – only because we haven’t quite finished it yet:

 Dan Gets a Minivan:Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad by Dan Zevin.  His 2002 book – The Day I turned Uncool:Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-up was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, and has been optioned by Adam Sandler for a movie.

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