Audiobook: Yes, Please

by Amy Poehler
Read by the author.
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: Amy likes to swear. A lot, but not excessively, and generally not gratuitously. She is also pretty frank about sex and her drug use. I’m not going to say it’s not for teens — whom I know make up some of her fan base — but know that going in. It’s in the humor section at work.

I have made an executive decision: all celebrity bios are better in audiobook form. Period. That is all.

I really wasn’t that interested in reading this one; I’d paged through it a couple times when it came in back in October, and I figured: this was one for the True Fans. (Which I am not. I’m more like a Passing-by Fan.) But even I couldn’t resist the opportunity to listen to Amy Poehler read her book.

And, for the most part, it was a lot of fun. It’s a meandering book, wandering through memories, observations, Deep Thoughts, and Pithy Comments. That worked for me for a while, but wore me down by the end. Thankfully, the last chapter was recorded live, which helped end the book on a high note.

Perhaps it’s because she comes from an improv background, but I felt Poehler (and the audiobook) was at its best when she strayed from the script and just riffed. The two minutes she and Seth Meyer went off (which I’m assuming is not in the book, though I haven’t checked) were brilliant. She operated under the guise that she was recording the whole thing in her own personal home audio booth, and that there was a party going on in the background. She chatted for a bit with Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner, and Carol Burnett which just made me happy. And hearing her parents’ Boston accents (actually, I loved it when Poehler’s came out too) was charming.

It was all the little extra things that made this book enjoyable. But in the end, that wasn’t enough for me to truly love it.

Audiobook: Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

by Neil Patrick Harris
Read by the author.
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There are eight f-bombs (yes, I counted) and some frank (but not graphic) descriptions of his sexual experiences as he was trying to figure himself out. It’s in the adult biography section of the bookstore, but if you’ve got an interested teen, it’s a lot of fun and quite accessible.

I’m a sucker for celebrity bios. I really am. I love the peek into their lives and their histories, and I’ll devour their histories. I’m curious and a bit of a voyeur. (but not a stalker. Yet.)

So, I was probably going to read Neil Patrick Harris’s bio anyway. But when I got wind of the premise — it was going to be a choose your own adventure book! I LOVED those! — I knew I had to read it.

It comes in two formats: print and audio, and for this experience I chose audio. (Event though I ended up picking up the print book as well. Just to see.) And what an experience it is. On the one hand, I missed out on the whole “choose your own” part; it’s kind of hard to do that with audio. And one of the reasons I wanted to see what the print book was like. Instead of leaping through the book following one path (some of which include fake deaths by sand trap — somehow Joss Whedon was responsible for that one — or avalanche — Big Bird’s fault — or death by bowling ball) or another (where he/you end up overweight and working in a Schlotzsky’s), he reads it straight through. So, it gets a little difficult to tell which is Truth (so, I thought the bit about Katy Perry and the homophobe at the pre-Superbowl Party was fake until C informed me otherwise) and what was Fiction.

But the positives completely offset the negatives in this listening experience. For one: it’s NEIL PATRICK HARRIS narrating. And he’s brilliant. More than brilliant: phenomenal.  Voices (I LOVE his announcer voice) and clips (the best one is the audio of 13-year-old Neil doing a speech on optimism). And (in my favorite section) the vocal annotation of David Burtka in the chapter on how they met which just slayed me with adorableness.

I could go on and on raving about this one. I loved every moment I spent listening to it. The format (using second person instead of presenting it as “this is my life”) involved me, and on top of that NPH has a wonderful sense of humor and gratitude about his life. Maybe it’s not great literature, but it was a truly enjoyable book to read/listen to.

Audiobook: One More Thing

by B. J. Novak
read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: lots of language, both mild and strong. Most of it unnecessary, but I don’t think I expected anything less. Is in the adult fiction section of the bookstore, but I bet older teens would like it.

I picked this up because people at work were raving about it. Said it was hilarious. And I decided that I need some humor in my life. So, even though it’s by an actor I’ve never heard of (I didn’t watch The Office, though he was the “other guy” — the one that I didn’t recognize – in Saving Mr. Banks), I figured why not give it a try.

It says it’s “stories and more stories” but I think it’s more “jokes, observations, and a couple of stories.” There were 64 in the book, and sometimes that felt derivative. Not that I minded: some of the shortest stories were some of the funniest ones. Novak is a great narrator, by the way, and he got a whole bunch of other celebrities to help him out, though he used Rainn Wilson and Mindy Kahling the most

My favorite of the whole book was “The Something by John Grisham,” where John Grisham’s newest novel gets published with his place-saving title instead of a “real” one. I was guffawing at the idea that Grisham’s novel would not only get published with such a bad title, but get rave reviews. Just because he’s John Grisham. (I suppose there’s a poignant commentary there on publishing and fame, but I was laughing too hard to find it.) I did like “No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg”, which is an imagining of what Heaven will be like, and how, maybe, we won’t want to spend time with people we didn’t know well in life, even if they are family. Some of them — like the “Comedy Central Roast of Nelson Mandela — made me uncomfortable, and I thought Novak’s humor was more mean than observant. But, for the most part, like in Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Bicycle” — a spoof on Encyclopedia Brown — or “Bingo” — where three cousins are vying to win Bingo at a resort, only to lose to their grandpa — or “Closure” — where a girl whose boyfriend has broken up with him gets absolute closure I was highly amused. And the discussion questions at the end of a couple stories, as well as the end of the book, I thought were a nice touch.

It’s like David Sedaris without the sardonic undertones.

I’m not sure I would have liked this as much if I hadn’t have listened to it. (Much like me and David Sedaris, come to think of it.) There’s something about hearing jokes, as opposed to reading them, that makes the humor work better for me. It’s not a deep book, or one that’s going to stay with me for a long time. But it was amusing, and it did make the drive back and forth to work enjoyable.