Book Review: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

I read Why Not Me? as part of my last ditch (and probably doomed) effort to catch up on my 2015 Goodreads challenge and finished it in just a few hours. Like Mindy Kaling’s first book, this one is a fast, enjoyable read with a moderate amount of insight into all kinds of things that Mindy Kaling is interested in. Also like Mindy Kaling’s first book, this one makes me want to be best friends with her, because she seems to be utterly delightful.

I say that, of course, with the full understanding that Mindy Kaling is obviously not going to be delightful to everyone. In fact, she’s clearly a little self-absorbed, a little out of touch, super smart, somewhat nerdy, and not above being occasionally awful. Basically, Mindy Kaling seems like a real human being, albeit far more successful most of the rest of us.

What I love best about Mindy Kaling, though, is that her real human being-ness never feels like a schtick or an act or a ploy to make us like her. Sure, she’s endearingly self-deprecating, but always about actual flaws. She kind of weirdly humblebrags about her McDonald’s addiction, but I suspect that she really does eat too much McDonald’s, and I can relate to that because I, too, eat too much McDonald’s. Her story about dragging B.J. Novak to a play against his will sounds exactly like the sort of thing a real person might do. So, also, does her story about the time she gave a teenage girl a kind of bullshit answer to a serious and worth-answering question.

The advice that Kaling offers at the end of her book is thoughtful, but not too obnoxiously wise. Her thoughts on her work and career are amusing and sharply observed, but delivered without rancor. There’s definitely a little bit more of “work hard and good things will come to you” advice, but it’s not offered without at least a basic awareness of the role played by luck and privilege.

Why Not Me? is not a great work of literature, but Kaling is a clever and funny essayist who isn’t weighed down by pretension. I enjoyed Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) but this follow-up book is altogether better and showcases a Kaling who is more confident, more assertive, and even more readable than she was before.

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