August 24, 2015

Last Minute End-of-Summer Reading: Female Celebrity Memoirs

This post survived three incarnations.

First, I wanted to write a Top Ten list about the best songs for August. This turned out to be a terrible idea. Songs about the end of summer are endlessly sad and depressing. I would like to make an announcement to the music industry: We are already sad. We get it. You are not helping.

In a fit of rebellion, I thought I would fight the man and put together a Top Ten list of end-of-summer songs that are (1) not sad, (2) not stupid, and (3) happy and positive. This also turned out to be a terrible idea. "Why?" you ask. I came up with exactly one song. Oy vey.

(In case you're wondering, the one end-of-summer song I found before giving up was "We're Going to Be Friends" by The White Stripes from their album White Blood Cells. If you can think of others, please share them with me.)

I decided to abandon music and stick with my mother-tongue, literature. I also decided that Top Ten lists are too much pressure for the end of summer, too much like a homework assignment. Books for the last few weeks of summer should be light, entertaining, funny, and quick reads. Deep, profound, life-changing summer reads are essential as well, but better suited to early or mid-summer particularly if you're a non-reader. By now, we are all living in the land of denial and anything that uses our brain too much can wait until after Labor Day when we fully rejoin the land of working 9-to-5 Dolly Parton-style (more like 8-5, or 7-6:30, but you get the idea).

So, I present you with not a Top Ten list, but rather a clumping of titles (this way I am not limited to ranking favorites and if I run short or long, no one gets hurt). I picked a popular genre perfect for last minute end-of-summer reading and ran with it--the female celebrity memoir. Here they are, in sort-of order:

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I would love to write a full review about Amy's book down the road. It's foul-mouthed but really funny and is very likable just like Amy. She writes about discovering her love for attention as a child, her early start in comedy, her friendship with fellow comedians like Tina Fey, Seth Meyers, and the entire cast of Parks & Rec (a wonderfully positive TV show), her time on SNL, having her two children, coping with divorce, and about a hundred other things as well. She's humorous, encouraging, and optimistic, making this a great summer-time read.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Fey's book has been out for some time. As with Poehler's memoir, Tina's funny and a bit foul-mouthed (perhaps less so than Amy) and writes extensively about her teenage years and how they helped shape her path in her twenties and beyond. Often feeling as an outsider, Tina befriended other wallflowers and these relationships helped influence her sense of humor. She writes her admiration for comedy partner-in-crime Amy Poehler, her time on SNL, her hopes for her daughter (very funny), and her career on 30 Rock (another lovable TV series with a strong female lead).

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Kaling's a very well-liked comedian, giving voice to a side of comedy that has had to work harder for success. Though she hit it big with her role on The Office, Kaling writes about her Indian upbringing and her early years struggling to work in comedy as both a writer and an actor. The success of her first memoir and her TV series The Mindy Project has led to an additional forthcoming memoir to be published mid-September.

Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres (Read my full review here)
If you're looking for a light-hearted, positive, feel-good read, this is the one. Ellen doesn't delve very deep into her personal life in this nonfiction title, but she does offer numerous pearls of wisdom and humorous anecdotes. She wanders from chapter to chapter, making the book one that you can easily set aside during trips to the beach or pool, but snatch up again at a moment's notice without having lost your place.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
Star of HBO's GIRLS, Dunham's memoir is rough stuff. While I respect her ability to be very honest about her experience being raped, I only made it through a portion of the book due to its rawness. Critics have both lauded and condemned the memoir, making it a controversial but nevertheless very popular bestseller. If you like Dunham's TV series, I'd imagine you'd like the book. I checked it out because I was interested in hearing a woman's perspective on writing in Hollywood, and read select excerpts before setting it aside.

sTORI Telling by Tori Spelling
If you're looking for a completely superfluous book about celebrity life in Hollywood, here you go. One of Spelling's several mini-memoirs, in this volume she regales her time on Beverly Hills, 90210, her relationships, her difficulty relating to her mother, and her life as a celebrity mom. Fast and frivolous.

Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice by Maureen McCormick
I read McCormick's book in an afternoon probably five or six years ago shortly after it came out. It's much what you would expect--a child star's reflection on growing up in the spotlight, details of life behind-the-scenes on The Brady Bunch, how she coped (and didn't cope) with a failing career, and how she turned to sources outside of celebrity to find fulfillment.

If You Ask Me: And of Course You Won't by Betty White
OK, I haven't actually read this book yet but it's Betty White, people. Can you go wrong?

It's highly disturbing that out of all of these Hollywood female celebrity best-selling titles, all of the authors except one are white. We talked about this issue in the Introduction to Women's Studies course I taught this summer and the students felt it was a sad reflection of the industry. That being said, Mindy Kahling's second memoir, Why Not Me?, is coming out on September 15th (it's currently available for pre-order). There are also memoir and nonfiction titles available by Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, Robin Roberts, Fantasia Barrino, and others, some of which I've read and some I've not. I'll try to do my own part by reading more diversely the next time I indulge in this genre (likely summer 2016).


  1. Great list! I really enjoyed Amy Poehler's book (listened to it as an audiobook, which was completely delightful) and really liked it. There were several here that I haven't read so I'm looking forward to adding to my To-Read List. Another one that was surprisingly enjoyable to me was Rachel Dratch's Girl Walks Into a Bar. Perhaps because I felt I could relate a little too well to some of her experiences…
    Thanks for the booklists - keep 'em comin'! (And all the best in your new job - they'll love you!)

    1. Hi, Katy! I also listened to Yes Please as an audiobook--I love Amy's infectious cackle. I didn't know Rachel Dratch wrote a memoir so I'll be sure to add it to my to-read list. Thanks for the well wishes--I'm excited!