Funny, informative, and relatable nerdy – why the female comedy writer memoir is Emma Clifton’s favourite book niche
I mean, it would be remiss of me not to immediately declare that the first book I read in lockdown was The Luminaries. Yes *adjusts glasses* the Man-Booker prize winner. I guess you could call me a serious reader? Who can say. I’m very humble.
Now that I’ve established myself as a reader of taste and vigour, I can now dive right into my favourite genre of non-fiction books to read: Funny women memoirs. It’s scientifically proven that women are funnier than men but wow, they can also write! Here are my favourites that I re-read at least once a year, written by a bunch of self-described late bloomers who turned their nerdy misadventures into comedy gold.
We are Never Meeting In Real Life
by Samantha Irby
I lent my copy of this to a friend when she went on holiday, and then the person sitting next to her on the plane spilled an entire glass of red wine on it, which is exactly how I feel Samantha Irby would want her book to go out. She’s an American writer who somehow made the leap from being the receptionist at a veterinarian’s office to being a New York Times bestseller. Yes, she is that funny. This series of essays manages to be both sexually explicit and emotionally devastating, whether she’s discussing sprinkling her parents’ ashes or the first time she met her now wife and learned lesbian sex ‘on the job.’
You’ll Grow Out Of It
by Jessi Klein
I have bought five copies of this book, and yet only own one copy, because as soon as I get it, I immediately press it into the hands of whatever woman is next to me and tell them “This is my favourite book of all time, you have to read it.” Jessi Klein was the head writer for The Amy Schumer Show and writes for Big Mouth, and this book is a laugh-out-loud collection of essays. Jessi coins the term ‘Tom man’, which is when a ‘Tom boy’ grows up and views the trappings of womanhood with total disinterest (her spiel on Victoria’s Secret is a chef’s kiss on that flossy bullshit). The book also covers the difficult aspects of adult life – infertility, marriage, the IVF journey, why you should always get the epidural. You’ll Grow Out Of It is magnificent. If I could reach through this website and give you my remaining copy of it, I would. Like the scary girl from The Ring, but with a warm, book club vibe.
Why Not Me?
by Mindy Kaling
Mindy is the television writer behind the best episodes of The Office (US), The Mindy Project, and the new Netflix show Never Have I Ever. She has a breezy tone that somehow makes her extremely unrelatable situations feel commonplace – having to read the Emmy nominations for best comedy actress live on air, only to realise she hasn’t been nominated; or dating one of Barack Obama’s staff members. You know, classic 30-something conundrums. But even though her work situation is very unique, her musings on body image, entitlement versus confidence and grudging acceptance of the world’s worst friend role – being a bridesmaid – are pitch perfect.
by Tina Fey
Like most nerds, I love almost everything that Tina Fey has ever done. From her work on Saturday Night Live, to writing the cult hit Mean Girls, through to her truly insane show 30 Rock. So I expected to love this book, but I didn’t expect it would be such a manual to life. Honestly, she has business rules in this book that I have taken to heart throughout the last 10 years: Never hire someone you wouldn’t want to run into at work at 3am, don’t be afraid to cry at work because it scares the shit out of everyone, and the most important one of all, which she learned on Saturday Night Live; the show doesn’t go on because it’s ready, it goes on because it’s 11pm on a Saturday night. It’s a good lesson in doing your best work but also not getting in your own way by expecting anything in life to be perfect. I read it every couple of years and get something new out of it, every time. Also, remember her Sarah Palin impersonation? That’s in there too.
I Remember Nothing (and Other Reflections)
By Nora Ephron
Nora was the OG of personal essays that were wry, funny, sharply honest and also perfectly written. She was the scriptwriter for some of the best (horrid phrase) rom coms, including When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. This book is like sitting down with an older relative who is teaching you the meaning of life (butter, journalism, petty vengeance, long-term friends, New York City). At the end of the book is a List of Things I Won’t Miss, and a List of Things I Will Miss. When Nora died in 2012, it was revealed she had been living with terminal cancer for a long time, including when she wrote this book. But it doesn’t make it sad, it just makes it more real and more important.