30 | Inheritance: A Member of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

After taking a DNA test just for the hell of it, Dani Shapiro finds out that her deceased father is not her biological father. She’s 54– married, with a son who survived a hereditary illness, an established write– and her life is turned upside down. Even more so because her father was an Orthodox Jew, Shapiro grew up strictly Kosher, reciting passages in Hebrew and Yiddish, and very much so identifying with being Jewish. As she slowly comes to grips with the fact she is not “Jewish” by blood, Shapiro seems to be able to reconcile her appearance with her identity and at least reach the idea that her father, the one who raised her, will always be her father.

I can’t even begin to imagine how insane Shapiro’s life became since finding out her biological father was not the one who raised her. Through sleuthing and having an almost ridiculous number of contacts and well-connected friends, Shapiro is able to find out who her biological father is: a retired doctor from Portland, Oregon. Incredibly and delicately, they do meet face-to-face and establish a relationship as hearts are put to ease. Shapiro also discovers that her parents had struggled becoming pregnant and that they went to an IVF clinic in Philadelphia, where a doctor utilized a cutting-edge idea: what if the man could be responsible for a couple having issues getting pregnant? The doctor mixed different sperm from donors and the client alike and used IVF to impregnate the woman. Though Shapiro is not able to confirm if her father knew that she was not his daughter, or at least if he knew about the possibility, her mentors in faith encourage her to move on from this question and accept this possibility as a gift.

With regards to the book itself, it really is a peak into Shapiro’s mind and stream of consciousness. There are points where it’s extremely dull and repetitive, Shapiro asking the same questions over and over again: if my father isn’t my father, who is? In this situation, she is clearly overthinking, constantly contemplating, and replaying situations over and over again in her mind. She puts all those cyclical thoughts onto paper. I don’t think I could be friends with Shapiro in real life and talk through her thoughts with her as harsh as that sounds. The story is interesting but the delivery was lacking. After all, if this is her fourth memoir (which, wow), the execution should have been more on point.

19 | Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I would 1000% recommend listening to the audiobook as opposed to reading Yes Please; to hear Amy Poehler read her own words allowed was the perfect way to learn about her background, ambitions and trials. This isn’t a very polished or edited book– it reads more like a diary than anything, but she discusses everything from her college years, early career, working on Saturday Night Live, shooting Parks and Rec, her sons, her marriage, her divorce and her outlook on life. She’s a comic through and through, her positivity and relatability transcending every story she tells, making her extremely likable as a person, beyond the characters she plays in sketches, shows or movies.

I was a bit too young to watch SNL during Poehler’s heyday so I became aware of her through her acting on Parks and Rec, a The Office like one-shot style television comedy show on NBC. Poehler plays the main character, Leslie Knope, a extremely passionate and dedicated low-level civil servant working for the Department of Parks and Recreation in middle of nowhere Pawnee, Indiana. She’s relentless, taking every duty assigned to her seriously and without complaint, her sole goal to improve the people’s lives in town whom she serves. Poehler brings in Mike Schur on one of the later chapters (Part 3 Chapter 7) to discuss the development of the show from a producer’s point of view and specifically, how Leslie Knope evolved as Poehler played her. Because I’m such a fan of the show, the chapter was a neat look into how Leslie Knope was initially pitched to have a more professional and cautious relationship with the camera, as she had political ambitions and was aware that any unprofessional statement caught on camera could mar her plans. However, as the show went on, Leslie later evolved to have a much more authentic relationships with the camera as Schur recalls that instead, Leslie didn’t have anything to hide. She was she same character both on and off camera and there was no divide between her public and private life. There really is a whole creative team behind the scenes, debating on how each of the characters might present themselves. For example, Ben Wyatt, Leslie’s future husband played by Adam Scott has a different relationships to the camera, often giving it a look that says “see what I have to deal with” when something ridiculous goes on. Schur explains that Andy Dwyer, played by Chris Pratt view the camera as his best friend, sharing what he thinks are ingenious ideas, unfiltered excitement and genuine happiness. One of the most hilarious parts of the book was when Schur and Poehler read a list of names that Leslie Knope might have been. I’ll spoil one: Leslie Knuckle- Jensen. They are intoxicatingly funny and goes to show how clever and silly producers and writers are, which all contributes to the character building and arch.

I enjoyed learning about Poehler as a person, beyond her career. How she was a young ambitious comic straight out of college at one point and that everything that’s happened in her life is a result of being open-minded and not taking things too seriously. She’s honest and candid, talking about sex, childbirth, separation, lost friendships and more in her signature Poehler way. It’s the perfect audiobook for a road trip, a way to relax and decompress with a comedic friend.