2015 BookPage Summer Reads
Laughter can tighten your abs, soothe your mind and increase your empathy. Lighten up your summer reading with two funny new books that have both heart and brains.
When Patricia Marx, a New Yorker staffer, former “SNL” writer and Harvard Lampoon alum, commits to four months of brain fitness, watch out. “I could use some buckling down,” she writes. “My mental skyscape has too many aircraft aloft.” Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties details her often hilarious forays into IQ testing, online brain games, electrical brain stimulation and mindfulness meditation to combat the regrettable effects of aging. The book is peppered with wacky diagrams drawn by Marx; most are intentionally primitive, but her Millard Fillmore, on a list of “Presidents to Forget,” is surprisingly on the money. There are also a variety of puzzles and quizzes; only some are real, but all are funny.
Marx’s efforts don’t always go as planned—she elects to learn Cherokee for the benefits of being bilingual, but confuses it with Navajo, the language she intended to learn. She still makes impressive gains for the time invested, and offers tips for those who want to give it a try. Crossword mavens may want to pick up a sudoku, or a Cherokee phrasebook, as it’s the process of learning something new that builds brain strength.
Since one of the meditation techniques mentioned here is laughter, merely reading this book could help your hippocampus feel the burn. Start with Marx’s suggestions, then plot your personal brain boot camp since sadly, liposuction is not an option for shaping up an aging brain.
Like diners at a popular Italian restaurant chain, readers of popular suspense writer Lisa Scottoline and her daughter Francesca Serritella enjoy the sense that “when you’re here, you’re family.” Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?, the duo’s latest collection, is true to form, featuring riffs and one-liners about relationships, fitness, work and family traditions. (Christmas ornaments that have seen better days or that memorialize beloved pets? “If you’re maimed or dead, you’re on our tree.”)
This book—the sixth from the mother-daughter team—brings the sad news that Mary, the family matriarch who figures in many of Scottoline’s funniest true and fictional stories, has died. The loss leaves Serritella more reflective about life and love just as she re-enters the dating pool, but she recalls venting about her love life to her grandmother one day and receiving this reply, written on a dry erase board: “Motto: Who needs it?” (When Mary realized that people were taking photos of her dry-erase messages to preserve them for posterity, she began writing things like, “Eat sh*t.”) Scottoline notes that the richness of her mother’s love unexpectedly made the grieving process more bearable.
Take this collection to the beach (Spoiler: It doesn’t make you look fat after all!) and consider it a drama-free family reunion.