Mini Reviews: One More Thing, Tao of Pooh, & Yes Please

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One More Thing 
by B.J. Novak 

So clever, that’s what I kept thinking over and over again and I read this collection of short stories. I knew who Novak was and so I was curious about his book and the sense of humor behind it did not disappoint. The topics are wide, everything from a bit about Wikipedia Brown (as opposed to Encyclopedia Brown) and a rematch between the famous tortoise and the hare. 

Some of the stories work better than others, which is almost inevitably the case with collections like these. But I was surprised by the sheer number of ones that really cracked me up. 

The stories cover such a variety of subjects that there’s no chance for them to feel repetitive. There’s an invention gone wrong in Vegas, an ambulance driver who chases his dreams, stealing writers, the only way to get closure, dating a war lord, concerts in heaven, receiving constructive criticism, and even an update on where Elvis has been. Some of them feel more like an idea than a fleshed out story, but there’s enough meat there to carry the book. Some are just short little gems, other are more elaborate, funny, or poignant. 

BOTTOM LINE: The collection shows Novak’s skills as both a comedy writer and short story writer. I’d highly recommend for fans of David Sedaris.
The Tao of Pooh 
by Benjamin Hoff 

A look at philosophy and the spiritual side of things through the eyes of the simple, but surprisingly wise Winnie-the-Pooh. The playful structure has the author speak directly to Pooh as he attempts to explain what Taoism is. I loved that he continued to ask Pooh questions and ask him for songs, etc. as he worked on the book. The style worked well, removing all pretension. 

There's advice about how to avoid the frustration of life told through A.A. Milne’s Pooh stories. The author takes each tale and dissects it to present a life lesion. I understand the basic premise behind it, but the problem for me is at the end of the book the real message is: ignorance is bliss. 

It basically makes the argument that if you try to fill your head with knowledge and wisdom you're only wasting your time and making yourself unhappy. Instead, try to be like Pooh, who knows nothing and doesn't care. You'll find wisdom in the simplicity of just doing exactly whatever comes to you in that moment. While that may be true for some people, I think there's also a joy that comes from expanding knowledge and wisdom in your own life. 

BOTTOM LINE: The structure worked well, but it’s not something I’ll remember in a few years. Also, the message fell a bit flat for me. 

Yes Please 
by Amy Poehler 

This is one of those books that most people will already know if they want to read or not. It’s exactly what you would expect, funny stories and advice from Amy Poehler. I love her sense of humor. From her manic Hilary Clinton laugh on SNL to her Smart Girls videos on YouTube to Leslie Knope’s eternal optimism on Parks and Recreation to her perfect co-hosting abilities at the Golden Globes, I am just a fan. 

So it was fun for me to hear Amy Poehler talk about self-esteem, giving birth, growing up loving attention and later joining SNL. I loved the conversational, sweet tone she took. She’s proud of where she is, but she’s also honest about the hard work that it took to get there.  

BOTTOM LINE: I loved it. I’ve been a fan of Poehler’s for a long time and Parks and Rec is one of my favorite shows. You probably already know if you are going to read it, but if you are PLEASE read the audio version! It is so much better to hear her reading her own stories. There’s also some adlibbing and tons of fantastic guest readers (Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner, and Amy’s Parents)! 

“People are their most beautiful when they are laughing, crying, dancing, playing, telling the truth, and being chased in a fun way.”  

“I believe great people do things before they are ready.” 

“That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again: Good for her, not for me.”


annieb said...

I have to say that I read The Tao of Pooh a few years ago and thought it was perhaps the stupidest book I have ever read--and pretentious to boot. I couldn't even give it a 1 rating.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

LOL! I enjoyed The Tao of Pooh and even picked up a paper copy to read later (listened to it...loved the narration by Simon Vance). BUT, I don't remember the whole ignorance is bliss thing. Maybe my listening wasn't that great. ;)

Andi said...

I really have to try Novak's book. For some reason I'm imagining a collection that's vaguely Simon Rich'esque. We'll see!

Leslie @ This is the Refrain said...

I am so sad that I read Yes Please instead of listening to it! I might have to get the audio, just to experience it again.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Annieb - Ha, yeah I thought it was cute in theory, but the actually message was ridiculous.

Trish - I listened to it too. The narrator was wonderful! I think I probably liked it more than I would have in print just because of his voice.

Andi - I've never read anything by Rich, so I can't compare. I'll have to check him out!

Lu - I did that with Bossypants and I still haven't listened to it!

Adrian said...

I think it's coincidental you have the Tao of Pooh adjacent to Poehler's Yes Please since Parks and Rec seems a reinterpretation of the Tao of Pooh.

Jerry as Pooh, the overweight, bumbling fool who's found his purpose, his honey—his family and job—and thus, happiness. The rest of the Parks and Rec staff represent the struggle to discover their purpose, strive toward goals and, despite seeing themselves in contrast to Jerry, are actually attempting to move toward his state of being, toward fulfillment in their careers, relationships and life.

E.g. fearful aesthete Tom (Piglet), exuberant Andy (Tigger), private and wise Ron (Owl), clever, responsible, loyal, maternal Leslie (Rabbit), etc.