Monday, April 27, 2009

Exactly what I didn’t know I wanted . . .

What with no longer watching Bravo’s Real Housewives* franchise, doing a lot of fast forwarding through this season of Dancing with the Stars, getting Little Bit to bed at a reasonably early hour, continuing to clean my perpetually messy and disorganized house while listening to audiobooks, and completely finishing that old dissertation, ntb, I have found more time to read lately.

Aware that my Book Beat posts are sometimes boring, I try to think of creative ways to thematically group the books I would like to share with you all. At this point, I have enough groupings for one massive post on books or several "shorter" ones. Without further ado, I present the first grouping:

Books that combine personal experience, great anecdotes, relevant but non-boring research, humor, and plenty of fodder for discussion:

Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip--Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steven Dublanica aka The Waiter:
This book was a bargain audiobook ($4.95) that I purchased because I had seen the author make a brief appearance on Oprah and liked him. I was worried that the book would be all about waiters spitting in food and that it would bring back unpleasant memories of my days as a waitress at Friendly and then The Olive Garden (where, for the record, I never even considered spitting in someone's food). Though entitled Waiter Rant, The Waiter is more insightful and thoughtful than he is angry and ranting and more compassionate than cynical. Reading about how horrible some customers are will definitely make you want to be an even better diner and tipper. More than that though, this book will make you think about other topics: the social significance of restaurants and dining out, what constitutes meaningful work, workplace power struggles, and the public health implications of treating restaurant employees poorly (i.e., the fact that many work sick because they cannot afford to take a day off and can even be fired for missing a shift on a busy day). The fact that The Waiter is a former seminarian made things even more interesting to me. At the end, he offers tips for being a good customer, one of which is not to ask for extra lemons and sugar so that you can make your own lemonade. I cracked up when I heard that because that happened ALL THE TIME when I worked at the Olive Garden, and I used to marvel at the audacity of those customers.

Pregnant Pause: My Journey Through Obnoxious Questions, Baby Lust, Meddling Relatives, and Pre-Partum Depression by Carrie Friedman
Readers of this blog know how interested I am in trying to chronicle and negotiate the delights and challenges of parenthood. Because I am right in the thick of it right now—the poop in the tub, public meltdowns, imaginary friends, chicken nuggets, night feedings, stroller analysis, heart-melting surprises, messy surprises, sleep books, ear infections, and on and on—it is sometimes easy to forget that small children are not the center of everyone’s world. Friedman’s book is a humorous but also serious take on her own journey toward motherhood—is she ready, how will she know, and why won’t everyone just leave her alone about it in the meantime. For me, it was good to be reminded of how frightening, baffling, and sometimes obnoxious/obsessive that parenthood--especially of really young children--might appear to those who are still thinking about if and when they want to join the fray. Friedman is witty, edgy, and endearingly vulnerable as she describes her, to quote the title, "journey through obnoxious questions, baby lust, meddling relatives, and pre-partum depression." She is not quite sure she wants to press “play” at the end of Pregnant Pause (pretty sweet title, by the way) but I closed the book with a sense that if or when she does, she will be as ready as anyone can be.

Both Waiter Rant and Pregnant Pause would be good book club choices as they are accessible, engaging, and humorous while also lending themselves to discussions of "big" issues.

For now, writing a blog is enough for me, though someday I would like to write a book. I have absolutely no plans to write a novel and indeed cannot imagine a novel that would not be a thinly-veiled account of my life. Reading these books helped me to envision the kind of book that I could see myself writing: a book that combines personal experience, relevant but non-boring research, humor, and hopefully insight.** For now, I am happy living and enjoying my life and trying to have and learn from the kind of experiences others might want to read about, connect to, and laugh at, but when inspiration strikes, I will be ready.

*If you still watch, I’m not judging. I just had to cut myself off when I found myself feeling anxious and on edge during some episode, disgusted during others.

**a book like one previously reviewed on NTB: Helping Me, Help Myself by Beth Lisick, which I wish that I had written or thought of writing


CaraBee said...

Both of those sound like books that I would be interested in reading. (I just remembered that I am supposed to go to my first meeting of a book club next week and I haven't even begun the book. Oops) As a longtime waitress/bartender, I can say that it is a world unto itself. I had some really nasty customers and some really amazing ones, ditto for coworkers and bosses. I don't recall getting a lot of the handmade lemonade business, though.

Wait, small children aren't the center of the world?? Don't tell that to my daughter.

E... said...

This made me think of the time when I was at the mall one day and a bunch of older mall walkers were sitting at the tables outside Panera (there used to be one inside the mall). The only things on their table were multiple little free cups they put out for the water, a bunch of empty packets of sugar. They were squeezing lots of the free lemon slices into their cups. Struck me as mighty audacious.

Actchy said...

Dibs on an advanced copy of your first book, MEP.

LAP said...

You're missing some good drama on the Real Housewives this year. New girl Kelly = Psycho.

Also, go ahead and write that book. Sounds like my ticket to the Oprah show.

msh said...

glad to have some new mep recommendations.
and please write! i'll be waiting!

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