You might think literary heavyweight Marcel Proust has nothing to say to you, but French author Alain de Botton wants you to experience How Proust Can Change Your Life. This book is a unique animal, blending wit, literary biography, and self-help to illustrate the power of reading and life experiences. The short chapters have pithy titles including “How to Be a Good Friend,” “How to Suffer Successfully,” and “How to Be Happy in Love.” The audiobook format best allows you to appreciate the humor, with narrator Nicholas Bell easily bringing out the lightness in the anecdotes and observations. Change your life with one of the books we are reading along with our friends in Sèvres, France.
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It takes a healthy sense of humor to bring the Olympics to town, and that’s exactly what is on display in the BBC series Twenty Twelve. Winner of Best Sitcom at the British Comedy Awards, the mockumentary format (à la The Office) mixes a faux-serious treatment with dry wit and satire. Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) leads the ensemble as the much put-upon Head of Deliverance responsible to organize the 2012 London Summer Olympics. His team must solve everything from traffic patterns to protesters to an unpredictable official countdown clock, all while keeping a positive spin for the watching world. Let the Games begin!
All action stories need minor characters who are somewhat expendable. When bad things happen to them, it makes the danger feel more real and raises the stakes for the heroes. In science fiction the label redshirts has become shorthand for these doomed roles, and John Scalzi has imagined a world where they refuse to play along with the script. Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas is both a hilarious adventure in space exploration and a playful tribute to the quirks of serial storytelling. Fans of the films Galaxy Quest and Stranger Than Fiction will find this an appealing mix of affectionate nitpicking and fun reinvention, especially as performed by veteran sci-fi actor and author Wil Wheaton.
How does the search for a missing cat turn into a warehouse explosion and a dead billionaire? Only in the world of Dirk Gently, an invention of Douglas Adams, can randomness and chaos actually back into solving cases. The anti-Sherlock Holmes, Gently eschews logic and deduction and instead holds tight to his faith in the interconnectedness of all things. Of course, this holistic approach comes at a price, a price that may include charging clients for a new refrigerator or a Bahamas vacation because, after all, that’s part of the process, too. New to DVD, the 2010 pilot and handful of 2012 episodes are just enough to endear the manic Dirk Gently and his put-upon partner to viewers ready for a madcap departure from the stereotypical British detective.
Canadian series Slings & Arrows is must-viewing for anyone with a weakness for theater. Each season showcases the staging of a Shakespeare play that finds its themes oddly paralleled in the current cast’s shenanigans. An entertaining blend of broad comedy and poignant life lessons played by a masterful cast.
If you think of Shakespeare as stuffy and staid, get ready to experience the drama in a whole new way. Christopher Moore, known for his irreverent humor and wacky plots, takes on the weighty King Lear in Fool. This time the king’s jester, Pocket, is the lead, and he tells a story full of bawdy adventure, murderous mayhem, and outright vulgarity that exposes the royal family as anything but regal. Traditionally, the fool’s role was both to entertain and to expose the truth. This clown goes much further, engineering a complicated scheme to start a war, save a girl, punish the stupid, and do it all with more raunchiness than Shakespeare himself might have imagined. Oh, and there’s a ghost. There’s always a ghost.
Penny Marshall, star of Laverne and Shirley, has lived by a few simple rules: “try hard, help your friends, don’t get too crazy, and have FUN.” My Mother Was Nuts, Marshall’s intimate memoir, talks with humor and heart about how she stumbled into acting and directing.
In a Vanity Fair essay, “Why Women Aren’t Funny”, Christopher Hitchens states that, though there are some exceptions, most women aren’t funny and, as a whole, the female sex is less humorous than the male. In her book, We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy, Yael Kohen fights Hitchens’ stance, stating, “Women have always been funny. It’s just that every success is called an exception and every failure an example of that rule.” We Killed is an oral history interviewing comedians, writers, producers, and club owners about women in comedy, and what they have to overcome to succeed.
Looking for an audiobook with laugh-out-loud humor, steamy romance, quirky suspense, and memorable supporting characters? If so, take a chance on Darynda Jones’ First Grave on the Right. Since she was a little girl, Charley Davidson has been talking to dead people. Now there are three murdered lawyers who won’t cross over, and it’s her responsibility to help them. She also has a very sexy someone visiting her lifelike dreams each night. What’s a woman to do? Lorelei King, the award-winning voice of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, plays to her strengths in narrating with the right blend of sarcasm, vulnerability, and fun.
Not everyone has the chance to meet and marry her soul mate, but Natalie does. She and Francois are ridiculously happy together and full of plans for the future — plans that are cut cruelly short when an accident takes him away. Heartbroken and barely functional, Natalie isolates herself until one day when she impulsively kisses a stunned coworker. The odd but charming courtship that follows is the subject of La Delicatesse by David Foenkinos, a runaway bestseller in France and the adult fiction selection for this year’s Book Crossing program. At heart, it’s a playful, offbeat story about the journeys of two unlikely souls and how we are sometimes given what we need instead of what we expect.
JOIN US to chat about Delicacy on Monday, October 1, at 7 pm, and also hear about similar books and movies you may enjoy. A screening of the film adaptation starring Audrey Tautou will be shown Tuesday, October 2, at 1 pm. Registration is required for each event.