Book Review: Bossypants Memoir by Tina Fey

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I have a goal this year to read and review more books, ideally a book per week on average. Recently, I’ve been into reading biographical books about interesting people pursuing their passions. Feel free to send me some suggestions.

Tina Fey’s Bossypants seemed like a funny auto-biography about someone who grew up in a “normal” working-class family and took a little while to become a respected writer, actor, producer, and comedian. Wealthy, too: Fey reportedly makes $500,000 per episode of 30 Rock and has an estimated net worth of $45 million. I should add that I have never seen a full episode of 30 Rock, although I have seen some SNL Weekend Updates, all the Sarah Palin skits, and a few of her movies.

The book was definitely Tiny-Fey-style funny and a quick read, but it wasn’t very revealing. I should have known, as the book is crosslisted under both “Humor & Entertainment” and “Biographies & Memoirs”. Indeed, I get the impression that she’s actually quite a private person and is reluctant to share anything truly intimate. She considered herself an ugly, unpopular nerd in high school. Well, that applies a lot of people. She worked a menial job at the YMCA while supporting her improv education. Eh, okay. Besides the funny bits, here are my highlighted quotes:

On being a leader:

It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.

On discrimination:

When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way.

On teamwork:

Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag.

On being a career-oriented woman:

This is what I tell young women who ask me for career advice. People are going to try to trick you. To make you feel that you are in competition with one another. “You’re up for a promotion. If they go with a woman, it’ll be between you and Barbara.” Don’t be fooled. You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone.

I suppose I feel somewhat disappointed because I sense that she has an inner fire and tenacity that she’s unwilling to explain or share with us. Fey was the first female head writer for Saturday Night Live, no small feat. Yes, she got a lucky break with the Palin thing, but that’s how showbiz works:

You have to be resilient in that world. You have to fight your way in and hopefully you are playing with good players and their give and take is good and they will let you in. I always liken it to basketball. If you get passed to once in a game, you have to learn to make that basket or you don’t get passed to again.

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  1. I tried reading Bossypants but had trouble getting into it. Something about the writing style gave me problems. I love Tina Fey though, and I’ve been a life- long fan of SNL, so I really wanted to read it. I tried the audiobook version and LOVED it. It had me laughing out loud as I painted my son’s bedroom.

  2. I like the detour into the less conventional topic of non-finance book reviews. Personal finance is as much about figuring out what our goals are as it is how to get there. Money is a means to an end, and this highlights that.

  3. I started listening to audiobooks about a year ago, because I can’t get myself to actually read them. I listened to Rob Lowe’s autobiography (Stories I Only Tell My Friends) and Bossypants. Both were great, but I feel like the audiobooks provide a far better experience because they’re actually read by Rob Lowe and Tiny Fey. Lots of little things, like hearing them do the voices of the people who they’re quoting, so you know how they perceive them to sound, would get lost in translation if I were just reading the words on the page myself.

    The only other biography I’ve listened to was the Steve Jobs one, which bored the hell out of me. I was actually bummed each time I got into my car and remembered that’s what I was going to listen to. And I’m a software eng, so I can’t imagine anyone not interested in computers or Jobs (like, for instance, my wife) reading/listening to it.

    But I definitely recommend the Rob Lowe book. Very entertaining to hear the stuff going on “behind the scenes” during the making of/promoting/whatever the movies he’s been in, especially the rat pack stuff from the 80s.

  4. I tried listening to audiobooks, but my mind always wanders and then I have to start the chapter over again. Do you guys usually just buy them from I’ve borrowed a few from the library, been surprised at how many they have.

  5. Jonathan, I love Tina Fey. I do. But if she makes $500,000 per episode, she doesn’t need to sell another copy of Bossypants. I, on the other hand, am a starving author, and I would LOVE for you to review one of my books. The Merry-Go-Round is a fun, contemporary women’s fiction novel that will…well, expand your fiction horizons. The book is available at Amazon
    So…what do you say? Will you give it a whirl?

  6. What a great book, it was very funny and interesting finding out how she got started in comedy. There were many things that made me laugh out loud when I read it and I learned a thing or 2 about improve that made me respect people that are in that profession.

    I noticed in your review that you wanted some suggestions for other Biography’s and I am now reading “The Stephen Fry Chronicles”.

    So far quite funny!

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