Book 11 of 52 is an excellent example of how asking your friends for help is not a shameful thing to do. Jason Roeder is friends with a member of Freelance Success, which is a fabulous and invaluable freelance writer group (if you freelance and are not a member, sign up pronto — worth the money. It’s how I got my book deal).

Anyway, Roeder’s friend posted on our message boards about this book, and that if anyone could possibly write about it, to let him know. I let him know. Roeder emailed me right away, sent me a copy of the book, and now I’ve placed it in two different articles. One is a book round up and the other is a straight newspaper review. I never would have heard about Oh, the Humanity!: A Gentle Guide to Social Interaction for the Feeble Young Introvert if not for that post on Freelance Success. Why? Well, because I’d never heard of Tow Books (the publisher) and I rarely write about humor books.

Humor’s hard, especially to review. While someone might think that Larry the Cable Guy is hysterical, I think he’s a one trick pony. I love flat, dry British humor (“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!” — I was DYING), but I know a lot of people can’t stand it.

I feel the same way about reading humor, which is why I’m sometimes uncomfortable passing judgement on it, but I liked the concept of Oh the Humanity! since I have little patience for self help books (yes, some are useful, but most are crap), and this book makes fun of the genre.

My college boyfriend and I joked that there was a magical “cool list” and that I was on it and he was not. So whenever I mentioned something that he didn’t know about (which had more to do with the fact that I was editor-in-chief of my college newspaper than me being cool — my three-day long Star Trek the Next Generation binge with my roommate would dispel the cool rumor), I’d say that it was a memo put out to the “cool list,” which is why he didn’t get it. Roeder writes as if there really was a “cool list,” and he’s the writer of the memos. The persona he adopts is very Stephen Colbert — all swagger and no substance.

Roeder hits the funny bone about half the time. Sometimes the jokes ring out like a church bell on a cool crisp morning, and sometimes they splat like lettuce on the kitchen floor (talk about odd humor — my mom once dropped a head of lettuce on the kitchen floor and I laughed for 10 minutes because I thought the sound was funny).

That’s why I think that Oh the Humanity! is a classic bathroom book. It’s something you can pick up and read for short spans of time without overtaxing your brain, and it will entertain anyone visiting your house who would pick up something that, if in a bookstore, would have been “flagged.” But it’s not a book I would recommend curling up with on a cold winter night.

I would have rather read it in short chunks because when you string it all together, the humor grows cloying, like a pixie stick. Sure, they taste good, but you get sick of the taste after you pound the first two.

The moral of this story? Let your friends pimp your book, and Oh the Humanity! is best read in small bites.

P.S. I went to college at the University of Tampa, and Roeder’s first short story was published in the Tampa Review, the school’s literary journal. I ran a 5K on Saturday, and one of the participants was a UT grad as well. Small world, isn’t it?


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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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