My first exposure to David Sedaris’ books was when I was working at Barnes and Noble. Every morning we would have a little meeting where we all got together by the care and talked about grave issues, meaning: “Why aren’t you guys selling more membership cards?” I was a lowly shelver, so I didn’t have to sell the stupid things.
We also talked about the new books that had come out that week. I started my job in October, and in one of our November meetings our manager held up a book called Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. Suddenly everyone was clamoring and chiming in about how hilarious this guy was. I was a big humor reader, or so I thought, and I’d never heard of the guy.
I read the slim volume on my breaks and laughed my head off. It was even funnier than they had said. The crown jewel of the collection is, of course, The Santaland Diaries, Sedaris’ recounting of his seasonal job working as a Christmas Elf in a department store.
After that I read everything he had written to date and have continued to do so. So today I’m going to give you a David Sedaris bibliography and a couple of brief reviews. You won’t be sorry. Well, actually, you might.
Holidays on Ice
Funny stories centered on Christmas. Other than the Santaland Diaries, my favorite was a mock Christmas letter written by an increasingly hysterical woman after a year in which some of her husband’s mistakes come back to haunt her.
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Essays about his life and his family. The title essay comes from a speech therapist’s efforts to help young David overcome a speech impediment. As always, my favorite stories in the book are about his father and his brother, The Rooster.
This one’s more hit and miss for me. Some of the stories are funny, some are actually pretty sad, and some are incredibly vulgar, even for Sedaris. This was the book where I read about David Sedaris and Tourette’s Syndrome. There is an essay called A Plague of Tics that comes as close to describing what my own tics feel like as anything else I’ve read.
This one is actually classified as fiction. It is my least favorite so far, but has some pretty good laughs in it.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
More of the same, not that that’s a bad thing. My favorite essay in this collection was about the Sedaris children’s astonishment when a local family showed up to come trick or treating the day after Halloween. When their mother told them they had to share their leftover candy, they dash into their rooms and start eating everything as fast as they can.
When You Are Engulfed In Flames
Highlights from this collection included, for me, his attempt to stop smoking, essays about living abroad, and the pathological competency of his boyfriend, Hugh.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary
Shame on me, I had no idea this was out until I decided I wanted to write this post and started looking up his titles to make sure I didn’t leave any out. This is apparently a more adult take on Aesop’s fables, which I reviewed briefly in Short Moral Stories For Adults.
I’ll have a report on it soon.
A note on David Sedaris on audio
I’ve never said this about any other book or author, but I believe Sedaris’ material is better in every way when it is read by the author. You have to hear it to get it. I would recommend two things, one small, one big.
First, David Sedaris Live at Carnegie Hall. I got this for Christmas a few years ago and still listen to it at least once a year.
And for the diehards, there’s the David Sedaris Big Box Set. It’s all of his works 0n audio up through Me Talk Pretty One Day. That’s the only amazon link I’m going to stick in this post, but there you can find all of his work. I took the box set on a long drive on a vacation a couple of years ago and I can’t remember a more enjoyable drive.
That’s it for now. I’ll come back and update this post when there are more books to add to the list.
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