When I first heard that B.J. Novak, better known as Ryan “The Temp” Howard on The Office and, of late, a familiar face in films from Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks to decidedly-not-Disney’s Inglorious Basterds, I may have sighed just a little. Oh, what a surprise: another book from someone who starred in a comedy on NBC. But I was too quick to scoff. While he could have easily tossed off a dozen chapters filled with showbiz gossip (which, don’t get me wrong, I’d read that, too), Novak has instead given us One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, an eclectic collection of off-kilter short stories filled with humor and heart, told in a surprisingly self-assured literary voice. If that’s not enough for you, here are five more reasons to pick it up:
1. Novak is the real deal. ”Yeah, yeah,” you’re saying, “so another TV star published a book.” (Aren’t you the cynical one!) But despite being a familiar face on TV, Novak is a writer first and an actor second. He attended Harvard, majored in English lit, did his thesis on Hamlet, and wrote for the venerable comedy institution The Harvard Lampoon. His first TV gigs were as a writer, not an actor, and he’s responsible for 15 episodes of The Office.
2. It’s bite-sized in the best way. I admit, I have an aversion to short stories. To me, they often feel like plugging your way through the beginning of a novel again and again: as soon as you’re oriented, it’s over. Novak avoids this by cutting right to the meat, packing over 70 stories in less than 300 pages and yet somehow never leaving me feeling short-changed. It takes great skill to know exactly how long or short a story should be, and Novak has it (one of them is only three lines long, and it’s perfect).
3. There’s a little something for everyone. Humor is very personal. What makes me laugh might leave you stone-faced. But I’d be hard-pressed to imagine a reader who couldn’t find something to love in One More Thing. There’s satire (Wikipedia Brown is a wordy but not entirely helpful sleuth). There’s absurdist humor (the hare is determined to beat the tortoise in a rematch). There’s real heart (one of the longer pieces, about a boy who wins $100,000 from a box of Frosted Flakes and in the process finds out the carefully hidden secrets of his past, actually got me a little choked up). The hit-to-miss ratio is astonishing, really.
4. Maybe you want to listen to it instead? We’ve already told you that some books are even better when read to you by famous people (they’re just better than us!), now add this one to the list. The audiobook is read by Novak and a revolving cast of your favorite contemporary comedians and actors: Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Jenna Fischer, Julianne Moore, Carey Mulligan, Katy Perry (?!), Jason Schwartzman, Emma Thompson, and Rainn Wilson. My ears are tingling already.
5. Pretty much everything going on in this book trailer. I know, the entire concept of book trailers is absurd. But this one perfectly captures the flavor of Novak’s writing and humor, and if you don’t at least smile while watching it, you are no friend to me. Just kidding. But you might be dead inside.