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Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls Paperback – June 3, 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 1,587 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013: If you’ve read any of David Sedaris’s previous works, you know what you’re in for with his latest book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. Sedaris is an author who has no legitimate reason to change his approach to writing--he’s taken the snarky, sometimes crude, often hilarious, ultimately thought-provoking personal essay to the level of mastery. One could easily argue that he’s set the bar for observational comedy, and for that reason alone fans new and old will make each book he writes a publishing sensation. --Chris Schluep --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Following his foray into animal fables, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (2010), Sedaris returns to his signature form, the eviscerating comic essay. He draws on a seemingly bottomless well of appalling childhood memories revolving around his mounting fears about being unlike other boys. There’s a stinging account of swimming competitions during which his irascible father vociferously championed his son’s rival, a courageously candid tale of his courtship of a shy African American girl, and an unnerving confession of his inept handling of captured baby sea turtles. Moving on to more worldly episodes, Sedaris recalls encounters with strangers on trains and offers hilarious perspectives on French health care and shopping at Costco. An acute observer and master of the quick, excoriating takedown, Sedaris claims new territory in this exceptionally gutsy and unnerving collection, creating dark and mischievous monologues in other voices, such as the brilliantly vicious “Just a Quick E-Mail” and an alarming rant by a Christian fascist. Sedaris casts penetrating light on a world of cruelty, inanity, and absurdity that is barely but surely redeemed by humor and love. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Sedaris-mania knows no bounds, and with a 20-city author tour and all-out media campaign, this will be a red-hot title. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316154709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316154703
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,587 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Graves on April 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As one who considers David Sedaris as the leading American humorist of this era, I honestly wished I had liked this collection more. Not that it is bad - you will probably love many of these pieces - but it is, overall, rather disappointing. Sometimes, as a reviewer, I wonder if my take on a book is "off" (perhaps I was in a bad mood when reading the book) and check to see what professional reviewers have to say. I was relieved to see that most had the same attitude towards this book. None gave the book anywhere close to a gushing and glowing 5-star review (then again, they don't care that on Amazon gushing 5-star reviews usually receive the most 'helpful' votes - as opposed to some Amazon reviewers).

It's been a long five years since David's last book of essays. This makes the new book more difficult to please: our expectations are so high, our desire to be amused so great, that anything less than than terrific is disappointing. I certainly wouldn't say that this collection is terrific. Nor is it nearly as good as his previous essay collections. Some of the essays are, in fact, excellent, but more than a few I felt were in the 'tortured-premise/contrived' category, and others were just bland.

Let's get the lesser essays out of the way first. What Sedaris does best is observational humor - seeing the hilarity in the details in life. Topical humor is usually the purview of lesser writers: having a topical premise for humor and torturing it (spreading it out) over a ten-page essay. Sadly, Sedaris takes a current topic, same-sex marriage, throws in a redneck, and ... hilarity ensues. Not. It's a contrived piece. And several of the pieces are not essays but entirely fictional short stories.
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Format: Hardcover
It's been five years since David Sedaris released his last collection of essays, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. America's foremost humorist released Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary in 2010, which I really enjoyed, but I believe it's non-fiction where Sedaris really shines. His latest book, "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls" takes us back to classic Sedaris, as the author takes on a trip around the world with him. I truly enjoyed this book.

Although his self-deprecating stories are most effective at pointing out the absurdities in everyday life, and sometimes share similar formulas, it's a formula I find never gets old. To me, his writing is akin to curling up on the couch with your family in front of a large fire telling stories. It's comforting, familiar (in a good way), and full of belly laughs. This book continues the high quality of writing that I discovered over a decade ago with "Naked."

In one of my favorite stories from this book, Sedaris describes visiting a taxidermy shop in London, where he plans to buy a stuffed owl as a Valentine's Day present. Somehow he befriends the owner, who decides that David would be the type of person who would like to see what lies behind the curtain, that which the typical shoppers aren't allowed to see. Intrigued? Among the bizarre displays and specimens is a miniature human skeleton. What kind of human skeleton would be found here? I won't spoil the ending, but it's definitely not what you'd expect.
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Format: Hardcover
David Sedaris launched his career by reading a seriously funny story on NPR about working as a Christmas elf at Macys. Overnight, he became our humorist laureate, serving up personal history that is as ironic as our cultural reality. Now he's a star on the lecture circuit.

Sedaris fans blindly love every word he writes. Over the years, I've morphed into only an occasional fan. Because Sedaris has a problem: success. It's a trick to get people to care about your personal quirks and difficulties when you've sold more than 7 million books and own more than half a dozen residences on two continents. That this book is as good as it is is a considerable triumph.

Start with the flaws: "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls," at 275 pages, is padded with six pieces that are new for Sedaris. "Over the years I've met quite a few teenagers who participate in what is called 'Forensics,'" he writes. "Students take published short stories and essays, edit them down to a predetermined length, and recite them competitively. To that end, I have written six brief monologues that young people might deliver before a panel of judges. I believe these stories should be self-evident. They're the pieces in which I am a woman, a father, and a sixteen-year-old girl with a fake British accent."

Sounds good? They're easy targets. A critic has said: "They drip with contempt for the kind of teapartying middle American who loves guns and hates gay marriage."

Bitterness and contempt may be new tones for Sedaris, but that's understandable --- and, in other pieces, welcome. In "Dentists Without Borders," the book's lead-off essay, he chronicles his experiences with dentists in France. They are cheap, kind, efficient, charming in their way.
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