Reading Into It: Two Funny Books by Two Really Funny Authors

by Rachel on November 8, 2011

I have two books to share today from two of my favorite funny women!

First up: Mary Roach’s newest book:  Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.

So, Mary Roach is the author who got me really into reading non-fiction. I used to read a lot of fiction and historical fiction and then I picked up Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, intrigued by the cover and the title. I ended up buying it and loving it, and I realized how much fun non-fiction could be. I read all her other books (Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex) as well as tons of other non-fiction titles. But lately I’ve been wading back into the fiction pool; this book reminded me why I prefer non-fiction.

I still think Stiff is her best book, but Packing for Mars definitely comes in second. This book is all about NASA and the space program. I’ve been particularly interested in NASA lately since moving to Houston and visiting the Space Center over the summer, and this book was a delightful addition to everything I’ve learned about it. She takes on the stuff you really want to know about. Like, you know…pooping in zero gravity. That chapter….oh my gosh, I was reading it in the airport before I left for Chicago and I can only imagine the look on my face that my fellow travelers observed. It was so fascinating and disgusting and fascinating. What I really love about this book is that she cuts through the typical NASA PR and keeps it real. (I love when she shares transcripts of the astronauts in space swearing and talking about shit /how annoyed they are/how bad they smell.)

The book also covers topics like zero-gravity chambers, the first animals in space, and how they create astronaut food. These are the same things you could probably learn from NASA, but she makes it way more interesting because she’s so incredibly funny and entertaining and normal. I was laughing out loud through the entire thing, as I typically do with her books, but it’s also the kind of book you have to keep sharing facts from as you read it. I actually kind of wish I had gotten it as an audiobook; I think it would be perfect for my upcoming road trip with Eric to Wichita for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of patience.

Anyway, I loved this book and highly recommend it. It’s an awesome plane/travel read, so it would be a good one to pick up before the holidays!

Next I read Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). As expected, it was awesome. Do I even need to tell you that? No; you knew it would be. So rather than tell you what you already know, I just thought I’d share some of my favorite lines:

On why she can’t lose weight: “Ultimately, the main reasons why I will be chubby for life are (1) I have virtually no hobbies except dieting. I can’t speak any non-English languages, knit, ski, scrapbook, or cook. I have no pets. I don’t know how to do drugs. I lost my passport three years ago when I moved into my house and never got it renewed. Video games scare me because they all seem to simulate situations I’d hate to be in, like war or stealing cars. So if I ever lost weight, I would also lose my only hobby…”

On Frisbee: “A good  thing to know about me is that I’m terrible at Frisbee and I hate playing it so much. Catching it obviously (I mean, close your eyes. Can you seriously picture me catching a Frisbee? No! You can’t even picture it in your imagination)…”

On high school friends: “She went to the Cooper Union in Manhattan to pursue her love of set design and I went to Dartmouth to pursue my love of white people and North Face parkas.”

On her success: “There are basically two ways to get where I am: (1) learn a provocative dance and put it on YouTube; (2) convince your parents to move to Orlando and homeschool you until you get cast on a kids’ show, or do what I did, which is (3) stay in school and be a respectful and hardworking wallflower, and go to an accredited non-online university.”

“If I can give one bit of advice to any drama major, high school theater kid, or inmate who is reading this in a prison library with dreams of being cast in the prison play, it’s this: write your own part. It is the only way I’ve gotten anywhere. It’s much harder work, but sometimes you have to take destiny into your own hands. It forces you to think about what your strengths really are, and, once you find them, you can showcase them, and no one can stop you.”

On why she doesn’t talk about whether women are funny or not: “I just felt like by commenting on that in any real way, it would be tacit approval of it as a legitimate debate, which it isn’t. It would be the same as addressing the issue of ‘Should dogs and cats be able to care for our children? They’re in the house anyway.’”

I also found this audio clip of her reading the chapter “Elaborate Revenge Fantasies.” So…enjoy that!

I love her and I love this book. Seriously, I’ve been referencing it in conversation since I read it. “Oh! That reminds me of this really funny thing Mindy Kaling said in her book…”

And now that I’m done with these two books, I’ve decided, for inexplicable reasons (well, Amazon suggested it actually) to go back to fiction and drama and I’m currently reading The Dovekeepers.  I’m about 20 percent done with it right now and I’m not loving it, but I’ll write more about it once I’ve finished it.

But for now…any thoughts on Mary Roach and Mindy Kaling to share?

{ 18 comments }

1 Diane November 8, 2011 at 11:31 am

I’m so excited to read Mindy Kaling’s book! She’s such a huge inspiration for me. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
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2 Dori November 8, 2011 at 11:37 am

LOVE Mindy Kaling’s book! I’m almost done with it and I have been laughing loudly on the subway from it. She is amazing and I am now obsessed with her and want to see that Matt and Ben play! Can’t wait to listen to her reading the chapter, thanks for sharing!
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3 Rachel November 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I’ve been watching clips on YouTube! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE-N1lkdmFo

4 Dori November 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Cannot wait to get home and watch.

5 Alli November 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

I love love love how much Mindy gushes about her girlfriends – it made me stop and think how awesome mine are as well. And I just realized that a guy I went to high school with was at Dartmouth the same time she was…since they were both in the arts, I wonder if they knew each other? Must find out ASAP!

Another great lady-comic book I recently read was “My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me” by Hilary Winston – she’s a writer for Community and is definitely more snarky and bitter than Mindy (or Tina Fey) but her whole book was a cry-while-reading kind of thing for me.
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6 Rachel November 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Oooh thanks for sharing! I will check it out!

7 Lindsey November 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Not gonna lie…I was horribly disappointed in Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Reading it actually made me not like Tina Fey.
I’m excited to read Mandy Kaling’s book now. I need to have my faith in successful, intelligent, funny women in the entertainment industry restored after Bossypants. The passages you’ve selected lead me to believe there is legitimate advice and insight in this book.

One-click Amazon shopping, here I come.
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8 Alli November 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Just out of curiosity, what did you not like about Bossypants? I read it and was like, huh, glad I borrowed it from a friend and didn’t buy it because I’ll probably never pick it up again, but I’ve never actually heard somebody saying it made them dislike her!

9 Dori November 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Agree. I love Tina Fey. I idolize her. I’ve waited on a long line to meet her and I’ve left work to go watch her film 30 Rock. And I was disappointed by her book too. Mindy Kaling’s is much better.
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10 Robyn November 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I can’t wait to read “Packing for Mars”–Mary Roach is awesome! Definitely one of my favorites…

11 Alicia from Poise in Parma November 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I was so excited to see that my library had a copy of Packing for Mars after you tweeted me about it. I took it home where my husband picked it up and started reading it himself! I’m going to have to battle him to read it! Thanks again for the recommendation.
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12 [SMASH] November 8, 2011 at 6:06 pm

I’m reading Mindy Kaling’s book and am loving it! She’s very *real* with her writing, like she’s having a conversation with you. I like that. Love the BFF rules & rights chapter, especially about how she keeps her bestie’s feminine products at her house. I LLOLed when she called her friend a weirdo for using pads.

13 Liz @ iheartvegetables November 8, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Mary Roach is AWESOME. I love Non-fiction books. And she’s super entertaining.

I also love Oliver Sacks books!
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14 Phoebe November 9, 2011 at 12:39 am

I love Mary Roach! I’ve actually had the privilege of meeting her several times. After reading her first book and becoming a fan, I got to introduce her when she gave an author event for “Spook” at the bookstore I worked at. I subsequently saw her at a “Bonk” event as well. Unfortunately I was out of town and missed her on her “Packing for Mars” tour so I’m not four for four! I also enjoy the reviews she writes for the NYT Book Review from time to time.

I also somewhat prefer nonfiction to fiction, though I’ll read anything. I’m wondering if you’ve read “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin because it seems like something that you might enjoy.

15 Rachel November 9, 2011 at 10:10 am

I haven’t read it, but Leah recommended that to me too! Sounds like I need to check it out!

16 Rachel November 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I just recapped Mindy’s book too! http://www.guidetomenhattan.com/2011/11/girl-crush-mindy-kaling.html Linking to yours now so people know it’s not just me!

17 Julia H. @ The Petite Spiel November 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Glad to hear you liked Mindy Kaling’s book! I keep reading rave reviews about it, so I added it to my Christmas list (yes, my mom still asks me to send her a list of things I want for Christmas). I don’t usually read celebrity memoir-type books, but Mindy Kaling is too awesome of a human to pass up in this case.
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18 Parita November 9, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I really want to read Mindy Kaling’s book. I skimmed through it at Target the other day and loved what I saw. Her character on the Office always cracks me up and it looks like her book won’t disappoint either.
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