David Sedaris is a new author for me, and his 2020 compilation, The Best of Me, was the perfect place to start. He introduced me to his family, his outlook on life, his writing style, and the general ethos of his audience. And yes, I laughed plenty. A few tears fell out of my eyes as well.
Sedaris hand-picked this selection, drawing particularly from past works. He combines personal essays and a few short stories, with the former being where he really shines. The smallest moments become an entire essay arc. At the same time, he analyzes lifelong family characters and issues in biting detail.
The timeline of Sedaris’s life is fairly similar to mine, as a child of the 1960s coming of age in the 1970s. But things diverge quickly since my family was quite small. Truthfully, that’s part of why The Best of Me was so funny for me. I loved stepping into a different world with more chaos.
And when his family stories get dark, Sedaris switches gears and talks about travel or general life. The essay about other airplane passengers reminds me of the challenges of coach class. And his essays about learning French remind me of my own language struggles during a pre-pandemic trip to France.
On the other hand, the short stories were way off the weird meter for me. Relating to them was harder than the personal essays.
I borrowed this book from the library since humor isn’t usually my typical reading fare. However, catching up on his backlist is in my plans. I even bought his most recent book when the Kindle version went on sale recently.
So perhaps I’m the last reader in the universe to discover David Sedaris. I know I’m the only member of my book club new to his writing. But I’m no longer a neophyte. And listening to the audiobook was a perfect choice. Now I have his unique voice in my head for the future.
It was also prescient that the library delivered The Best of Me just before Thanksgiving. As Sedaris told his stories, I definitely thought about the upcoming holiday and its anticipated family time.
I’ll say it again. Not every story here is a giggle. In fact, many of the essays focus on tough topics. Given that, I especially appreciated the author’s interview at the end of the book. Sedaris takes a moment to share his perspectives, which added even more depth.
I recommend this book for memoir and humor readers. Don’t be like me and avoid Sedaris for decades.
Pair with Folded Wisdom: Notes from Dad on Life, Love, and Growing Up by Joanna Guest for the contrast in family perspectives. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson would also make a terrific pair for their similar humorous outlooks on life.