Not many books can boast the clever balance of humor, action, nostalgia, touches of romance, and overflowing wit that characterizes Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. One of the top books of 2011, the story of the ultimate online Easter egg hunt (with real world consequences) blends adventure and heart in a way that makes it unthinkable for you to stop playing. In an inspired bit of casting, Wil Wheaton voices the audiobook, and his reading is both strong and tinged with droll amusement. A noble quest wrapped in pop culture references, Ready Player One is the perfect escape. What are you waiting for? Engage!
Check It Out
When precocious teenager Susan (Shirley Temple) falls hard for a playboy artist (Cary Grant) who lectures at her school, it will take more than common sense to break the spell. Hoping to be his model, she sneaks into his apartment and is discovered there by her sister Margaret (Myrna Loy), the judge who recognizes the wisecracking gent as someone who appeared before her in court. Only in the movies would Susan’s family pressure Richard to “date” her until the phase passes, but the result is comic gold, especially when the judge herself isn’t completely immune to his charms. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is a sparkler of a screwball comedy that will put a shine in your eyes.
When the comparisons to Tina Fey’s Bossypants are so obvious that the author humorously addresses them in the introduction, you know you are in for a good time. The multi-talented Mindy Kaling, best known for her work on TV’s The Office, makes a bubbly debut as both author and narrator in Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns). Kaling mixes glimpses into her personal history with witty commentary on life in general. She is funny, insightful, and endearing, and listening to the audiobook will only increase the feeling that you are sitting down with a clever friend.
In the mood for sweet fun and a splash of romance? Take a chance on Shooting Fish, a light PG-rated British comedy released in 1997. Jez and Dylan have a particular talent for ingenious schemes, and the money they pocket goes toward providing a stately home for orphans. Since they themselves are the orphans, it might not be as altruistic as first appears. You won’t really mind, though, because it’s so much fun watching them concoct their elaborate cons. When they hire Georgie (Kate Beckinsale) to pose as a secretary, their long-established twosome makes room for a third. Smart writing, witty dialogue, and winning performances make enjoying this film as easy as…well, you know.
“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” If your ears itch for fast-paced, witty dialogue and a dash of romantic intrigue, you can do no better than the L.A. Theatre Works production of The Importance of Being Earnest. One of the most adored plays in the English language is brought to vivid life, complete with assumed names, mistaken lovers, and a misplaced handbag. James Marsters leads a cast of nimble voice actors in the story of Jack and Algernon, who both pretend to be named Ernest in order to enjoy double lives. Laugh out loud with the play that best showcases Oscar Wilde’s scathing humor.
From the moment you meet the delightful Tom and Gerri, you will immediately want to be their friend. Smart, affectionate, warm, and witty, they share a relationship that is marked by mutual respect and generosity. Others notice, too, which is why they’ve become a surrogate family for a misfit or two. They live out friendship in a way that demonstrates support and acceptance, even when the person(s) in question would exhaust anyone else. In Another Year, director Mike Leigh delivers an honest portrait of ordinary people who just want to be happy. Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, and Lesley Manville twinkle as their characters experience the comedy and drama of four memorable seasons.
Problem #1: You discover a headless corpse in your backyard. Problem #2: Calling the cops isn’t an option, because you make a living by growing marijuana. What do you do? If you are siblings Paul and Lacey Hansen, you draw on what you’ve learned from watching TV and dispose of the body yourself. Problem #3: A few days later, it’s back on your lawn. Uh oh. Heads You Lose, the latest from the hilarious Lisa Lutz, is more than just a comic crime caper. Alternating chapters are written by Lutz’s ex-boyfriend David Hayward, and the two authors have just as much fun criticizing each other as they do trying to keep up with the story itself. Odds are you’ll be laughing out loud.
From the creator of Amélie comes another step into the fanciful, big-hearted, and odd. Micmacs (2009) is the story of a video-store clerk who takes a stray bullet to the head. With no place to go, Bazil (Danny Boon) finds himself adopted by a motley crew of lovable eccentrics who live in a secret self-made junkyard treasure trove. When he decides to strike back at the city’s weapons manufacturers, his new friends offer their unique talents (including physical contortion and Rube Goldberg-like contraptions) to give the heartless profiteers their comeuppance. Written and directed by the imaginative Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Micmacs is a trip into the strange and wonderful.
Burt Hecker is much more comfortable in a time other than his own. A sixty-three-year-old medieval re-enactor in upstate New York, he dresses in a tunic and sometimes enjoys a little too much homemade mead. Hecker joins a group traveling to Germany to celebrate the 900th birthday of Saint Hildegard von Bingen, but his true purpose is to rescue his estranged son Tristan from the Bohemian city of Prague. Sound odd? Exactly! All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well by Tod Wodicka has outrageousness aplenty to satisfy a casual reader, but just as in life, tragedy and humor are often intertwined.
Wandering the streets of Brooklyn in his pajamas is not the way Drummond Clark intended to spend Christmas Eve, but sometimes he gets confused. When his son Charlie returns him home, the house explodes! Soon the two find themselves pursued by assassins on an adrenaline-fueled cross-country adventure, and Drummond displays survival skills not many other retired appliance salesmen can boast. Could it be that Charlie’s workaday dad was once a spy for the CIA? A former agent struggling with early-onset Alzheimer’s is a potential disaster, and both sides want him quiet. With short, action-packed chapters and tongue-in-cheek humor, Once a Spy by Keith Thomson is a popcorn movie in book form.