Mindy Kaling may play the superficial and ditzy Kelly Kapoor on The Office, but don’t get that twisted with her fabulous real-life intelligence and thoughtfulness. She is a key writer and producer on the long-running NBC comedy after all, and she gets to write a whole lot more in her new book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).
Kaling’s book is brilliantly structured into different sections and consists of essays with detailed anecdotes and humorous lists. In fact, there’s humor in all of it. The comedienne unapologetically and fully uses her wits to craft chapters on everything from childhood memories and athleticism (Or lack of) to kicking off her comedy career in New York and making it big with The Office. Before, in between, and afterwards, she reveals franchises she’d like to reboot, her favorite eleven moments in comedy, what defines a best friend, revenge fantasies she’s had, and strict instructions for her eventual funeral. Of course, there are plenty of personal photos sprinkled throughout, including an entire chapter of Kaling’s favorite self-portraits straight from her Blackberry.
Like the funny girl she is, Kaling tries to find humor in many things, but she doesn’t shy away from talking about the real problems she has faced in her life and continues to face, particularly with her weight. After breaking down various terms for describing overweight people, she describes herself as chubby, meaning “a regular-size person who could lose a few, for whom you feel affection.” While there are times she still feels at a disadvantage—as she describes when a stylist for a recent photoshoot didn’t bring any dresses that fit her—she no longer feels affected by the high school athlete who once called her a “whale.” Other notable serious topics Kaling addresses include how Hollywood unfavorably tried to mold her hit play Matt & Ben into a sitcom so far from what it should have been (And not even starring herself!), how she felt left out by her close-knit clique of high school friends (Hence the book title), and how one guy left her heartbroken just as she got ready for their big date.
Although Kaling insists in the introduction that her book isn’t a life guide (She lists her debit card habit and her messy bedroom as disqualifications for giving advice), readers will find many of her insights to be delightfully inspirational. In the essay “Don’t Peak in High School,” Kaling serves proof that if you were the semi or totally anti-social kid whose head was always in the books, you will make it through in life just fine. Or in the present-day, if you don’t understand one-night stands while some of your friends do, that’s okay too, because Kaling doesn’t get it either. The book offers humorous yet honest opinions and stories that many young women can relate to. Guys, this book is for you too: Kaling would definitely want you to read up on her twelve tips on impressing a lady (Hint: Never, ever buy embellished jeans), and why your chest hair is awesome.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? reads as many things: autobiography, behind-the-scenes look at starring in and writing for a hit sitcom, lifestyle magazine, and humor blog. Not only is it a hilarious and humble portrait of one of comedy’s leading ladies, but you’ll start to see yourself somewhere in the background, because she sounds so much like you—just a lot cooler and famous. It’s a read surely to bust your gut, warm your heart, and lift your spirits. It’s out just in time for the holidays, so make the book your best friend—then lend it to your real best friend with page 80 bookmarked. Trust me, they’ll appreciate that.