Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Part memoir, part humorous essay, Mindy Kaling’s first book aims to be a little bit of everything.  She offers stories about growing up the obedient child of immigrants, offers a list of commandments for a best friend, and offers some tidbits about what it’s like to be a writer for The Office.  A quick, breezy read, Kaling’s book offers some gentle laughs and some genuine insights into a very bright, very funny woman.

It’s impossible for Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? to live up to its own hype.  When the publisher released a sneak peek of the book on the internet last year, the outlook was exceptionally good: the parts of the book readers were privy to were well-written, funny, and warm.  While this is true of most of Kaling’s book, the thing as a whole doesn’t quite work.  Although it is often funny, Kaling’s odd detours from personal memories–like when she talks about why guys should wear pea-coats–detract from the book’s resonance.

The best parts of the book are the parts where Kaling writes about the entertainment industry.  Her keen observations about being a female writer in comedy are particularly astute, and it is here that she really shines.  Her observations about life as a writer on the set of The Office and her struggles to make it as a writer/actress in Hollywood in general are some of the book’s strongest moments.  She writes about her coworkers with grace and admiration, and there’s nothing saccharine or fake about it: she genuinely admires these people.

There’s no doubt that Kaling is funny.  It’s also clear that she’s a good writer, as her conversational tone throughout the book is part of its appeal.  In fact, it often reads like a more verbose version of her Twitter feed, which isn’t a bad thing at all.  This reader just wishes the book had been more focused and that Kaling had allowed herself to be as funny as we know she is.

Recommended to fans of Kaling’s Twitter, fans of The Office, fans of light comedy.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. Crown Archetype: 2011.  Purchased copy for Kindle.

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