Basically, it was the title of this book that got me. Honestly, there’s no way anyone can convince me that a title like this doesn’t grab their interest. Nope. You can’t do it. This title is fantastic. And really, that’s all it took. (So, there’s a plug for choosing the right title if I’ve ever heard one. I’d never heard of these authors before – not their cooking show, their comedy, or their apparently super popular murder podcast – none of it. And I still picked up this book because the title is just that good.) Plus, it fits nicely with #nonfictionnovember, so that’s a bonus.
So, these two authors started a podcast a few years ago called My Favorite Murder. And it turns out a lot of people are really into true crime, and their comedic back and forth take on cold cases, etc. gained a massive fan base. I totally get how that happened. If I was a podcast person, and I know I’ve already mentioned in a few posts that I’m not (even though apparently I am into reading books by authors who started in comedy/podcasts, see You Can’t Touch My Hair, off the top of my head), I would absolutely listen to that. Fascinating. Anyways, this collection of essays by the duo covers topics ranging from how they met, how the podcast got started, their youth/growing up and how they each got interested in this topic to begin with, general “self-help” tips (both related to avoiding murder and not), and overall insight into their own lives and their personal traumas and mental health and (copious) attendance of therapy sessions.
I honestly had no real idea what to expect out of this collection. And, like all comedy nonfiction that I’ve read, it was a mixed bag that leaned towards the overall entertaining, at least in my opinion. Things that I really liked included, importantly, that listening to the audiobook was awesome. Now, that should be obvious, since the two started as podcast people, but still, this was the best author-narrated piece I’ve listened to since Born a Crime. They had great tone and inflection, were clear and comfortable, mixed studio and live recording sections in, and had a number of moments where they recorded together as sort of conversational interviews, which was super fun. (As I mentioned earlier, if I was a podcast person, I would absolutely be into theirs.) Also, I liked the length. It was long enough to get to know them and have some fun (and learn some things) with their memories and stories, but not so long that I started to get bored or felt like it dragged anywhere. And it was really interesting to hear their individual journeys and perspectives on how they got so into true crime (commonality: growing up in the 80s was apparently lawless and terrifying, haha) and how they met each other.
As with all collections, some essays and sections appealed to me more than others, and I’m sure those sections are different for those who’ve listened to their podcast than they are for me, someone with no experience with them. And while I enjoyed pretty much the whole collection in general (with some slower chapters for me being the “latchkey kid” sections and some of the elongated explorations of their juvenile issues, of which there were many), one of the first chapters, “Fuck Politeness” was one of my favorites. Great commentary on the difference between being legitimately kind and not listening to your gut just because things might get awkward. As a female, and I’m going to assume this is the same for almost all women, I felt profoundly seen and spoken to with this concept. And it’s an idea I absolutely plan to carry with me moving forwards in my life. I was also particularly struck by the last chapter, “Stay Out of the Forest” when they talk about the feedback from listeners regarding victim blaming. It was both a wonderful and vulnerable sharing of how they were “wrong,” if you will, and took the constructive criticism in the way it was meant, and are now advertising how they are trying to be better and how we can all do the same. The main focus was on victim blaming and the language we use around serial rapists/murderers and how we should really restructure our entire outlook. They recognize the outside forces that make this hard, and gave us our victim-blaming lean in the first place, of course, but also I just found the sharing of their new insights and the truth it carried to be deeply affecting. What a profound note to end on. Very, very impactful.
The last piece of this book that I truly loved was their transparency about their own mental health issues, of various kinds, and the frequency with which they see therapists to help with it all. I LOVE that normalization of seeking help and the complete openness with which they support it, share how much it has helped them, and encourage others to do the same. Such an important message and I’m into it.
Again, as with all collections, some sections just weren’t as much for me. I know I kinda mentioned a few of them earlier. But really, overall, my life has looked so much different that these two lives. And part of reading nonfiction and memoirs like this, for me, is to see and learn experiences foreign to my own. In general, it helps me keep an open mind and reminds me to consider all the different backgrounds and issues people come from and deal with. However, there were just some parts of these authors lives that were not compelling for me to listen to. Maybe because they were too like my own to be interesting? Or maybe because of the mood I was in when I listened? Or maybe some reason I haven’t thought of? Regardless, that’s what memoirs are usually like for me, so I moved right along listening with passing interest at those parts and then got back into real investment when the next section came up. It’s not a reflection on the book itself, just on me. The other strange thing, I thought, was that, based on the title, there was not as much murder in this book as I thought there’d be. I mean, I get the title, with their podcast, but if you are expecting a lot of actual exploration of true crime here, you’ll be a bit disappointed. There are a number of references to specific cases/stories throughout, but nothing past surface level. Actually, it’s a great marketing scheme, because it totally makes me want to go listen to the podcast to find out more. Or, more likely cause it’s me, find book written about it and read those. Or, even more likely cause it’s me, theoretically want to do that but not ever actually do it because I’m too scared/paranoid. But whatever, props to them and their agents for that well-developed and crafty plan.
Long story short, this was a very entertaining and quick read. The narration was great, the tone was friendly and conspiring in a fun way, the essays were, for the most part, appealing and compelling, and the couple of moments of legitimate introspection/focus on the reality of mental health struggles was really moving. Overall, I was charmed by and truly enjoyed this book.