I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend | by Martin Short

I Must Say

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short
(Harper, 2014, 336 pages)

Few people make me laugh as hard as Martin Short does. I love his physical comedy, his characters, and now I love his book. I Must Say – the title comes from the verbal tick of Short’s famous character Ed Grimley – includes stories from Short’s childhood growing up in Ontario, his time at SCTV and SNL, his movie career, and (my personal favorite) the creation of the character Jiminy Glick for the show Primetime Glick. For comedy fans, Short’s account of his early career doing theatre and SCTV in Toronto, where he worked with people like Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Andrea Martin, and Catherine O’Hara, is particularly interesting. He has much less to say about the one year that he spent at SNL, but what he does reveal shows just how much pressure can be on the cast of that show.

As funny and interesting as Short’s stories are, the book is as much about the difficulties and joys of his personal life as it is about his career. His oldest brother died in a car accident when Short was twelve, and both of his parents had died by the time he was twenty. Short’s love for his family is evident in the stories he tells about them, and he describes how facing the tragedy of untimely death has shaped how he lives his life. The later part of the book is largely a tribute to his late wife, Nancy Doleman. It is as heartfelt as it is funny.

The Passion of Christ | edited by Charles Williams

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The Passion of Christ edited by Charles Williams
(Oxford University Press, 1939, 83 pages)

This little book is a selection of readings from the passion narratives of the Gospels. Each reading is followed by commentary from various spiritual writers, including Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth, Julian of Norwich, and many others. Meant to be read during the season of Lent, the readings are broken up into seven chapters. This makes for convenient daily reading during the days of Holy Week. These readings were compiled by the poet, novelist, and lay theologian Charles Williams. Williams’ strange and paradoxical spiritual sensibility makes for some fascinating combinations of Gospel readings and commentary. The selections are well chosen, and they certainly bear out Williams’ sense that “the more time that is given to them the more vitality they seem to possess” (v). Aside from its purpose as edifying reading, the book also offers helpful insight into the sources of Williams’ own theological and spiritual writings.

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t)

If You Ask Me

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) by Betty White
(G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011, 258 pages)

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) by Betty White is a quick, fun, and a joy to read. White was 89 years young when she wrote this memoir in longhand. She does a fantastic job at touching on so many different aspects of her life. Each chapter is a light-hearted short story that tells about her working in show business, being married, and her absolute LOVE for animals, especially dogs. The chapters feature great pictures of her during different stages of her life.

She speaks highly of her peers and those she has worked with in the show business including the friendships that have been created along the way. She talks about her appearances on late shows and also the making of movies. She reveals the reasons for choosing to or for choosing not to accept the invitations to be in certain movies.

Her passion to make every day worth living is nothing short of inspiring. She is full of insight and inspirational anecdotes with humorous undertones.

I found this memoir to be a short, sweet, and wonderful story of who Betty White really is; entertaining, witty, intelligent, charming, and humble. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Betty White, and who doesn’t love Betty?

You can also check out reviews of this title from Julia and Ying!

This Is My Funniest 2: Leading Science Fiction Writers Present Their Funniest Stories Ever | edited by Mike Resnick

This Is My Funniest 2

This Is My Funniest 2: Leading Science Fiction Writers Present Their Funniest Stories Ever edited by Mike Resnick
(BenBella Books, 2007, 410 pages)

I wanted to read something light and this title caught my eye. It’s a collection of 29 short stories by writers of science fiction. Don’t be fooled by the title :) Only a couple of stories are funny. Some stories were good but not funny. A few stories were too dull for me to finish reading. I was expecting many laugh-out-loud moments. Ok, it’s not a total waste of time. One of the stories is not a story at all but it’s smart and super funny. It’s titled “How to Write a Scientific Paper” by Greg Benford. Benford is a physicist at the University of California Irvine who writes science fiction in his spare time. This story has the standard format of a scientific paper. Here’s the “Acknowledgements” part. Enjoy!

Another important ego-feeding ground. Thank the big names in your field, even if your sole contact with them was schlepping coffee at a conference three years ago. The list should be lavish, implying close connections with all the movers and shakers. Avoid mentioning dead people; they can do you no more good, and their rivals are still around. If space permits, include those who actually helped you.

The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope | by Austen Ivereigh

The Great Reformer

The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope
by Austen Ivereigh
(Henry Holt and Co., 2014, 445 pages)

I’ve been intrigued by Pope Francis since he was elected in 2013. Naturally, I had to read this book when it appeared on our New Book shelf. Author Austen Ivereigh is a historian and a religion scholar. He did a great job on giving the reader a detailed and fascinating account of the Pope’s life. Pope Francis (Jorge Bergoglio) was born to Italian immigrants in 1936 in Argentina. He studied at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina as a chemical engineering major before turning to philosophy and theology. I enjoyed learning about the environment he grow up in as a child. It’s interesting to read about the family and friends around him and events that happened during his youth. Helpful background information was also abundant on Pope Francis’ priesthood and the path that led him to be elected to the pope.

Though the book is heavy on history it’s not dull at all. Ivereigh’s engaging writing style and the interesting stories helped to make the content captivating. I’m glad Ivereigh spent a great deal of time explaining the history, politics, church and state in Argentina and South America. It took me a long time to finish it; that’s because I didn’t know anything about any of those topics. The book helped me to get a sense of who the Pope is, where he’s from, and what kind of pope he is today. Kudos to the author’s painstaking research and superior knowledge on the subject.

A Wedding in Provence | by Ellen Sussman

A Wedding in Provence

A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman
(Ballantine Books, 2014, 288 pages)

I’ve been looking for quicker, more light-hearted reads since I don’t have as much quality free time on my hands (having a baby really changes things). A Wedding in Provence sounded like it would fit into those parameters. While definitely a light, quick read I felt pretty meh about it the whole time. I wasn’t invested in the characters and felt like I was just reading to get through it.

Olivia and Brody have traveled to Provence to get married. Olivia’s best friend, Emily, has a small inn in the city and has offered it up for the big day. Both Olivia and Brody were married before and after heartbreak they managed to find one another. The wedding will be a small affair with both Olivia’s daughters in attendance, along with Brody’s mother, his best friend, and Emily and her husband.

As the wedding festivities begin the focus shifts to issues going on with the various members of this wedding party. Sussman touches on everything from infidelity to relationship and job dissatisfaction. It gets increasingly difficult for Olivia to stay upbeat as the wedding day looms closer. Can the love between her and Brody remind everyone of what’s important and why they’re all there?

If you want a light read that could perhaps best be classified as “chick lit” you might consider picking this up. In my opinion there are better options out there, though.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter | by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
(William Morrow, 2010, 274 pages)

Two children – one white, Larry Ott, and one black, Silas “32” Jones – become friends in the Deep South during a time when interracial mingling is not the norm. At a young age Larry, who is usually antisocial and always has his head in a book, befriends Silas. They spend time frolicking around the woods on the Ott farm. Larry’s father moved the family to Chabot, Mississippi and became a car mechanic after falling on tough luck up North. Larry lacked athletic and mechanical skills which caused his father to shy away from him. One day while with his father they offer a ride to a black woman and her son who were walking in the rain. The kids keep their friendship a secret. As they grow up they grow apart, especially when Silas becomes the popular football player “32”. Franklin’s story takes a twist when a high school sweetheart goes missing after going on a date with Larry. The missing girl is nowhere to be found, but without enough evidence the authorities cannot charge Larry.

Fast forward—Larry’s father is gone, his mother is in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s and he is a mechanic in his father’s garage. Another young woman has gone missing and the town folk believe it can be none other than Larry Ott. But someone shot Larry and he’s been hospitalized with serious injuries. Silas “32” is a local constable and is investigating the case and discovers that he and Larry have a surprising connection… The mystery unfolds and Silas reveals that all is not what it appears to be in the town of Chabot. Franklin tells a riveting tale that will keep you wanting more.

Summer House with Swimming Pool | by Herman Koch

Summer House with Swimming Pool

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
(Hogarth, 2014, 387 pages)

I had high hopes for this book after reading and enjoying Koch’s previous book, The Dinner. Unfortunately Summer House with Swimming Pool just didn’t deliver. None of the characters were appealing and the story line that could have been interesting if treated properly really just fell flat. Also, the main character had a similar temperament to the main character in The Dinner which had me questioning Koch’s literary skills. Either he simply enjoys writing this particular type of character or he’s basing them on himself (which matches the way he’s presented in his author picture…).

Marc Schlosser is being investigated after the assisted death of relatively famous actor. Marc had been this actor’s doctor, but some red flags started popping up at the hospital and now Marc is having to answer for them. This goes back to the summer of the previous year when Marc and his family were invited to the actor’s summer house. While in attendance something tragic happens which sets a number of things into motion and the reader is left trying to figure out who is responsible for the horrific occurrence as Marc tries to do the same.

If you’re a Koch fan you should still pick this up, but this wouldn’t make it on my list of titles to recommend. If you want to check out his writing I’d stick to The Dinner.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things | by Carolyn Mackler

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
(Candlewick Press, 2005, 244 pages)

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things first came across my radar because it always seems to be on the list of Banned/Challenged Books each year. I finally got around to it while on maternity leave.

Virginia is a sophomore who has always struggled with being the odd man out in her family. Both her older siblings had it together in high school, were thin, and attractive. Virginia, on the other hand, is decidedly overweight and doesn’t exactly run with the popular crowd. She has recently started hooking up with Froggy, a guy in her class, but it seems like it’s something he wants to keep low key and she just assumes that’s because of her size.

In addition to her body image struggle another central aspect of the book revolves around her relationships with her family members. When her brother is sent home from college Virginia finds herself rethinking who she is and how she wants to portray herself to the world. Maybe she can free herself from the negative thinking that has kept her down and embrace the Virginia she has never had the courage to show the world.

This young adult book was a quick read with a positive message for teens to be true to themselves.

Three Junes | by Julia Glass

Three Junes

Three Junes by Julia Glass
(Anchor Books, 2003, 353 pages)

Three Junes won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2002 and it first came to my attention when I ran across it in the SCC Library. My co-worker, Theresa, had nothing but good things to say about the book so I was eager to give it a read.

Set in June at three different points of time the book follows three different story lines that all tie in with the McLeod family. We start in Greece in the 1980s where Paul McLeod is vacationing after the death of his wife. He is still trying to find his footing as a widower and he spends time reflecting on his marriage.

The second June takes us to Scotland in the mid-90s and primarily features Paul’s oldest son, Fenno. Fenno left Scotland to pursue his academic career and now owns a bookstore in New York City. Fenno is a gay man who has been forced to witness the harsh realities of HIV/AIDS in his community and among his friends. One friend in particular, Malachy, has a real impact as he recruits Fenno to help him as he battles the disease. In connection with Malachy Fenno recalls his last visit to Scotland for his mother’s funeral when a number of other significant matters and conversations took place among his family.

The final June occurs a few years later. It still has us in the U.S., but it focuses on a young woman named Fern who is pregnant and has yet to tell the father. Fern is connected to both Fenno and his father, unbeknownst to her, drawing the book full circle.

If you’re a fan of family-focused literary fiction you’ll want to pick this book up.


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