Audiobook Review: One More Thing

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: One More ThingOne More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak
Narrator: B.J. Novak, Carey Mulligan, Emma Thompson, Jason Schwartzman, Jenna Fischer, Julianne Moore, Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, Rainn Wilson
Length: 6 hrs, 48 mins
Published by Random House Audio on February 4, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Short Stories
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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three-half-stars

B.J. Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut collection that signals the arrival of a welcome new voice in American fiction.

Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, Novak's assured prose and expansive imagination introduce readers to people, places, and premises that are hilarious, insightful, provocative, and moving-often at the same time.

In One More Thing, a boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of Frosted Flakes - only to discover that claiming the winnings may unravel his family. A woman sets out to seduce motivational speaker Tony Robbins - turning for help to the famed motivator himself. A school principal unveils a bold plan to permanently abolish arithmetic. An acclaimed ambulance driver seeks the courage to follow his heart and throw it all away to be a singer-songwriter. Author John Grisham contemplates a monumental typo. A new arrival in heaven, overwhelmed by infinite options, procrastinates over his long-ago promise to visit his grandmother. We meet a vengeance-minded hare, obsessed with scoring a rematch against the tortoise who ruined his life; and post-college friends who debate how to stage an intervention in the era of Facebook. We learn why wearing a red t-shirt every day is the key to finding love; how February got its name; and why the stock market is sometimes just... down.

Finding inspiration in questions from the nature of perfection to the icing on carrot cake, from the deeply familiar to the intoxicatingly imaginative, One More Thing finds its heart in the most human of phenomena: love, fear, family, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element that might make a person complete. The stories in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader.

I really went into One More Thing without any expectations. B.J. Novak isn’t an actor I’m especially familiar with, knowing him predominantly from The Office, meaning it’s sort of hard for me to extricate HIM from the character of Ryan, who’s pretty annoying. I’m also not really a fan of short stories. You’re probably wondering why the hell I chose to listen to this then, huh? Two words: CELEBRITY NARRATORS. I have a major weakness for them, so, unless the subject matter is entirely without appeal, I’m probably going to give it a shot. Actually, I’m glad I did, because I was surprised by how entertaining and good many of the stories were.

As with any short story collection, One More Thing is a mixed bag. However, I’d actually rank this as one of the better short story collections I’ve ever read, because pretty much all of them were entertaining, and the few that weren’t were blessedly brief. A couple of stories, which I’ll talk about in a moment, were particularly compelling. On the whole, I feel like Novak finds inspiration in running through what if scenarios with pop culture, though some of the stories feel a bit more organic. And I in no way mean this as a bad thing. Novak considers things in a new way, which I find pleasant and intellectually appealing.

Before I get into a few of the stories, I want to prepare your expectations. The collection’s being sold as humor and Novak hangs out with a crowd of comedians. I expected the collection to be more aggressively funny. A lot of the humor is wry, understated and occasionally even black. There are funny stories, but there was also one that was incredibly depressing. Humor is part of it, but Novak’s primary goal seems more intellectual/pretentious, which, again, I don’t necessarily see as a bad thing, but I want you to be prepared.

One More Thing opens with a conclusion to the tortoise and the hare. Novak imagines what might have happened following the hare’s sound defeat by the tortoise. This was a great place to start, because it’s light and funny, while also being quite clever. It leads people in with the expected tone. Only then does Novak start sneaking in the sciencey stories and the depressing ones. The opening story was one of my favorites.

Two more that especially stuck with me were similarly drawn from pop culture. The first posits that the calendar was created by a single man who was playing it by ear throughout the year. Told in a diary format, it’s a fun mythology to explain why the months in the calendar are so random in length. The second brings the Duke of Earl from the classic song to life. He’s an actual person from an actual place, now visiting America and wondering why every person he speaks to knows who he is and breaks into the same snippet of song. These are the sorts of intellectual fancies I find quite compelling.

Where Novak generally lost me was in a couple of the most pretentious stories (one about dark matter in the universe and one about book translation) and in the briefest stories. And, when I say brief, I mean that the title of the story was essentially as long as the story itself. One was simply a girl asking her mom why carrot cake has the best icing and the mom replying that it needed the best icing. Are these short stories or stand up comedy sketches? Annoying as some of the short ones were, it’s hard to be too annoyed by a story that takes all of thirty seconds to complete.

The narration of One More Thing is great, presuming that you’re cool with the way B.J. Novak speaks. There are a whole lot of guest narrators, but they do relatively little. Only Rainn Wilson and Mindy Kaling appear in more than one story. Mostly, I feel like the other celebrities were sort of wasted. Why pay Emma Thompson to come in and read four lines? Carey Mulligan read just slightly more. Those stories could have been read just as well by Mindy Kaling. I liked the way most of the dialog was done with different actors, but I was confused by having such a large pool of narrators.

Recommended to people who enjoy speculative short fiction and/or celebrity narrators. Once again, I have been rewarded for leaving my bookish comfort zone!

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Office BJ Novak writing

2 responses to “Audiobook Review: One More Thing”

  1. I am a fan of The Office and so I think I can maybe get the humor that the book is going for. PLUS DWIGHT AND KELLY CAMEOS ON THE AUDIOBOOK.

    While this is probably not the best book ever, I’d read it for the celebs.
    April Books & Wine recently posted…Perfect Lies | Kiersten White | Book ReviewMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I really liked quite a few of the stories. And most of the stupid ones were short, so it was fun. Also, CELEBRITY NARRATION, which is totally the bonus .5, because I am easy like that.

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