Yes that is the new collective noun for pop culture books, which you will not be surprised to learn I have in abundance to go with the DVDs, the downloads, the associated merchandise and a cyborg-partridge-in-a-pear tree (what you didn’t expect anything so everyday as a normal flesh-and-blood one did you?).
And despite the fact that I have a reading backlog that will likely extend to beyond my death and beyond, I keep acquiring more books on all my favourite TV shows, movies and the personalities who create them because I believe, yes I believe, I will read them one day.
Hopefully before they lower me into a T.A.R.D.I.S-shapped coffin (as if it would be T.A.R.D.I.S.-shaped! I mean how geeky is that? C’mon seriously … oh OK it will be totally T.A.R.D.I.S shaped with handles sculpted to look a Stargate and some Wookie-fur trim … happy now?) …
So what are the zeitgeist-riding books I am excited about this Christmas and hope Santa will deliver to me (hopefully with a shiny new red bookcase to house them!)?
Why I am glad you asked.
TOP OF THE ROCK: The Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield
Imagine being the one at the helm during NBC’s golden age(1993-1998) when it rose from oblivion to sit at #1 in the ratings for years, thanks in part to what seemed at the time like an endless succession of hit shows like Cheers, Will and Grace, long-running ER and one of my great sitcom favourites, Mad About You?
Well Warren Littlefield was, and in this revealing look at what goes on behind the scenes at a major broadcast network (hint: they live in constant terror of offending the viewing public so the least offensive, which is often the least creative, options wins), he discusses, along with many of the stars who appeared in these shows such as Kelsey Grammar (Frasier), Lisa Kudrow and Matt Le Blanc (Friends) and Helen Hunt (Mad About You) what gave rise to, and more importantly, sustained, what was arguably the most impressive primetime line up in the history of network television.
If you want a true insider’s view of the world of television, this is the book.
Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope
There is no greatest advocate for the town of Pawnee, Indiana that one Leslie Knope, tireless servant of the people and one of the most optimistic, half-half-full-to-overflowing people you’re ever likely to meet.
Well in a TV show anyway.
The creation of SNL alum, Amy Poehler, and star of her whimsical TV show, Parks and Recreation, Leslie takes you on a tour of the town she considers, and frankly who wouldn’t, the greatest town in all the fifty states of the Union.
That is despite a raccoon infestation that will not go away, a questionable historical relationship with the First Peoples who once inhabited the area, and the lingering effect of a cult that took over the town in the 1970s.
No, it’s not perfect but Leslie Knope would never notice that God bless her, and through all sorts of hilarious photographs, illustrations and interviews with the inhabitants of the town, she explains why she wouldn’t live anywhere else.
It’s an great companion to the TV show and one of the few that you will go back to repeatedly. (OK I haven’t read it yet but I am sure Leslie would want me to end on that note.)
Oh Dear Sylvia by Dawn French
It’s no secret that Dawn French, one half of legendary British comedy duo (with Jennifer Saunders of Absolutely Fabulous fame), and star of the Vicar of Dibley, is one very funny, and now much slimmed down, lady.
But what you may not know is that she is also a very talented writer.
We got some sense of that with her autobiographical book Dear Fatty (2009), and her first novel, A Tiny Bit Fabulous (2011) but it really comes to the fore with her hilarious new novel, Oh Dear Sylvia, which chronicles what happens when Silvia, a woman who may be a “matchless lover, a supreme egotist, a selfless martyr, a bad mother, acherished sister, a selfish wife” – you can read the full synopsis at Penguin Australia – or let’s face it none of these things, has her life dissected in front of her by a constant stream of visitors as she lies in a coma in hospital.
Packed full of light and dark moments, and of course Dawn French’s uniquely irreverent humour, it is at the top of my reading list when finally the much longer-for Christmas holidays roll around.
What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Bitter by Chuck Lorre
If you have watched any of Chuck Lorre’s shows from the inspired kookiness of Dharma and Greg to the nerdish hilarity of The Big Bang Theory – and yes OK Two and a Half Men if you must (but I’d rather you didn’t), you will have noticed the “vanity cards” that appear at the end of the credits of everything single episode.
Sometimes, long and detailed and full of delightfully rambling prose, other times short, sweet and very much to the point, they articulated his views on life, told mini-stories – #12 featured a guy call Richie falling very painfully out of love – and recounted the travails of life in the Hollywood fast lane.
They are witty, creative and clever, and collected together, now with illustrations, they give a unique insight into the life of one of the most interesting men at work in TV today.
The Douche Journals: The Definitive Account of One Man’s Genius by Schmidt
Even if you’ve only watched one episode of New Girl, you’ll realise that Schmidt, sympathetically played though he may be by Max Greenfield, is a complete douchebag.
If there is a way to inappropriately, narcisstically say something then Schmidt will usually, with very little effort (to his housemates’ chagrin), find a way.
His punishment for this lack of common human decency?
The douchebag jar.
The moment, and I mean the moment, Schmidt says anything even remotely douchebag-y, he has to put money in the jar, which has even had an entire episode devoted to it.
The hilarious part is Schmidt doesn’t even think that he has said anything untoward, and always looks surprised, genuinely surprised, that anyone would think that what he just said was in any way remotely offensive.
And that is the charm of this book.
It is full, and yes I read a number of pages before I bought it so I can say this with complete confidence, of Schmidt’s sayings, all of which reflect the spirit of a character who believes with all his heart that he has the one and only grasp on how life really works.
You will wince people but you will laugh.
You will laugh.
* I’d love to know which pop culture books you’ve read and loved. Comment away!