I'm a career book nerd—started as a library assistant in high school, went on to become a Borders retail kid, and now my current job involves working with older books. I like to consider myself a reader, but I've become extremely picky with the things I read. Especially humor, which is probably the most difficult thing to convey in written word. Like Shakespeare, humor is at its best when it's performed.
Then again, can you really enjoy a book about mental illness that is written without any humor? I have depression and anxiety, but I can still laugh at a good joke. And when the joke lands in print, that's the work of someone who understands themselves as well as their comedic voice.
I've found three memoirs-slash-personal essay collections that meet my unrealistically high standards for both humor and authenticity. They've made me laugh, cry, and forced me into epiphanies for underlying issues. If you're looking for a book club pick that will embrace your need for weird and honest, consider any of these.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
If you aren't aware of Hyperbole and a Half, you are probably new to the Internet. Although the blog is a barren wasteland now due to her up-and-coming writing career and her latest book coming out this summer, Hyperbole and a Half's print companion includes some of the blog's most popular posts as well as a few newer ones. Brosh's two-part "Adventures in Depression" is included in the print version, chronicling her perspective on what it's like to experience depression and explaining it in such a bizarre yet nuanced way, involving dead fish. It sounds weird, and it is, but there's never been a more appropriate analogy for what I undergo at low points. Another favorite is a chapter not seen on her blog entitled "Identity," which I won't spoil here. I actually want you to read these, guys.
Furiously Happy by Jenny “The Bloggess” Lawson
I'm a fan of The Bloggess, a blog run by fellow Texan lady Jenny Lawson. I would even say she inspired me to create a wishlist on Pinterest for taxidermy creatures of my own. (Napoleon Bonaparte mouse, you will be MINE someday.) Following her hilarious debut memoir, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Furiously Happy delves a little bit deeper into what it's like to have a slew of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and a host of others. She writes about deeply touching moments where she walks out into the snow or has a conversation with her husband about how hard life is. And then there's the part where she goes to Australia and is determined to hold a koala while wearing a koala costume. This is literary gold, friends.
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
My friend Sue recommended this book to me, saying that it hits points on mental illness as well as the fascinating life of actress and Internet entrepreneur, Felicia Day (The Guild, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Geek and Sundry). Now, I don't believe in "serendipity" or anything like that, but reading this book at the time that I did was a bit of a wake-up call. During her chapter regarding the start-up of Geek and Sundry, a YouTube network dedicated to geeks and... their... sundries (words good at, I am!), Day describes the amount of stress she put herself under and how it affected her not only mentally but also physically. Then I recalled another friend of mine who was undergoing a similar situation, and we both joked about how she had "stress cancer," because that's how you get through hard times. As I ended that chapter, I turned to my husband and said, "I think I have stress cancer like Felicia Day did." But he was asleep because apparently I had been hardcore reading this book until 12 a.m.
KC Ryan is currently a Level 5 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.