Essayist and improv comedian Andrea Laurion reads an eclectic mix of non-fiction, but all of her picks remain grounded by a strong narrative voice.
Rona Jaffe, The Best of Everything
When Rona Jaffe’s superb page-turner was first published in 1958, it changed contemporary fiction forever. Some readers were shocked, but millions more were electrified when they saw themselves reflected in its story of five young employees of a New York publishing company. Almost sixty years later, The Best of Everything remains touchingly—and sometimes hilariously—true to the personal and professional struggles women face in the city. There’s Ivy League Caroline, who dreams of graduating from the typing pool to an editor’s office; naïve country girl April, who within months of hitting town reinvents herself as the woman every man wants on his arm; and Gregg, the free-spirited actress with a secret yearning for domesticity. Jaffe follows their adventures with intelligence, sympathy, and prose as sharp as a paper cut.
Rosie Schaap, Drinking with Men
In Drinking with Men, Schaap shares her unending quest for the perfect local haunt, which takes her from a dive outside Los Angeles to a Dublin pub full of poets, and from small-town New England taverns to a character-filled bar in Manhattan’s TriBeCa. Drinking alongside artists and expats, ironworkers and soccer fanatics, she finds these places offer a safe haven, a respite, and a place to feel most like herself. In rich, colorful prose, Schaap brings to life these seedy, warm, and wonderful rooms. Drinking with Men is a love letter to the bars, pubs, and taverns that have been Schaap’s refuge, and a celebration of the uniquely civilizing source of community that is bar culture at its best.
Tracy Kidder, House
From the first nail to the final coat of paint, blueprints to moving day, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder leads readers through the grand adventure of building an American dream. In Kidder's hands, the story of constructing a house becomes "powerful, rich, enjoyable... a suspenseful, gripping tale" (People).
Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. They've tested France's first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. For every new surgical procedure, from heart transplants to gender reassignment surgery, cadavers have been there alongside surgeons, making history in their quiet way.
In this fascinating, ennobling account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries—from the anatomy labs and human-sourced pharmacies of medieval and nineteenth-century Europe to a human decay research facility in Tennessee, to a plastic surgery practice lab, to a Scandinavian funeral directors' conference on human composting. In her droll, inimitable voice, Roach tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.