Tag Archives: David Sedaris

The Art of Eating Rice Cake, Or Mistakes Made While Traveling Abroad

I’m a little over halfway in my To Be Read Pile Challenge. Which is saying a lot since last year, I think I only finished 4 books? This year I was more strategic with what I planned to read. I made my list a mix of humor books, book club books, and ones that have sat on my bookshelf too long.

My 2014 To Be Read Pile

  1. How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
  2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  3. One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
  4. Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
  5. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  7. Crash Into You by Roni Loren
  8. She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel
  9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  10. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  11. Bonk by Mary Roach
  12. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

I have some reviews to get up here yet, but I’ve finished reading 8 books already!

One of my favorite authors to read is David Sedaris, and I recently finished When You Are Engulfed in Flames on audiobook, which in my opinion, is the BEST way to read a Sedaris book. He has the greatest voice and often reads his work aloud – even drafts – which I think is fascinating. He is then able to tell his agent what lines got the biggest laughs by the audience. Very cool.

In this book, Sedaris talks a lot about living abroad and his relationship with his partner, Hugh, as well as the eclectic group of neighbors they’ve had over the years.

Over the course of their lives together, David and Hugh have lived in New York, France, and Japan. When I visited my friend Amy in South Korea, I spent hours practicing basic Korean phrases out of a language book I’d checked out from the library, only to arrive and find out I’d memorized them with the totally wrong pronunciation. Certain consonants sound very different in the Korean alphabet than they do in English. The letter ‘G’ for example, often takes on the sound of a ‘K’ in Korean.

I greatly sympathized and heartily laughed while reading David’s recount of being the dumbest kid in Japanese class. I loved that his teachers were still kind and encouraging to him, patting him on the head for being the dunce that he was, surrounded by a class much younger than he.

One day I was shopping in Insadong Market by myself and I stopped in a beautiful second floor tea shop to journal about my trip and watch the crowds of people traverse the street market below. I ordered a Green Tea Latte and what I thought was a delicious pastry of fried dough with cinnamon and sugar inside. Amy and her boyfriend, Lin, had bought one for me earlier in the week and it was a yummy treat.

100_2000I thought THIS is what I ordered.

Instead, what appeared on a plate before me was what I would describe as a melted patty of rice cake. Now, to be quite clear, rice cake is NOT cake. And it’s consistency is pretty chewy even at room temperature. The tea shop attendant also gave me the tiniest fork I had ever seen.

Not wanting to be rude, I picked up the fork made for fairies and tried to cut a piece of the rice cake off. It was so gooey, I ended up wrapping it around my fork like a spaghetti noodle, making giant rolling waves with my arm. It just kept winding…and winding!

Once inside my mouth, the rice cake coated my teeth so that my jaw was sealed tight by this taffy-like food. I ate about half of…whatever it was I ordered. When I later described the food to Amy and Lin, neither one had a clue.

Much like David Sedaris, I live life in an experimental manner, a sort of “well, this is what I said I  wanted so best to make everyone think I’m an expert at eating it.” But as the rice cake cooled, it stuck to the plate and I had to use my fairy fork to drag the stuff across it and wind it still. There was no grace or expertise about it.

I highly recommend David Sedaris’s book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. It is a fantastic read for anyone who adores humor books and for lovers of wanderlust everywhere. The best part about travel is that you accept adventures. You could end up like David, sitting in a French hospital waiting room – naked. Or you might just accidentally order rice cake. 😉


Thanks to all who left loving comments for my friend, Cat, last week. Your encouragement warms our spirits.

Now how about you? What are your favorite funny books or travel moments?



The Last Minute Gift Guide of Funny Books

Whilst completing the first draft of my book, I read a lot of humor books. Memoirs, satirical essays, and some estranged fiction. The majority of which, I absolutely loved!

So if you’re running around, still trying to find gifts for everyone on your list, (or a few for yourself), look no further.

Jess’s Last Minute Gift Guide of Funny Books for Funny People!

For the Coworker With the Same Sick Sense of Humor As You or the Family Member You Want to Shock Most:

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

There has to be some Sedaris on the list! I’m also a big fan of Holidays on Ice and Me Talk Pretty One Day. This book is full of childhood tales from Sedaris, as well as travel essays illuminating you on topics like healthcare and Santa Claus. The latter of which is by far my favorite chapter, titled Six to Eight Black Men, which made me laugh so much, I called my mother and did a dramatic reading over the phone for her.

For the Person Who’s Having a Hard Time Embracing Their 30’s

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

I LOVED this book because I felt like I shared so many of the same experiences growing up as Ms. Crosley did. We both loved My Little Pony, we both hated bugs, and we both thought summer camp was overrated. Clearly we were soulmates.

I loved reading about Sloane maneuvering her way into adulthood with witty quips and full-fledged childish behavior! “Can I get you anything?  Coffee? Tea? A pony?”

For the Celebrity Obsessed Friend Who’s Never Missed an Episode of The Office

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

I appreciated learning more about The Office’s Kelly Kapoor before she was Kelly Kapoor. For instance, did you know Mindy Kaling spent a substantial amount of time impersonating Ben Affleck on an off-Broadway stage? True story.

I enjoyed her conversational style and willingness to bare all her insecurities over dieting, diversity, and writing. Definitely excited for her that she has her own show now, that girl worked for it!

For Your Most Sarcastic Friend or the One Who Says They Hate Going Out But In Fact Go Out All Of the Time

The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club by Laurie Notaro

This book was recommended to me by an agent at DFWcon. She told me if I was writing comedy, I needed to read Laurie Notaro, who has quite the list of popular titles to her name, but this is the one I picked up.

In The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club, Laurie regales us with apartment story horrors dealing with fumigators and children, spending the last bit of your paycheck at the bar, and knowing who your true friends are. It’s a guidebook for living life on the accident-prone, awkward moment, laugh with your besties side!

For Explaining to Strangers Why You Are the Way You Are

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Some of you may know Jenny Lawson as The Blogess. In this “mostly true” memoir, she recounts her bizarre childhood which included loose bobcats in her house as a highlight!

From first jobs to dating to married life to giant metal roosters, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is hilarious! And get the book because the pictures are worth it! Her dad was a taxidermist so there’s lots of pictures of animals!

Another example of very conversational (blog like) style writing in which you feel like you are in cahoots with the author.

For the Commuter or Traveling Friend (Get the audio book!)

Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny With a Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits and You Can’t Drink All Day if You Don’t Start in the Morning by Celia Rivenbark

I’m serious, y’all. Get the audiobooks! Celia Rivenbark reads them herself and her no-nonsense, southern charm just bites with hilariousness!

She covers everything from home entertainment to how to make Miley Cyrus shaped pancakes for your daughters sleepover.

I’m telling you, this woman is a genius and I wish she was my neighbor.

For Your Book Club

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

My book club read this one and had a great discussion. Bonus – it’s lighter fare in terms of book club reads, in that the author uses humor to tell a story. So if you want a book with guts for the story, but dressed up in a…little black dress…then this is definitely the book for you!

At the time the book takes place, the author is newly divorced, after her husband left her for a man named Bob. The she suffers in a horrible car accident. She ends up moving in with her mennonite parents and finding a way to move forward while acknowledging her past.

For the College Student or Mentor

I’m Down by Mishna Wolff

A tale of finding one’s own. Mishna Wolff grew up in a poor, Black neighborhood with her single, white Dad who believed he was Black. Except that he wasn’t. And neither was her mom. Yet her father did everything he could to make Mishna “down”.

Struggling to fit in, Mishna practices basketball almost as much as her playground insults. But all she really wanted to do was stay in and read a book.

The author has been a public speaker at universities since her memoir’s release and it’s both a humorous and poignant tale about coming of age and coming to terms with your family.

For the New Mom/Aspiring Career Woman

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I mean really. Tina Fey’s book is for everyone.

But I think it will especially appeal to new moms and women struggling to climb the ladder. Fey’s memoir shares funny stories from her childhood about summer theater as well as her honeymoon disaster of a cruise.

But best of all are her tales about her improv days in Second City and breaking into Saturday Night Live. She’s both a risk taker and an insecure actress. She shares the ups and downs of doing a photo shoot, working with mostly men, and how she only lasted 72 hours when it came to breastfeeding.

There’s no subject left untouched. And she’s ok with that. She’s bossy. 🙂

Those were some of my very favorite reads this year!

What funny books do you love? What title do you want wrapped under your tree this year? Are you done shopping?

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