Category Archives: 2021 EDIWTB Reading Challenge

A VERY PUNCHABLE FACE by Colin Jost

When books are marketed as being “hilarious” or “laugh out loud funny”, I often don’t find them funny. A major recent exception is Colin Jost’s memoir A Very Punchable Face, which is extremely funny. In A Very Punchable Face, Jost, the co-host of “Weekend Update” and one of the head writers for Saturday Night Live, writes about growing up on Staten Island, attending Harvard, trying to get a job in television and spending over a decade in the pressure cooker that is SNL.

Why I picked it up: Why not? Jost is very entertaining on the show, and A Very Punchable Face has been extremely well-reviewed.

It’s hard to find stuff these days that makes me laugh, given the state of affairs. But I swear I laughed out loud the whole time I listened to A Very Punchable Face. I’d be driving – anywhere, just to have an excuse to listen – and cracking up in my car. Jost is honest, sarcastic and self-deprecating, and he shares a lot of detail and behind-the-scenes information about his life in New York, his job, his family, and his various escapades over the years. He clearly loves comedy writing, and he works hard at it. I learned a lot about the process of writing standup and comedy sketches.

Some highlights: disastrous trips through Europe, an FAQ about SNL (he won’t spill on which host he has liked the least), random body ailments he has suffered, why hosting the Emmys sucked, and a serious chapter about his mom and 9/11. But really, the whole book is entertaining and well-written. The description of the Staten Island ferry alone is worth the price of admission.

I listened to A Very Punchable Face on audio, which I highly recommend. Jost has great timing and he’s just a funny guy. However, there are also a lot of photos throughout the book, and he refers to them frequently, so it’s helpful to have the print version as well.

A Very Punchable Face was the 4th book of 2021 and satisfied the Book With A Red Cover category of the 2021 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.

GOOD MORNING, MONSTER by Catherine Gildiner

Therapy books are hot right now (go figure!), and there is a trio of them in particular that have been making the rounds: Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb, Group by Christie Tate and Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner. I am interested in this niche and just tackled one of them: Good Morning, Monster. This memoir, about five of the toughest cases Dr. Gildiner worked on over her career, is a fascinating look at how she approached these patients with extremely traumatic backgrounds that caused serious long term, negative repercussions in their adult lives.

Why I picked it up: Good Morning, Monster was recommended to me by Katie Bassel, Senior Publicity Manager at St. Martin’s Press, and it was one of the hot books of fall 2020.

To prepare for her book, Gildiner, a Toronto-based author and psychologist, looked back on her career and chose five of the most challenging cases she had ever worked on: Laura, Peter, Danny, Alanna and Madeline. Each of these patients had had unspeakably difficult upbringings: abuse (emotional, physical and sexual), neglect, being forced into adult roles at very young ages. And now, as adults, they had all sorts of issues – inability to love, impotence, fear of abandonment, inability to grieve, irrational fear, on and on. Gildiner describes these five as heroes for what they were able to overcome through therapy, and she’s right.

Each section of the book focuses on one patient. Gildiner takes her readers through the process of getting to know the patient, learning about their families and their past, and then kicking off their therapy. Gildiner approaches each one like a puzzle, trying to uncover their secrets and understand how what happened to them when they were young led to the deep-seated problems they had as adults. She explains her strategy for treatment and how different principles of psychology apply in each individual case. She also admits to mistakes she made while treating these patients, owning up to her own fallibility and acknowledging the often fragile threads that bind therapist and client.

I really liked Good Morning, Monster. I was hooked from the very start, eager to learn about these patients and how Gildiner would approach helping them. There are some very sad and disturbing stories in the book, though. The evil that lurks in some people’s hearts truly knows no bounds. Alanna’s was perhaps the toughest to read, but really, they were all tough. If you don’t know a lot about psychotherapy, or if you’re skeptical of it, Gildiner does a good job of explaining how basic psychological principles applied to her patients’ individual cases and the roles they played in their treatment and recovery.

I listened to Good Morning, Monster on audio. It was narrated by Deborah Burgess, whose voice seemed to match perfectly how I pictured Gildiner in my mind (or was it the other way around?). Her performance was a good blend of clinical and empathetic – just right for this book. I had some long stretches in the car with this audiobook and found myself totally engrossed.

Good Morning Monster was book #1 of 2021. It satisfies the memoir category of the 2021 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.

2021 EDIWTB READING CHALLENGE

It’s finally time to introduce the 2021 EDIWTB Reading Challenge!

My goal with the Challenge is to help you expand your reading horizon a bit, make a dent in your TBR list and read your bookshelves, without making it all feel like a chore. This is supposed to be fun!

Here is the spreadsheet where you can keep track of your progress. If your name doesn’t already appear from former challenges, please add it to the list. When you complete a category, add the book title and author to your row on the spreadsheet. It’s fun to see what other people are reading!

Here are the 2021 categories! (Some of these are repeats from prior challenges.)

  1. A book with a red cover
  2. A book that’s been sitting on your shelf for 2+ years
  3. Pick a book any book – go up to your shelves, eyes closed, and pick the first unread book you touch. No do-overs!
  4. A genre you don’t usually read. Go outside your comfort zone!
  5. A book recommended by your best friend
  6. A memoir
  7. A non-fiction book on a topic you love
  8. A debut novel
  9. A historical fiction novel
  10. A book/movie pairing. Read a book, and then watch a movie or show based on that book.
  11. Celebrity book club pick. There are a lot of celebrity/influencer book clubs out there – pick one of the books chosen for one of them in 2021
  12. A book by an author you love

Thanks for joining the 2021 EDIWTB Reading Challenge! Please also join the 2021 EDWITB Reading Challenge Facebook Group, where we share book ideas and encourage each other as the year goes by.