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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Reviewers Give Five Stars
Here's how much I enjoyed "(Not That You Asked)":

The publisher sent me a free advance softcover proof last month, and I still bought a new hardcover the day it was officially released. If you knew how frugal (read: cheap) I am, you'd understand how remarkable this is.

Why shell out my hard-earned for a book I've already read and gotten for free...
Published on September 19, 2007 by Voice of Chunk

versus
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Having read a lot of really good American non-fiction and short stories lately, I was looking forward to this book after a couple of glowing recommendations. Well, I'll never trust those sources again. The author's attempts to be clever are so predictable that you think he's setting you up for something more significant later. Alas, nothing else is forthcoming! After...
Published on June 25, 2008 by Johannus Climactus


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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Reviewers Give Five Stars, September 19, 2007
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Here's how much I enjoyed "(Not That You Asked)":

The publisher sent me a free advance softcover proof last month, and I still bought a new hardcover the day it was officially released. If you knew how frugal (read: cheap) I am, you'd understand how remarkable this is.

Why shell out my hard-earned for a book I've already read and gotten for free? Because I wanted to send Random House the message that Steve Almond is a huge talent, the real deal, and they better keep publishing him.

So "enjoyed" is kind of a weak verb.

I love this book, is what I'm saying.

I love that Almond takes aim at the easy targets -- Oprah, Fox News, Condi, Reality TV -- in fresh, hilarious ways, but places himself in the crosshairs more than anyone. I love that his long fanboy tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, "Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt," nails exactly why *I've* "crush[ed] on Kurt Vonnegut" for more than half of my life.

I love that no matter what subject he's tackling -- fake breasts, masturbation, unplanned fatherhood, body waxing, blog wars -- Almond surprises and delights and makes me think while I'm laughing and laugh while I'm thinking.

Clearly I've lost all objectivity with this book. Let me at least attempt to inject a little balance by enlisting the help of four friends. The quotations below are from people I either loaned the book to or bought the book for. None of them actually know I'm quoting them on Amazon, but I don't think they'll mind (not that I asked).

Here are their actual reactions:

Martha (via e-mail, two days after I loaned her my advance copy): "Steve Almond is my new favorite author. Loved it. Love LOVE LOVE LOVED it. Can't wait to buy a copy. Wonderful recommendation. He's funny and poignant and kickass. I want to be his best friend."

John (via e-mail): "Thank you for the book. I've already started reading it and it is laugh-out-loud funny. I'm definitely going to his reading when he comes to Fresno."

Chuck! (via e-mail): "Just wanted to let you know I received your kind gift of Steve Almond's book. How exciting! I read the first chapter on Oprah almost immediately and I'm still laughing about it. Can't wait to read more tonight when I get home!"

Karen (sitting next to me on the couch): "This is the best book I've read all year. I can't put it down. I have a stack of papers to grade by tomorrow, but I can't stop reading. I have to assign this book to all of my lit and creative writing students. It will change everything."

See? It's not just me.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almond knocks another one out of the park, September 18, 2007
By 
Not That You Asked is the third book I've read by Steve Almond, and I would have to say that so far, this is my favorite. As with all of Almond's previous work, Not That You Asked has the all of the sharp wit, cutting insight,irreverance,sex,laugh-out-loud humor and great storytelling that Almond's fans would expect, but this book delivers more... it delivers HIM! The book offers a naked, unflinching, honest, and truely human view into Almond himself. Especially funny and touching are the stories of his childhood and adolecence, which are full of all of all of the secret, awkward insecurities, fears, and humiliations that most of us experienced at that age (as well as a few I'm glad that I didnt), but never discussed with anyone. Instead of hiding them, Almond lays them out for all to see. We watch as Almond progresses from being a teenager full of secret doubts, fears, and neurosies, to becoming an adult full of secret doubts, fears, and neurosies...just like most of us. It is brutally human and real, and at the same time, VERY funny.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almond's Best -- A Must Read, September 11, 2007
By 
P. Keating (Weston, MA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Despite the fact that this outstanding collection of essays is being primarily promoted as a racy, sexy read, 'Not that You Asked' is a much more profound work, and I believe that many readers will love it. You will indeed laugh -- out loud, really hard -- but you will also be moved and provoked to think and consider important questions and values. The 'spine' of this book is comprised of Almond's honesty and his cracklingly clever take on life; that is, his life. This is what makes 'Not that You asked' so compelling to me -- Almond holds nothing back and reveals to readers not only his adventures and joys, but also his times of doubt and uncertainty. I feel this book hits on many universal struggles; for writers, families, spouses and families, and what America is and does as a country and a society. All the while, Almond's hilarious style keeps the read fresh and fascinating. The essays are extremely varied in topic but they all fit together marvelously and there's a special flavor to the collection, a
really fine flavor. This is a must-read, folks. Enjoy it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny & insightful observations about everything from Realty TV to the Bush administration, January 2, 2008
By 
A thoroughly enjoyable, thoughtful read on a wide range of topics, from Steve's fears about how ineffective he might be as a new parent to the mistreatment of literary lion Kurt Vonnegut by fellow writers Joyce Carol Oates and Jennifer Weiner during a literary panel discussion. The three essays on Vonnegut themselves make this collection worth the price of admission. Steve is incredibly articulate about why he idolizes the author. Like other reviewers here have noted, it inspired me to go back and re-read some of the Vonnegut books I had sitting on my shelves. But Steve also humanizes the iconic figure, not shying away from noting how Vonnegut might have fallen away from some of his own ideals later in life.

I live in Boston and remember all the headlines of when Steve resigned from Boston College to protest Condi Rice speaking there. I remember arch conservative Gerry Callahan of the sports station WEEI calling Steve a wingnut. It was great to hear Steve's side of the entire mess in another essay here, and he offers a fairly damning portrayal of the idiocy of cable political talk shows such as Hannity & Colmes.

I was often reading this in my living room, with my wife and kids nearby, and they kept asking me what was making me laugh so hard, so I had to read a number of passages out loud (or at least the G-rated ones, my kids are in elementary school) for their sake. They got a good chuckle out of a number of sections, such as Steve's misuse of a bulb syringe when he's trying to clear mucus from his baby's nose. ("Because of a basic misunderstanding of physics, and specifically the concept of suction, I failed to deflate the bulb before insertion. Instead, I blow air UP the baby's nose.") Of course, then he is sure he's given his poor little newborn some sort of aneurysm.

As a Red Sox fan, I am naturally compelled to take issue with Steve's blanket condemnation of Red Sox Nation, as a bunch of whiney, overly self-impressed losers. Given that Steve goes on to describe the extreme angst he experienced over the collapses of his beloved Athletics (particularly against the Dodgers in the World Series that Dennis Eckersley gave up the Game 1 homer to Kirk Gibson), he sounded amazingly like the Sox fans he was deriding.

I also was scratching my head a little bit at the self-loathing he so often comically refers to. I wish I'd been lucky enough in high school to have an attractive young woman invite me over every time her parents were away. I've seen Steve at readings - he's a handsome, charmingly funny guy who gets his audience eating out of his hands in about 10 seconds, so it's a wonder why he doesn't enjoy and recognize his own exceptional talents a little more!

I highly recommend this collection. When you've finished, be sure to check out the entire Almond oeuvre - Candyfreak is the closest thing to this book of essays. It's a thoroughly enjoyable read, where Steve mixes some great food writing, interesting details about small candy manufacturers trying to make it against the big corporate guns, and personal insights into all the reasons for his obsession with candy. (There's a very funny essay in "Not that you asked" about Steve's ultimately aborted foray into Reality TV star when VH1 tapped him for its Totally Obsessed show and tried to manipulate him into a caricature as comically pathetic as any contestant on Beauty & The Geek. As one example, they wanted him to roll around in candy on his bed.)

Steve's fiction is just as powerful - full of the same brilliant insights and beautifully wrought sentences on display here. If you enjoy his nonfiction work, I can assure you that you'll have just as much fun reading his short story collections, My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow, as well as the novel he co-wrote with Julianna Baggott, Which Brings Me to You.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My stomach hurts..., November 11, 2007
My stomach hurts from laughing too hard...Steve Almond's book almost got me "thrown out" of Borders for making a spectacle of myself. Okay, seriously, I had never heard of Almond or read any of his other books. I opened this one to the middle of the text, to see if it would "grab me" the same way the cover had...and I found myself laughing out loud in rapid-fire response to everything I read. I was transported into Almond's bizarro world and got lost. When I came up for air, other Border's customers wanted to know why. (Only three.) I closed the book, and marched to the cashier. I now own it. And so does my brother, because I had to send him a copy (since we grew up with the same twisted humor, I knew he'd enjoy it, too.) I have since come to find out my brother LOVED Candyfreak. Who knew?

I hope Mr. Almond won't mind that I consider this publication to be of the potential "bathroom book" variety...you can pick it up, read a chapter, put it down, and be totally uplifted. His humor is zany and the chapters speak of things many people would never dare to voice because they would be afraid to admit they'd even had the thought. Almond is brave enough to be totally vulnerable, and that is magnetic for most people. It is a book you will read and then feel moved to share, to gift to others, to reread, to take on vacation, to the doctor's office, in line at the registry...you get the idea. Fantastic.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rave For Rants..., September 11, 2007
If you're familair with Steve Almond's fiction then you already know the humility, hilarity, and truth he brings to his characters. Prepare to meet the man behind the curtain: In (NOT THAT YOU ASKED) Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions, Almond turns that poetic, unsettling eye on the non-fictional world, as well as on himself.
In this collection of confession-style essays, including letters to Oprah, his heart-wrenching writer-crush on Kurt Vonnegut, and his run-in with a hostile blogger, Almond keeps returning to the same theme: our role in the state of the planet, and how we must examine those roles again and again. In trying to make sense of it all, Almond writes, "Despair is a form of hope. It is an acknowledgment of the distance between ourselves and our appointed happiness. At certain moments, it is reason enough to live." Almond's genius lies in the delicate concurrence of harsh truths and deep human empathy. Each time he points a finger it inevitabley boomerangs and Almond, true to form, resists hiding behind the pretty picture of the self-righteous author. This book is unique in it's unwavering pledge to tell the truth (even when ugly) and it's incredibly human voice. You get the sense that Almond sits down to write about a subject but finds his own role as an observer simply unavoidable.
A tip: Don't skip the foot notes -- possibly the most hilarious part of a book that covers both Condoleeza Rice and adolescent debauchery.
Another tip (this one from Almond): "Nipples are tricky. They come in all shapes and sizes and shades. They do not, as a rule, look like much of anything, aside from nipples."
(NOT THAT YOU ASKED) is simply a great read -- both entertaining and important. And, contrary to the title, it will leave you asking for more, more, more Steve Almond.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (Not that You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions, November 5, 2007
By 
Where to start? Steve Almond is a such a gifted writer -- he makes me laugh. hard. Often just thinking about things he has written makes me laugh out loud. Sometimes at inappropriate times. He is a comedic genius. I bought NTYA during one of the worst weeks in my life (I'll spare you the details), and the fact that Steve could make me laugh when all I had been doing is crying says it all. Reading his book is like spending time with a good buddy -- you walk away feeling like you truly know him and love him... love him for being so real and so honest and saying the things that you've thought before -- saying them in such a brilliant way. Buy this book for yourself. And then buy more copies to give as gifts -- because once you've read it, you'll want everyone you know to read it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almond's best yet, September 20, 2007
By 
LHP (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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I barrelled through NTYA, and the closer I got to the end, the sadder I felt, knowing that I was almost finished. When I closed the book and set it down, I was so full of longing, I opened it up and started again, from page 1.
Steve Almond has written, by far, the most hilarious book I have read in years (ever?) I marked lines and passages to come back to when I need a quick pick-me-up. Almond's style is so brutally, lay-it-ALL-out-there honest, you can't help but admire him. And you certainly can't help but be extremely entertained. A fabulous collection. I think I may need to go read it again right now. Just writing this is making me miss it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almond Joy (Ouch, that's a bad pun...and I bet I'm not the first to use it, either), May 18, 2008
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In some ways, this book seems a little dated and jaded - Almond takes on some easy targets - the Bush Administration, the shallowness of most bloggers, his own often-ridiculous sex life (join the club!), celebrity culture, reality TV - these are just a few.

But there are four elements that, for me, elevate this work beyond the familiarity of some of the topics it covers:

1) Almond is a terrific writer: His prose is snappy and spot-on. He finds the perfect words to describe things you might too have observed but never could have put so artfully. He's often very funny, but always in a smart and honorable way - he deserves the laughs he gets.

2) Almond has a great eye: He lives in the same world we do, but he's somehow removed himself enough that he sees it much more clearly than most of us ever could. What's wonderful and generous is that he shares that view with you.

3) Almond has had some really interesting things happen to him: Yeah, a lot of people have complained about reality television, but how many were actually the subject of an episode of a reality show? Almond was, and the experiences and insights he shares will make it impossible for you to ever watch an episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" in the same way again (of course, it's devoutly to be wished that you're not watching that show at all, but you get the point). Likewise, many have complained about the Bush Administration, but how many left good jobs to protest its actions, and subsequently were attacked on conservative talk shows for doing so? Almond has, and his story is both hilarious and deeply frightening. In some way, I enjoy his essays in the same way I'd enjoy the story of a mountain climber - I'm not schlepping up that hill, but it's deeply fascinating to read about someone who did.

4) Almond has a big heart and strong moral vision: While Almond can be snarky and sarcastic, he's not doing it for the cheap laugh or because he has nothing better to offer. Almond really cares about this planet and the people who live on it. He wants us to be better: fairer, kinder, more loving and more respectful of the interconnectedness of all living beings. What outrages him most is cruelty, selfishness and the squandering of the great gifts we've been given and should share. That's the deeper message of this book, and Almond communicates it in beautiful language without ever sounding preachy or superior.

So, five stars for Mr. Almond and this enjoyable and enlightening book of essays.

Scott Sherman, author, First You Fall: A Kevin Connor Mystery
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laughs and heart, August 4, 2008
By 
This review is from: (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions (Paperback)
Like a lot of other Almond fans, I find his scabrous, often self-deprecating Gen-X humor hilarious, but what keeps me coming back for more (I also loved his short story collection My Life in Heavy Metal -- brilliant!) is how he effectively mixes insight into his irreverent take on the world of sex, popular culture, the literary scene, sports and just about everything else.

He is certainly funny, but he is also a dedicated writer who isn't afraid to open up his heart to the reader and express his love for writing and the artist's way of life. Reading him, you get the sense that he has paid his dues, sitting in crappy apartments plugging away at fiction when most people just didn't give a damn and the money wasn't there.

Each of the essays in this book is varied in tone and subject, so I stayed interested throughout. I normally get bored with short story and essay collections at about the half-way point (I prefer the sustained dramatic arc of novels to shorter pieces), even with witty writers like Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, but with Almond there's a range to his work that sustains the entire collection.

At times, his strident mockery gets old (as any rants do), but then he becomes genuine and perceptive and his prose sings with eloquence, and I'd find myself absorbed all over again.

Great collection.
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(Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions
(Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions by Steve Almond (Paperback - July 8, 2008)
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