Monday, July 18, 2011

Give Nonfiction a Try…Just for Laughs

Okay all you devoted fiction lovers, don’t stop reading yet!  I know that most of you just head for the fiction floor unless you need a cookbook, help with a hobby, a medical condition, a travel guide or some other instructional type material.  But there is so much more in the land of Dewey.  Sorry fellows, the titles I’ll chat about are pretty much for women but there’s a lot of wit and wisdom to go round.  So give them a try.

I’m pretty sure you’ve all heard of Lisa Scottoline but have you read Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog?  It’s hard to admit that I’ve never read her mysteries, but when this book of her columns adapted from The Philadelphia Inquirer entitled “Chick Wit” came through, I couldn’t resist.  Lisa’s topics are about women and everyday life and the list of characters include her mother (Mother Mary), her gay brother (Frank), her daughter (Francesca), a couple of best friends, her ex-husbands (Thing One & Thing Two) and her beloved pets.  From stories about dieting (carb rehab) to Spanx, be prepared to laugh!  & don’t be shocked to find me in the fiction S aisle because Lisa is bound to throw around some humor there too.  There’s a follow-up book of essays co-authored with her daughter, Francesca.  Not as funny (perhaps because the daughter isn’t as funny) but still a good read.

Next up is Nora Ephron of movie screenplay fame When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and Julie & Julia.  In her books of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing, she shares stories about her life’s work but mostly she tells about the ups and downs of aging.  The author speaks about dealing with menopause, empty nests, the maintenance involved with aging—hair dye, unwanted hair, exercise,  fading eyesight— divorce, etc.  It’s all done with candor and good humor.  Check out her chapter on “What I Wish I’d Known”  in …Bad About My Neck.  My particular favorite is: Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of 35 you will be nostalgic for at the age of 45.  Add a couple of decades and it’s even more nostalgic!

We are all familiar with the movie and television star, Betty White, and her resurgence in popularity during the last few years.  Her recent book, If You Ask Me, is a delightful mix of observations on multiple topics and stories from her decades’ long career.  She’ll tell you her secrets for staying young—enthusiasm for her two passions, acting and her love of animals.  The short essays also include anecdotes of other celebrities including her co-stars from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls and the current hit Hot in Cleveland.  Betty gives behind the scenes details describing her craft and is always told with great humor.  She tenderly reminisces about the love of her life, Allen Lunden, but cracks you up with her humor when speaking of her crush, Robert Redford.  Her stories and insights always show her character, her integrity, her gratefulness and her joy for life.  Included are numerous photos taken of Betty, her friends and loved ones throughout her life.

So if you’re looking for some “real life” summer laughs, give these titles a shot.

Other Recommended Titles:


  1. I love this blog as I too have enjoyed many humorous non-fiction books and memoirs. I also loved Nora Ephron's books and look forward to reading the Lisa Scottoline and Betty White books.
    I just finished reading Bossypants by Tina Fey. This is also a book for 'ladies only.' I laughed out loud from the introduction to the final page. Let me just say this, do not try to eat or drink anything while reading this book unless you are with someone who is really good with the Heimlich maneuver!
    Another hilarious memoir is Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. She has the amazing talent of making the most traumatic and painful experiences of her life laughable; you will certainly develop an appreciation of her ability to derive humor from so much pain. Anyone that can laugh at memory loss caused by electroconvulsive (shock) therapy deserves a Pulitzer!
    Thanks again for the book suggestions...I'll be checking them out!

  2. Anonymous, you made my day! Thank you for mentioning Bossypants. It's had such a long hold list that I haven't read that one yet. We're still on the same page because I too read Wishful Drinking--insightful & funny. I loved your funny comments about both thinks you should consider writing some funny stuff of your own! Have you or anyone else read the two Chelsea Handler books, Are You There Vodka & Chelsea, Chelsea Bang Bang? I've been told they're funny but I tend to stay away from anything that I think might be on the crass side. I've also had my eye on the new Dick Van Dyke book, My Lucky Life In/Out of Show Business.

  3. Lenee Bookhardt7/21/2011 10:27 PM

    I too have heard funny remarks about the Chelsea Handler books. Maybe someone who reads it can give us a quick commentary on it.

    I would love to read Tina Fey's book. I find her sense of humor on SNL and in the movies quite funny. It sounds like her book would be funny too.

    I enjoy reading non-fiction books, although lately, and I don't know why, it seems to deal a lot with overcoming adversity and traditionally, the obstacle is quite profound. I read the set of books that the library has on David Pelzer, beginning with a "A Child Called It". The abuse was beyond imaginable, so I look forward to reading something hopefully more light-hearted.

    I always wondered about the Tatum O'Neal book. Anyone read that book?

    And as always, thanks for the interesting posts!

  4. I'm going to add these books to my list, especially Nora Ephron's, as that seems to be where I am in life right now. Any other recommendations in dealing with the big "M" problems would be most appreciated! Books that make you laugh are worth their weight in gold!

  5. I agree that some of the memoirs can be dark although many are uplifting and insightful. But that's another blog! I need to peruse my brain for other funny titles I can share but in the meantime, check out some of our new books of comic strips. We have Peanuts, Garfield, Baby Blue and Calvin & Hobbes. I just randomly opened one of the C & H volumes and I was immediately laughing. Thanks for the conversation!

  6. Lenee Bookhardt7/26/2011 8:24 PM

    Great ideas about the comic strips. I get stuck on reading the same thing (something I enjoy), but variety is important too. :)

  7. James W. Harris7/29/2011 3:52 PM

    Regarding humorous memoirs:

    The Great American Hoax by Alan Abel (1966) is (as far as I know) completely true, and one of the funniest and most profound books I’ve ever read. In 1959, Abel – a notorious prankster -- created a phony organization with the ridiculous name of SINA: The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals. SINA’s stated aim was to clothe all naked animals, in the name of, what else, decency. His campaign to do so actually won many supporters and outraged many more, and made national news until – five years later – Time magazine finally exposed it as a hoax. Not only is this book hilarious, it is also profound. Just think about it: if the media and public would fall for this obvious nonsense, what else are we being duped about? Read this and you’ll not only get lots of laughs, you’ll learn a lot about the eternal gullibility of the human race.

  8. I hadn't thought about the comic strip books. I've found the books by Dr. John McCormack to be very entertaining. Each chapter ends another story, which for me makes it easier to put the book down to get some sleep, rather than staying up until I've devoured the whole thing.

  9. Mr. Harris, I've not read "Hoax" or any of those you've mentioned in the other blog categories but it's fun to do a little research on authors that are favorites of others so that I might recognize them in future conversations. I'm always amazed at the variety of reading going on and I always come to the same frustrating conclusion--so many books, so little time. Thank you for your comments.