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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

November 22, 2020

  Are These Books Funny? Yes They  Are - And That's No Joke

A Wealth of Pigeons: A Cartoon Collection by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss. Yes, that Steve Martin. Turns out the multi-talented comedian and author had long wanted to try his hand at writing for cartoons. As he put it, "I've always looked upon cartooning as comedy's last frontier. I have done stand-up, sketches, movies, monologues, awards show introductions, sound bites, blurbs, talk show appearances, and tweets, but the idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me. I felt like, yeah, sometimes I'm funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny. You can understand that I was deeply suspicious of these people who are actually funny."

That desire to try something new has led to a welcome partnership between Martin, who shared caption and cartoon ideas, and the heralded New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss. The duo created this collection of humorous cartoons and comic strips that reflect their singular comedic minds. As an added bonus, the book includes amusing commentary about their collaboration throughout the project. Here are a couple of sample cartoons from the book - if you laugh at these, there are plenty more to be had.

"And what say you, Dermatitus?"
"Too crowded. Let's go." 
 

Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld? Since we're on the subject of humor, here's another book of laughs from a stand-up comedy veteran. Since his first performance at the legendary New York nightclub Catch a Rising Star as a 21-year-old college student in 1975, Seinfeld has written his own material and - more importantly for this book - saved everything. "Whenever I came up with a funny bit, whether it happened on a stage, in a conversation, or working it out on my preferred canvas, the big yellow legal pad, I kept it in one of those old school accordion folders," Seinfeld writes. "So I have everything I thought was worth saving from 45 years of hacking away at this for all I was worth."

So for this book, which is already a bestseller in independent bookstores, the comedian has gone through his folder and selected his favorite material to share with readers, organized decade by decade. It's of course a remarkable treasure trove of comic monologues, jokes, and observations. But for those interested, the book also provides a unique biography of a beloved comedian through his humor, underscoring how he thinks and how his material has evolved over the years. This is a book of words, not pictures, and at 480 pages not a volume to be read in one sitting. Think of it more as an encyclopedia of humor - a comic brain dump from a comedic master.

An Extraordinary Athlete Who's Also a Social Justice Champion 
 
 One Life by Megan Rapinoe. Soccer great Rapinoe, Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women's World Cup champion, writes about her life both on and off the field in this entertaining and inspirational memoir. Her exploits on the soccer field are well known to any sports fan, but her willingness and ability to use her fame to fight for social justice and gender equality greatly elevates her story. 
 
In One Life, Rapinoe looks back on both her victories and her failures, pulling back the curtain on events we know only from the headlines. Two examples: After the 2011 World Cup, discouraged by how few athletes were open about their sexuality, Rapinoe decided to come out publicly as gay and use her platform to advocate for marriage equality. Recognizing the power she had to bring attention to critical issues, in 2016 she took a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick to protest racial injustice and police brutality - the first high-profile white athlete to do so. 

Rapinoe makes clear the obligation we all have to speak up, and the impact each of us
A poser on the field, Rapinoe is anything but off it. 
can have on our communities. This is no mere jock living off her celebrity - Rapinoe is as committed to activism as she is to her athletic career. With One Life, she has delivered what Kirkus called "An inspiring memoir that will thrill soccer fans as well as social justice activists."  
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WHY THE COLUMN?
Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

My goal with this newsletter is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world.

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