Starting off this book, I said "oh noooooo" to myself. The Tortoise and the Hare has been done, it's not clever, every essayist has re-done that story. Novak's version wasn't great, I was dreading the rest of this book. Then he surprised me. The stories not only got better, they kept getting better. I loved this book.
Novak's stories are full of just really smart humor. It is a glimpse into the mind of a super observant guy who then has the talent to turn his observations into approachable, clever, and funny stories. I don't think I've ever used the word poignant before, but many of these stories are. They are deep and thoughtful while being witty and modern. I found myself thinking about several of the stories and telling people about them. His stories about John Grisham and Elvis (both fictional) were just awesome, and I also really loved "Missed Connection," "Outran the Rain," and "Confucius."
It's not just that the stories are great. They rhythm of the stories are masterful. There's no tedium or predictability that often come with essays or short story collections. The order they are put in allows the reader (listener) to laugh out loud, and be surprised, and look forward to the next story, and wish for more--it was really smartly done.
I know us "listeners" of books are in the minority, but in this case, we win the prize. The narration of this book makes it just that much better. Mindy Kaling, Rain Wilson, and Jenna Fischer are such a treat, and Novak's narration brings the stories to life even more.