In our monthly book club, we discuss whatever we happen to be reading and ask everyone in the comments to do the same.
Since taking Saturday Night Live by storm in the ’90s, comedy icon Molly Shannon has won the hearts of countless TV and film fans with her scene-stealing acting. Take celebrity mom Pat Dubek, the beating heart of HBO’s The Other Two and a perfect crystallization of Shannon’s knack for balancing heartfelt emotion with killer comedy. Writing with Sean Wilsey, Shannon brings that same sparkling energy to Hello, Molly!—a moving memoir that traces from the tragic car accident that killed Shannon’s mother, sister, and a cousin when she was only 4 years old through and past her rise in the entertainment industry. Chockfull of charming Hollywood anecdotes and poignant insights on growing through adversity, Hello, Molly! is a sweet read with enough zip to enjoy in one sitting. It doesn’t reinvent the celebrity memoir, but it doesn’t have to. Easy, breezy, and with love oozing from the page, Shannon is as delightful to read as she is to watch. [Alison Foreman]
It’s not a new notion to note that superheroes are an inherently reactive bunch; Superman is a good dude and all, but his primary goal in life is to stop supervillains from doing the real, interesting, world-changing stuff, like putting the planet in a big glass bottle, or executing complicated, nuclear missile-heavy real estate schemes. Ryan North’s new pop science book How To Take Over The World takes that image of the supervillain as a doer to the extremes, pitching itself as a practical, quick, and simple how-to manual on the ins and outs of such schemes as building your own flying superbase, seizing a sovereign country, and potentially living forever to spite your pathetic mortal foes. As with his earlier How To Invent Everything—a “stranded time traveler manual” that doubled as a handy guide to the development of human civilization—North employs the high-concept metaphor as a way to keep deep dives into real science from getting too dry (helped along by lots of cheerful illustrations of cartoon evil from artist Carly Monardo.) But North also embraces the villain’s potential as an inspirational figure. A supervillain, after all, is someone who kicks off the shroud of powerlessness that we all toil under in the day-to-day, looks at the world, and says “This could be different!” (And, possibly, better; North understandably goes light on schemes that involve a lot of blowing people up, in favor of ambitious plots to become, say, the most beloved person on earth by solving global warming.) The end result is often funny, occasionally somber—nothing like contemplating how to leave a gloating message that will survive not only you, but the Earth itself—but always a fascinating look at the current and weirdest edges of the scientific world. [William Hughes]
Author Jennifer Egan treated readers to A Visit From The Good Squad in 2010. Now the visionary fiction writer is back with The Candy House–a stunning sequel that updates the storylines of numerous Goon Squad characters while never failing to stand on its own two book covers. The plot of this transfixing meditation on memory is anchored in a technological revolution allowing humans to revisit moments from their lives through a kind of high-tech archive invented by none other than the returning Bix. Yes, it’s thematic territory done to death on page and screen; the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History Of You” comes to mind. But Egan breathes fresh life into the familiar setting with unique injections of humanity that feel both meticulous and organic. As with the slideshow in Goon Squad, The Candy House is littered with first-hand artifacts from this invasive world that make the book feel transported from another time. You’ll fall into it. [Alison Foreman]