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Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened Paperback – October 29, 2013
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2013:
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2013:Who among us has not, in moments that sometimes bleed through years, even decades, felt weird, desperate, and absurd--wishing we could turn all the lamest, most shameful episodes in our lives into hilarious illustrated anecdotes? If youre one of the millions hanging on Allie Brosh's every blog post, you already know you'll love Hyperbole and a Half in book form, especially since half its hyperboles are new. If you're suspicious of books because you live in a world of the INTERNET FOREVER, this is where you make an exception. If you just stumbled across Brosh and can't yet grasp the allure of a Web comic illustrated by rudimentary MS Paint figures, believe the hype. Brosh has a genius for allowing us to channel her weird childhood and the fits and starts of her adulthood through the manic eyes, gaping mouths, and stick-like arms in the panels that masterfully advance her stories, and she delivers her relentless commentary with deadpan hilarity. Neurosis has rarely been so relatable and entertaining. --Mari Malcolm
Guest Review of Hyperbole and a Half
By Bill Gates
Bill Gates is a technologist, business leader, and philanthropist. He grew up in Seattle, Washington, with an amazing and supportive family who encouraged his interest in computers at an early age. He dropped out of college to start Microsoft with his childhood friend Paul Allen. He married Melinda French in 1994 and they have three children. Today, Bill and Melinda Gates co-chair the charitable foundation bearing their names and are working together to give their wealth back to society. This review originally appeared on Bill’s personal blog the Gates Notes on May 19th, 2015.
Some of the books I’ve recommended as summer reads really aren’t. They’re long nonfiction books that might look a little out of place beside the pool or on the beach.
But Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened , by Allie Brosh, is an honest-to-goodness summer read. You will rip through it in three hours, tops. But you’ll wish it went on longer, because it’s funny and smart as hell. I must have interrupted Melinda a dozen times to read to her passages that made me laugh out loud.
The book consists of brief vignettes and comic (in both senses of the word) drawings about Brosh’s young life (she’s in her late 20s). It’s based on her wildly popular website.
Brosh has quietly earned a big following even though, as her official bio puts it, she “lives as a recluse in her bedroom in Bend, Oregon.” The adventures she recounts are mostly inside her head, where we hear and see the kind of inner thoughts most of us are too timid to let out in public. Despite her book’s title, Brosh’s stories feel incredibly—and sometimes brutally—real.
I don’t mean to suggest that giving an outlet to our often-despicable me is a novel form of humor, but she is really good at it. Her timing and tone are consistently spot on. And so is her artwork. I’m amazed at how expressive and effective her intentionally crude drawings are.
Some of Brosh’s stories are funny without being particularly meaningful, such as her tales about her two dogs and their humorously illogical inner thoughts. Here’s a typical snippet: “To the simple dog, throwing up was like some magical power that she never knew she possessed—the ability to create infinite food. I was less excited about the discovery because it turned my dog into a horrible, vomit-making perpetual-motion machine.”
And here’s a typical illustration:
But her best stuff is the deep stuff, especially the chapters about her battles with severe depression. There is a lot of self-revelation here but no self-pity. She brings the same wit to this subject as she does to her stories about her dogs—even if it makes the reader more likely to tear up than crack up.
Here’s a typical snippet that follows a riff about feeling suicidal and not quite knowing how to let loved ones know about these feelings:
I suspect that anyone who has experienced depression would get a lot out of reading this book. The mental illness she describes is profoundly isolating: “When you have to spend every social interaction consciously manipulating your face into shapes that are only approximately the right ones, alienating people is inevitable.” It must be empowering for those who have struggled with depression to read this book, see themselves, and know they’re far from alone.
It might be even more valuable for those who have a friend, colleague, or family member who has experienced depression. Hyperbole and a Half gave me a new appreciation for what a depressed person is feeling and not feeling, and what’s helpful and not helpful. Here’s a good example: “People want to help. So they try harder to make you feel hopeful…. You explain it again, hoping they’ll try a less hope-centric approach, but re-explaining your total inability to experience joy inevitably sounds kind of negative, like maybe you WANT to be depressed. So the positivity starts coming out in a spray—a giant, desperate happiness sprinkler pointed directly at your face.”
I get why Brosh has become so popular. While she self-deprecatingly depicts herself in words and art as an odd outsider, we can all relate to her struggles. Rather than laughing at her, you laugh with her. It is no hyperbole to say I love her approach—looking, listening, and describing with the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of an artist, and the wit of a comedian.
"I must have interrupted Melinda a dozen times to read to her passages that made me laugh out loud. . . . The adventures she recounts are mostly inside her head, where we hear and see the kind of inner thoughts most of us are too timid to let out in public. Despite her book’s title, Brosh’s stories feel incredibly—and sometimes brutally—real. . . . It is no hyperbole to say I love her approach—looking, listening, and describing with the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of an artist, and the wit of a comedian." (Bill Gates)
"Imagine if David Sedaris could draw . . . Enchanting." (People (4 stars, People Pick))
Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Humor Book of the Year
An NPR Best Book of the Year
A Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Memoirs (.)
“I would gladly pay to sit in a room full of people reading this book, merely to share the laughter.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
"My wife, who rarely reads a book published after 1910 and who is difficult to make laugh, wept with pleasure while reading these comic illustrated essays from Ms. Brosh, who runs a popular web comic and blog. I had to find out what the fuss was about. The subjects run from light (cakes, dogs) to dark (the author’s own severe depression), and they foreground offbeat feeling and real intellect. Ms. Brosh’s inquisitive mind won me over, too.” (Dwight Garner New York Times)
“In a culture that encourages people to carry mental illness as a secret burden . . . Brosh's bracing honesty is a gift.” (Chicago Tribune)
“Brosh captures humanity at its simultaneous worst and best with a razor wit that allows us to laugh at even our darkest of selves.” (The Advocate (Baton Rouge))
"Will make you laugh until you sob, even when Brosh describes her struggle with depression." (Entertainment Weekly)
"This is the BOOK OF THE YEAR." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
“One of the best things I’ve ever read in my life.” (Marc Maron)
"This book made me laugh, cry, and leak. It was honest, poignant, and ridiculously silly in all the best ways and I'm better for having read it. Plus, doggies!" (Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess and author of Let's Pretend This Never Happened)
"An Internet-era treasure, an unexpected wonder of the 21st century." (Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing.com)
“Brosh is a connoisseur of the human condition.” (Kirkus Reviews)
"Brosh is an evocative writer who bares her foibles and shortcomings, from childhood to her present life, with a lack of vanity and a sense of catharsis that is palpable." (Publishers Weekly)
“Get this for the smart people who appreciate humor in your life, and they won't be disappointed." (io9.com)
“The whole blog is inspired.” (Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish (The Atlantic))
“Anyone seeking an accessible look at someone suffering from depression or some really delightful dog drawings need search no further.” (Time Out New York)
"Both singular and familiar—the popularity of Brosh's blog and her absurd, exuberant voice meant that she started a lot of memes you might have come across—Hyperbole and a Half is a very funny reminder that it's normal to not have your shit together, and to know that it's okay to ask for help." (GQ)
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2. People who suffer from or who have loved ones who suffer from depression.
3. People who want to know what it feels like to have beverages snarfed through their nose(s?).
4. People with a sense of humor.
5. People who know how to order things on amazon.
6. People who are familiar with Allie's site and thus already know some of the content and are ok with that because it still makes them snarf beverages through their nose(s?)
7. People who did not preorder this book and so are not now reading it like I am.
8. People who are unfamiliar with the behaivior of geese and/or enjoy cake.
9. People who like books that are color coded instead of numbered to delineate beginnings and endings.
10. People who are not dead.
There are a million things I love about this book, but I can start with the fact that each chapter is printed on different-colored pages than the ones on either side of it, which makes the book look like a rainbow when it is closed. A RAINBOW, GUYS.
The Depression chapters (previously published on her blog) are revelations to those who have experienced depression and touchstones of understanding for those who have not. The Dog chapters are hilarious to both dog-lovers and cat-lovers (AKA dog haters). The chapters that peek into her childhood make me wish I remembered anything about my life before I was twelve. But you know what? I'm going to take a page from this book, and just imagine that my childhood was just as fantastical, wild, revelatory, unintentionally hilarious, and unique.
Yes, there are a few chapters that are repeats from the blog. Sadly, the fish incident did not make it... that one is still my favorite. But the ones that did make it are definitely worth the re-read. Also, the majority of the book is new material, including some introspective chapters ("Thoughts and Feelings" and the two-part "Identity" chapters). Those, to me, were the best ones of the whole book. I love that the author is so freaking honest (can you swear on Amazon? Imma go with no) about EVERYTHING. She holds this mirror up to her guiding principles and then picks everything apart until she's left with this uncivilized and selfish husk, which she then covers up in a sparkly jumpsuit to make it all better. WHICH IS SOMETHING WE ALL DO. We're all basically uncivilized and selfish. But this author has the guts to admit it.
YOU ARE BRAVE, ALLIE. YOU ARE.
I feel strangely proud of the author for producing this book. Proud like a father, even though she is no relation to me and I have never really met her. I want to give her all the gold stars possible. If there were more than five available for this review, I would have gone with more than five. All the way up to eleventy.
Buy this book. Read it. Go read the blog. Re-read everything. Then buy the book for your friends.
Her book? It's an offline edition of her blog. So in other words, it's just about perfect. Some new...chapters? Posts? What do you even call these? Anyway, parts of the book are new, others are from the blog, all put together in something approaching a coherent narrative. I'm not terribly upset about blog posts being included in the book. It wouldn't make sense without some of them, and some others are just so good and so well-known that to leave them out would make the book incomplete.
It's much bigger than I had expected, containing a good eighteen chapterposts from 10 to 50 pages long each, but that doesn't matter because you'll read the whole thing in one sitting if you're not a communist. The first chapter alone has swearing at a two-year-old, time travel, and nudity of the most gratuitous sort. In that order.
The thing about this book (and Allie's blog) is...beyond the laughs, she's actually really good. Her two posts on what depression is like (both included here) are the best explanations I've ever seen. And what look initially like simple stick figure drawings are actually surprisingly detailed illustrations that convey a full range of emotion. The art is good, the stories are fantastic, and her telling of them is what makes it all work. Most importantly of all, the cover is a pleasing shade of yellow.
Buy a copy for yourself. Buy one for the office, one for the house, one to keep in the gentleman's closet, one for your neighbors, one for everyone you know for Christmas. You'll like it, they'll like it, it'll class up both your workplace and your toilet.