By Mindy Kaling
Having finished The Checklist Manifesto on my beach vacation (taking a lot of grief from my friends for bringing such antithetic beach reading), I picked up Mindy Kaling’s memoire, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, at my friends’ house while waiting for my airplane back home, and it really would have been a much more suitable book for the beach. I really enjoy Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor in “The Office,” and I’m a little embarrassed that while I realize logically that as a successful writer, director and producer, she must be much smarter and more insightful than Kelly, she does such a good job of inhabiting that character that I keep sort of forgetting that she’s not Kelly. At least I’m not alone at this, because Kaling includes a whole list of ways she is similar and ways she is dissimilar to Kelly as a service to her readers. In all of our defense, she does actually have quite a few similarities, including the tone of the book.
My friends had warned me that it isn’t quite on the level of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and it isn’t, but I think I enjoyed it just as much, quite frankly. Bossypants is a much more traditional memoire, while Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is more of a collection of comedic bits strung in chronological order of her life. I perhaps would have liked a little bit more about her actual life stories, like her childhood in what sounds like a very well-to-do and predominantly white neighborhood in Massachusetts, the lasting friendships she made in college, and her breakthrough in New York and then LA. But, I wouldn’t have wanted to sacrifice the stand-up-comedy tone of the book, either. I do also love “listicles,” which are getting a bit of a backlash on the Internet nowadays, and there are several chapters that are structured as lists.
So, basically, this would have been a great book to read on the beach but was also a good book to read during the Olympics’ endless volleyball games, being then easy to put down for the gymnastics or diving.
Graphic design addendum: I think this book just has the prettiest cover ever. Like, lots of covers are elegant, striking, distinguished, mysterious, or garish, but I can’t think of another one that is just so straight-up pretty.