Sunday, May 17, 2009

Non-Chick-Lit Chicks

I hardly ever read non-fiction. I'm a lazy reader, I guess, and I read mostly for entertainment which, to me, means fiction. But three of my favorite authors are slowly making a non-fiction reader out of me. They are all women, but they do not write chick-lit. (Okay, Sedaris writes about entertaining from a chick's perspective, but there's lots of good stuff there for boy people, too. Really!)

Haven Kimmel has written some fiction, but I have only read her memoirs, A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off The Couch. If you have enjoyed any of my nostalgic looks back, chances are you will appreciate Haven Kimmel. With one traumatic exception in Zippy, the memories are hilarious, conveyed with colorful language and unflinching perspective. Several times, I had to just put the book down and laugh for five minutes. Couch is a sequel, focusing on the story of Zippy's mother. Her amazing transformation from timid, intimidated housewife to a woman who loses more than 100 lbs, learns to drive, and gains a college education, a career, and a sense of self-worth, is a joyous and thrilling tale.

I first heard Sarah Vowell on NPR, discussing her first book, The Party Cloudy Patriot. I developed an appreciation for history, especially American history, later in life and I feel like Sarah Vowell is my reward. This witty, enlightening collection of essays will give you a fresh appreciation for presidential libraries, Tom Cruise, Gettysburg, and the paradoxes of loving this crazy country of ours.

Even in the essays on pop culture, like "The New German Cinema" and "Tom Cruise Makes Me Nervous," Vowell, like David Sedaris, goes too far, cares too much and remains a very anxious and extremely funny citizen and shady patriot. -- Publishers Weekly
I listened to her second book, Assassination Vacation, on CD during a road trip, and almost had to pull over. Vowell visits sites relevant to the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, McKinley and Garfield. There is nothing like hearing a sharp, funny writer read their own words. (I have not yet read or listened to The Wordy Shipmates or Take the Cannoli.) Interesting note: Vowell's distinctive voice is heard as the teenage daughter, Violet, in the animated movie, The Incredibles.

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence
by Amy Sedaris actually offers lots of practical tips for entertaining, especially if you're a high-anxiety host. But you may be laughing too hard ("Assume guests will snoop. Plan ahead and fill your medicine cabinet with marbles.") to appreciate the common sense advice and tried-and-true recipes.
The actor, caterer, film star, comic, and sister of David Sedaris charms, seduces, entertains, instructs, amuses, and just plain invites readers into her somewhat eclectic life. Readers will revel in the more than 100 recipes with menus for dozens of occasions (or not)... -- Booklist
She has co-written a play and at least one other book; I may read them eventually, but this one is a screamer.

It's almost summer! Who has their reading list ready?

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Thank you for your insightful comments on a summer book list!! I am just starting "Finding OZ," the story about how Frank Baum wrote the book that has become best known for the movie that followed, "The Wizard of Oz." It was a 'stumble-upon' while brousing a bookstore in Boulder, CO and should make good reading along with your recommendations.