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Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened Hardcover – 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.
Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Humor Book of the Year
A NPR Best Book of the Year
A Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Memoirs
"Imagine if David Sedaris could draw . . . Enchanting." (People (4 stars, People Pick))
"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)
"Now that the phrase 'LOL' has gotten so overused, it’s hard to imagine that anything really makes people laugh out loud anymore. But the crudely drawn cartoons in Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half, culled from her popular blog and reprinted alongside never-before-seen materials, will make you laugh until you sob, even when Brosh describes her struggle with depression." (Entertainment Weekly)
“Once I started reading “Hyperbole and a Half,” I found myself unable to stop—except to laugh uproariously.”
(Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing.com)
"This is the BOOK OF THE YEAR." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
"Allie Brosh's artwork may look deceptively simple, but her comics are anything but. She is gut-bustingly hilarious, especially when she talks about her ridiculous dogs, but also insightful and phenomenally articulate; her treatise on what it feels like to suffer from depression remains, in all honesty, one of the best things ever produced on the internet (and it's still somehow massively entertaining, too). Get this for the smart people who appreciate humor in your life, and they won't be disappointed." (io9.com)
“Brosh is a connoisseur of the human condition. In her typical self-deprecating and dramatic manner (hence the hyperbole reference), she tells personal stories that name things we can all relate to, including fear, love, depression and hope. Perhaps the most endearing thing about her writing is that she approaches her subject matter from a vulnerable, childlike place, complete with Paintbrush caricatures that have arguably already earned iconic status. . . . Part graphic novel, part confessional, overall delightful.” (Kirkus Reviews)
"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)
“Here’s a rough analogy: David Sedaris sets out to write a graphic memoir, but decides to use the MS Paint application on his computer rather than hire an artist….[Brosh’s] naïve art plays brilliantly against dark comic themes.” (Michael Humphrey, True/Slant)
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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.
*not an actual DSMV disorder... yet
Allie Brosh is smart, honest, and more often than not, hysterically funny. She honestly shares her childhood memories and has an incredible way of even recalling her childhood rationale. She writes in a way that makes you feel like she is your best friend regaling her tales of childhood and her extraordinarily, ordinary life events.
This book is amazing! Allie included a few stories for her blog, but a lot of new stuff. She definitely makes up for not posting for a while.
Thank you, Allie for writing a book! If you happen to read this review (highly unlikely, I'm sure), I really wish we could be friends! Please take that in the most un-creepy way possible! :)