23 | Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

I remember reading this book as a teenager, my copy gifted by a relative. This time around, I actually laughed out loud at the line about this is the perfect gift for random aunts that need to buy something for their niece but have no idea what they actually might want. So true. In high school I loved watching Mindy on television– she’s so fresh, a true POC pioneer and a welcome refresher from all the mainstream comedians who didn’t usually deal with culturally specific themes like familial relations, immigrant parents, you get the gist.

I listened to the audiobook on a long road trip home, like I did Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. It’s light enough to zone out for a few minutes but interesting enough to make a monotonous drive go by that much faster. I’ll always be a fan of Mindy as a person, as Mindy on The Mindy Project and any other role she plays. In my mind, she’s a boss, deciding she wants to have a child on her own, that she don’t need no man, defying not only larger societal norms but also cultural norms. Don’t read if you’re looking for a memoir, but read (or better yet, listen) if you like Mindy and want to listen to her stream of consciousness.

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.