(Audio)Book Talk: *Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?* by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Mindy Kaling (Facebook) (Twitter) (Tumblr)
Crown Archetype (2011), Hardcover (ISBN 0307886263 / 9780307886262)
(audio edition ISBN 9780307939807)
Nonfiction/essays/memoir, 240 pages
Source: Purchased audiobook (Audible.com)
Reason for reading: Personal

Book description, from the publisher’s website: Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

Comments: If not for Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I’m not sure I’d have given much thought to reading Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and I certainly wouldn’t have considered getting it as an audiobook. But celebrities–especially those known for comedy–reading their own work have provided some of my best audiobook experiences so far, so I went for it. It was a good call. That’s mostly thanks to Mindy Kaling, but I also have to thank Tina Fey for influencing the decision.

I’ve drifted away from regular viewing of The Office during the last couple of years, but even when it was Must See TV for me, Kaling’s character Kelly Kapoor was never one of my favorite parts of the show; I usually found her a bit irritating, to be honest. However, I knew Kaling was also a writer and producer on the series, which was one reason I didn’t roll my eyes and cringe when I heard she had a book coming out. Fortunately for us all, knowing Kelly is not the same as knowing Mindy.

Aside from the Thursday-night NBC-comedy connection, there are other common factors that will lead people to compare Kaling’s and Fey’s books. Both are more in the personal-essays vein than outright memoir; while they follow an autobiographical outline, both women make a lot of topical detours and digressions. As a single, childless woman who’s succeeded relatively young in a very tough business, Kaling’s digressions tend to be into more personal subjects like food, shopping, and guys. In addition, many of her observations and references are very current; in another couple of years, they will make it obvious that the book was written in the early 2010’s (twenty-teens?), but right now, they’re spot-on. (Given that books like this don’t generally have a long shelf life–pun not intended!–that’s probably not a problem, though.)

As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of Kaling’s character on The Office…but I came away from this book quite impressed with Kaling herself, and I’d now say I’m a fan of hers. For one thing, It’s hard not to be amused by the fact that her first big career success was an award-winning Off-Broadway play she co-wrote with her best friend, Brenda Withers, called Matt and Ben, in which they played best friends Matt Damon (Brenda) and Ben Affleck (Mindy). She’s justifiably proud of her Ivy League education, but comes across as an interesting mix of flighty and grounded. She’s quick-witted, open, strikingly good-natured, and regardless of her consuming (pun very intended) interest in shopping and fashion, deep down, she’s not shallow. And speaking of fashion: there is something deeply off-kilter in a world where a woman who looks like Mindy Kaling is considered “chubby.”

Another point of comparison between Kaling’s and Fey’s books is that, in the audio edition, Kaling also addresses the listener directly and makes reference to differences between the audio and print versions of the book. I’ve come to appreciate audiobooks that offer a little more than simply reading aloud, and I’m glad I decided to “read” Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? this way. I think the only potential drawback to it is that the book is made up of short pieces, and in audio, the transitions aren’t always clear. Despite that, I really enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s company for a few days during my commute; she engaged my interest, enlightened me a little, and made me laugh a lot.

Rating: 3.75/5 for the book, 4/5 for the audio presentation

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