Reaching for new heights
Spring is finally here, which means it’s matriculation time! Filled with humor and advice, these three books will help grads face the future with confidence—or at least give them a good laugh as they step into the wide world.
Whether they’re stressed about starting college or anxious about impressing a new boss, grads who are fretting about the future will find a kindred spirit in Beth Evans, whose new book, I Really Didn’t Think This Through: Tales from My So-Called Adult Life, is chock-full of the clever comic doodles and enlightened observations that have earned her a substantial Instagram following. In this humorous, heartfelt volume, Evans shares stories about her personal challenges, from coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder to assuming “grown-up” responsibilities like balancing a bank account. Readers on the cusp of adulthood will discover that they’re not unique in feeling flummoxed by the future. “Basically, what I’m trying to say is that you’re okay,” Evans writes. “And sometimes just being okay is a great place to be.” This nifty little book provides the perfect blend of comedy and camaraderie.
In Failure Is an Option: An Attempted Memoir—a title that’s sure to grab your grad’s attention—H. Jon Benjamin, a comedian and the voice of the titular characters in the animated shows “Bob’s Burgers” and “Archer,” looks back at the mistakes that made him the man he is today. That’s right—in this quirky retrospective, Benjamin takes stock of past failures that seemed terrible in the moment but ultimately resulted in growth and progress.
Benjamin is up-front and funny as he recounts his unsuccessful launch of a kids’ late-night TV talk show (tentative title: “Midnight Pajama Jam”) and documents his parental shortcomings (bad idea: babysitting an infant in a video arcade). Yet failure “doesn’t mean the end of something,” Benjamin writes. “Often, it’s a springboard toward something better.” He delivers these and other words to live by with concision, wit and a stand-up’s sense of timing.
CONGRATS, WITH CAVEATS
It’s a dream team: Roz Chast, aka everybody’s favorite illustrator, and Carl Hiaasen, author of innumerable bestselling books, pair up for a one-of-a-kind commencement address in Assume the Worst: The Graduation Speech You’ll Never Hear. Hiaasen graduated from college in 1974, in an era besmirched by Watergate and the Vietnam War, and he doesn’t think the world has improved much since. To freshly minted grads, the chief piece of wisdom he imparts is “assume the worst.” Black humor abounds in this wry treatise, as Hiaasen refutes the “lame platitudes” usually included in commencement speeches (i.e. “try to find goodness in everyone you meet”). Chast’s genius cartoons provide extra laughs along the way. This is a book today’s grads will return to when commencement is nothing more than a dim memory.
This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.