#BookBingoNW2018: Memoir or biography — deep thoughts from funny people

If you’re looking for a lighter summer read but still want some substance,
check out these memoirs by comedians.

Lately I’ve been feeling a little too world-weary for anything heavy but a little too… existentially keyed up? for pure escapism. Luckily, the library has a great collection of memoirs that weave in issues of family dynamics, race, and gender along with the funny. Here’s a selection of thoughtful, clever, emotional, and yes, occasionally funny memoirs that have been giving me life. Add one of these recommendations to your bingo card, or add your own memoir recommendation in the comments.

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman
Nick Offerman is more than just his Ron character from Parks and Recreation, and he proves it in this delightful look back at a pretty decent childhood. Come for the nuanced discussion of manliness and stay for the compassionate analysis of the aspects of his childhood church experience that he appreciated (mainly the people) and the aspects that he has rejected (mainly treating the Bible as literal fact). Offerman even credits his signature deadpan style to the church, honed while attempting to make his cousins laugh without getting caught “monkeying around”. Most importantly, the audio book is read by the author himself, so you can experience the delight of his dry delivery first hand.

This is also the perfect time to hop in the holds queue for Offerman’s next book, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, written with his wickedly funny partner, Megan Mullally (due out in October 2018).

Manhood: How to Be a Better Man — Or Just Live with One by Terry Crews
Speaking of masculinity and learning how to be funny by goofing off in church, this memoir by Terry Crews covers a lot of similar bases as Offerman but comes from a very different starting point. The incredibly funny actor from Brooklyn Nine-Nine is also known for his modeling and sportsball work. By wading through memories of his rough childhood and learning some hard lessons from the women in his life, Crews is trying to break the cycle of abuse. I love the way he has publically owned the harm he has caused and how he has used that as a way to invite other men to confront their own emotional hang ups.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
A list of funny people with something to say would arguably be incomplete without including Tina Fey. Bossypants has been out for a while but is worth visiting (or revisiting). Lessons of strength she learned from her stoic (see also: emotionally distant) father and embarrassing coming-of-age stories—what more could you want from a memoir? Sifting through her awkward youth, Fey offers heaps of advice on how to raise an “achievement-oriented, obedient, drug-free, virgin adult.” This one kept me on the edge of uncomfortable the whole way through, but in a good way.

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6’4’’, African-American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-up Comedian by W. Kamau Bell
Wait, more awkward? I’m noticing a trend. You may recognize W. Kamau Bell from Totally Biased, a cancelled show that is only recently getting proper praise, or from his amazing podcast with comedian Hari Kondabolu, Politically Reactive. This memoir is all about managing conflicting identities and constantly learning from folks who are a little more woke than you are. And about appreciating your mama! Cutting up your kid’s clothes so he can pretend to be Hulk while watching his favorite TV show is some varsity-level parenting right there. Call your mom.

Thoughts from Iceland by Lonnie Mann
Let’s wrap up this list with a quick, delightful read. Though not technically a comedian, Lonnie Mann’s sweet travelogue did make me laugh out loud in public, so I’m counting it.

I mean, here’s an example of the goofy adorableness you’re signing up for with this memoir:

I devoured Thoughts from Iceland in an afternoon. I wish I could run away to Iceland with Lonnie Mann right now and just sit in coffee shops, eating snacks and chatting about all of the precarious Icelandic landscapes we’ve survived (and all of the cute baristas we’ve eyed).

Even Brian K. Vaughan (Saga, Runaways, etc.) recommends this one: “It made me feel as if I actually visited a place I’ve never been to, one I now want to ‘return’ to soon.”

Mann is currently working on a legit memoir about his years growing up (and coming out) in the Orthodox community in New York, so stay tuned.

Place a hold on Lonnie Mann’s “comic travelogue” or pick up a copy at one of our many  local bookstores that supports independent authors. Our city really has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to all things literary, and that is a hopeful thought to cling to when you’re feeling battle-weary.

For more ideas for books to meet your Summer Book Bingo challenge, follow our Shelf Talk #BookBingoNW2018 series or check the hashtag #BookBingoNW2018 on social media. Need a Book Bingo card? Print one out here or pick one up at your Library. Book bingo is presented in partnership with Seattle Arts & Lectures.

Posted by Brandi H. 

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