[TV still from Insecure, 3 Arts Entertaiment and HBO]
The second season of Issa Rae’s incredible Insecure premiered last night on HBO and we’re so excited. To celebrate this masterful show’s return to television, we read Issa Rae’s 2015 memoir The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. And then we couldn’t stop reading. Here are all the showrunner-penned memoirs and non-fiction books we read this summer, colored with our expert opinions and graded so you know what to pick up and what to pass on.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
This book falls somewhere between a collection of essays and a memoir, with some chapters feeling incredibly successful and others falling flat. We were looking forward to this book the most, especially considering our deep love for Issa Rae’s HBO show. After a season of Insecure and all the interviews she’s done on our favorite podcasts (shout out to Another Round), we feel like we know Issa Rae’s voice. And this book didn’t deliver all that we hoped. We had to keep reminding ourselves that Issa wrote this book before Insecure was even picked up to series, so we’re looking at the Issa Rae of YouTube fame, not the Issa Rae of every HBO ad known to man. There’s some really delightful black girl joy in this memoir, detailed in various stages of awkward. Definitely worth picking up if you’re into Issa Rae’s origin story and her stream of conscious musings.
Our grade: B
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling’s second memoir Why Not Me? is a super quick read and one of the only books that keeps us laughing long after we’ve finished it. Whether you dropped off The Mindy Project somewhere around the time the series went to Hulu, you’ve been a diehard fan from the beginning, or you’ve never seen an episode, Why Not Me? is an absolute joy to read. Just be careful reading it in public. You may have to hide your giggles between the pages. Run to your local bookstore and pick it up immediately.
Our grade: A+
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
If you’re looking for a companion to Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s 2015 non-fiction book about dating in the digital age just isn’t for you. Don’t get us wrong—we’re big fans of the content of this book. Aziz Ansari teamed up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg to explore the challenges 20- and 30-somethings face in today’s dating landscape and compare the experiences to their parents’ and grandparents’ generation. But the writing is dry at best and clunky at worst. There’s nothing personal or funny about this book and even though every review we read warned us of this fact, we were still hoping to find joy within these pages. We expect a certain level of goofiness in Aziz Ansari’s work and this was a total curveball. And we could have been on board—if it was well written. If any of our readers are intrigued by online dating and want to learn more, we highly recommend Dataclysm by Christian Rudder, the founder of OK Cupid. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari? Not so much.
Our grade: C+
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
Unless you’ve been living in the Dark Ages, you probably come to this book with pretty strong opinions about Lena Dunham. We know we did. Girls has its place in the canon of television, but we can’t look at Lena Dunham’s work without staring privilege square in the face. In Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham’s frankness about sex and sexual assault fluctuated between refreshing and necessary. But the poor little rich girl act she adopted throughout the memoir was infuriating. It was difficult to stay on her side. And maybe that’s just because we have our own idea of who Lena Dunham is before we even allow her to tell her story. When a person is as public as Lena Dunham is from such a young age, she’s certain to say things that feel uncouth or offensive. And there are a few of those moments within this book. But when paired with Janet Mock’s recent interview with the writer/actor/showrunner, Not That Kind of Girl is solidly good. Not great, but definitely worth reading.
Our grade: B-
On our TBR!
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
We’re huge fans of Shondaland, so don’t you dare besmirch How to Get Away With Murder or The Catch – gloriously cheesy The Catch – within earshot of our offices. We’re very excited to give Year of Yes a try. It promises to be personal and touching and adventurous and everything we love about Shonda Rhimes’ television shows. And who knows – we might be saying “Yes!” a whole lot more too.