The saving grace of reading


By Emma Goodwin

I have many obsessions: Netflix, Diet Coke, music — the list continues. But the chief among them is Mindy Kaling.

I love everything about her. Her television show, late-night interviews, Twitter feed, words of wisdom about body image and everything else.

So, in 2011, when her book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” came out, I bought and read it within about a day. I reread it in the same time frame this past summer when I was looking for ways to kill time during slow waitressing shifts.

If you read my column a few weeks ago, you should know how highly I value reading. Leisurely reading is imperative for college kids, and yet, we rarely pick up a book for fun anymore.

But when books in the same vein as “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” come out, people flock to them and read them in seconds.

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    The latest examples are Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please,” and Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind of Girl.” Fans of Dunham and Poehler somehow carve out time for their autobiographies. They are the exception to the “no time to leisurely read” rule — simply because people are invested in the authors’ lives. Dunham’s book has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list in various categories since its release — people just can’t get enough.

    There are other examples, too. And not just autobiographies. Take, for example, B.J. Novak’s “One More Thing,” a collection of fiction akin to David Sedaris. James Franco has also penned fiction, as has my girl M. Kaling. The topic matters, but here, the author matters more.

    While the autobiographies seem to be the most anxiously awaited, fans and haters alike all seem interested in what these people can come up with. People we normally see acting on our televisions relaying stories other people have written for them are now relaying stories they themselves have written for us.

    These books have almost turned into the saving grace of leisurely reading. The book you read for fun when you haven’t picked up a book in ages.

    The autobiographies are like the People Magazine for those who would otherwise be featured in Rolling Stone. But they’re better than that. Mostly because these seem to be the types of celebrities that are down to earth and realize there is more to being famous than the David Bowie version of “Fame.”

    These are men and women who speak more about social issues than who they’re sleeping/fighting/making up with that week. Not that that’s a problem, but they draw different crowds and send different messages.

    The former is composed of these authors. People we look up to. People who will provide us with entertainment and life lessons. Plus, if their shows are entertaining, we think their books will be, too — and they are.

    Still, fans might not know a lot about these celebrities’ lives, especially in a way that does not concern salacious gossip or speculated rumors.

    The intrigue lies in the interesting stories we wouldn’t know without them telling us and what they have to teach us. They’re telling us first-hand accounts of how they got to where they are and how they deal with it at present. Something that we can actually learn from.

    There’s nothing “speculatory” about it.

    And if we spend our time wishing we were more like Amy Poehler, reading her book becomes a source of advice — an answer to WWAD (What Would Amy Do?).

    Their compartmentalized nature makes for easy reading if we want to pick it up for a bit and put it back down. But if we get stuck in it, like I found myself with “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns),” it tends to go fast enough that not too much time has been spent away from “homework.”

    All of these people — and books — are what I look up to. If I have to set down a magazine or my phone for a bit to finish these books, it’s worth it. I can close a book and artificially feel like Mindy Kaling is my best friend who has also taught me about life — and also about how to start working on a television show.

    Let’s hope that our favorite stars keep writing books that inspire us and books that we can obsess over. Whether works of fact or fiction, the person is what keeps us reading. If we’ll read about them, hopefully, it can serve as a springboard to reading about other things as well.

    Emma is a sophomore in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].