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There's Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  573 Ratings  ·  125 Reviews
Part memoir, part monologue, with a dash of startling honesty, There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say features biographies of legendary historical figures from which Paula Poundstone can’t help digressing to tell her own story. Mining gold from the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Joan of Arc, and Beethoven, among others, the eccentric and utterly inimitab ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 27th 2007 by Three Rivers Press (first published November 2nd 2006)
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I was previously only familiar with Paula Poundstone through the NPR comedy news show, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. So I knew what to expect, in the sense that she is a comedian who is frequently sarcastic and irreverent. What I wasn't expecting was a story of hardship, struggles, and genuinely tragic mistakes.
The central conceit of the book is that in each chapter, Paula chooses a historical figure and writes about them, connecting their lives to her own life in a semi-coherent stream of conscious
Jesse Agee
Jan 25, 2016 Jesse Agee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I turn to this book whenever I feel a little blue, and it always makes me feel better. Paula Poundstone gives a priceless sense of perspective to everything. Whatever humiliating punishment you're going through, especially if you brought it on yourself, Paula went through something similar or worse - and she will show you how to accept your sad mistakes, find the irony and humor in it if possible, and move on.
This is really an autobiography, but Paula Poundstone, in her own words, is so shy, sh
Christine Cody
Paula Poundstone's wry, humorous look at life (even the very serious legal troubles that took a big chunk of her freedom, money, and reputation) shines brightly in this book just as it does in her live shows. I was lucky to see her this past fall in Eugene and, as many do, met and spoke with her after the show. I realized later that I had talked with her assuming that everything she said on stage was exactly as it is in real life. That's the effect of Poundstone: transparent, honest, and without ...more
Jul 16, 2014 Ken rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hear many good things about "Wait, wait... don't tell me..." and I like comedians, but somehow, I didn't like Paula Poundstone. It wasn't so much that she adopted children and endangered them (the court's words, not mine) by driving them to Baskin Robbins, while drunk. I think it was because she joked about some of the terms of her plea deal, maybe. I don't know. I don't recall the exact joke, but it was something about not being allowed to be alone with kids that were not her own.
There were
Stephen Deloney
Enjoyed the mix of personal memoir with historical biography.
I think Paula Poundstone is very funny. She spoke at a library event that I attended, and her speech was the best part of the event. And this book was funny. I could hear her comedy delivery in my mind as I read. I enjoy her humor and even laughed out loud while reading it. Still, it took some effort to get through the book, perhaps because it reads like the text of one standup routine after another. Since there is no really linear story here (except for the brief biographies of famous people th ...more
Oct 23, 2014 Randee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, audible
I've always liked Paula Poundstone as a stand up comedian. She has a sense of whimsy that I find amusing and a deadpan type delivery that I appreciate. She is your wittiest friend who interjects a one line wisecrack that is often brilliant. I listened to her narrate this on Audible. Though I enjoyed it, I would not say this is her best material. I think it was a mistake to do mini biographies of famous historical figures and tie it into her own life. As interesting as some of her subjects are (S ...more
Apr 03, 2015 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Paula Poundstone. I like "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" a lot, and when she is on the panel, I love that show. Her timing is so quick, her drollery so pointed, and her bursts of mock outrage so adorable.
While reading this book, I occasionally smiled, but had to admit that putting the words down on the page isn't what Ms. Poundstone does best. It just slows her down too much.

Reminds me of an old vaudeville joke.
Top banana: "Ya wanna know what'd the secret of comedy?"
Second banana: "Yeah, I d
Michael Clark
Jun 20, 2016 Michael Clark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, incorporating biographies as lens to add humor to one's life story both the tragedy and the joys. I think stand up comics are some of the smartest people in the room with what they can pull out of observational humor. Bravo Paula for your wit, resilience and perseverance even in the face of horrendous circumstance, you are a hero!
Rebecca Waring-Crane
Paula reads her own work and keeps me company on my commute to school. Using braided essay style she cleverly confesses her own flaws (serious, real), and makes witty observations about her own life in comparison with lives of historic figures: Charles Dickens, the Wright Brothers, Helen Keller.
Feb 29, 2008 Jennifer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
how can someone so funny be so un-funny?
Heather McLaughlin
Paula writes just like she talks, which of course means this is a hilarious book.
Jan 26, 2017 Dorothy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Just listened to the audiobook for the second time. Still funny, poignant, informative, and clever. Don't miss it.
Feb 01, 2017 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, but I'll stick to her appearances on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me from now on.
David Koeth
Jan 05, 2017 David Koeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like Paula Poundstone's brand of comedy, you'll love this quirky book. She uses history to jog her memory so that she can tell you about her life - often in very funny contrast.
Sep 16, 2012 Katarina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny
I'm a huge fan of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on NPR, and I always know it's going to be an especially good episode if Paula Poundstone is on. When confronted with the findings of some new study, she always asks exactly the questions I want to, and is so funny about it. How could I not want to read her book?

It took me a while to get into There's Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, because the writing style threw me. As I read on, I started to really appreciate it: she writes simultaneously abo
Mark Schlatter
A while back, Paula Poundstone got into trouble driving her children (all foster or adopted) while drunk. She got sober, got her adopted kids back, and tried to get her life back in order. Some of this book is her account of that process --- it's the mea culpa you expect when a celebrity does wrong.

Except this book is also a biography of historical figures (e.g., Abraham Lincoln, the Wright Brothers, Sitting Bull, Joan of Arc, ...) that Poundstone admires or feels a connection to. Having heard a
Jul 08, 2010 Joy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paula Poundstone is my favorite guest on my regular Saturday morning
NPR show, "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," so that led to my interest in knowing more about her She's quite open about her felony conviction for drunk driving with her adopted children, which led to them being in foster care for awhile. She has a lot to say about her kids, much of it very funny: "I don't think I ever met someone who didn't know how to raise my kids." And: "I let my kids watch some of the summer Olympics, because I wan
I read some not so great reviews of this book, but I love Paula's stand-up, so I decided to give it a shot anyway. But sadly, I have to agree with those not to great reviews...

The book is laid out like this:

Random fact about someone from history. Random fact about Paula. Random fact about Paula. Random fact from someone from history. Random fact about Paula. Something from history. Something about Paula. Etc.

It's very random and awkward. After 25 pages I wasn't even sure I could take any more. I
Jan 21, 2008 Hilda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love Paula Poundstone, I think she is one of the best female comics of our generation. I love her humor, her delivery - just the way her mind works. And I so admire her getting through her much-publicized rough patch with drinking, and losing her kids, etc. I was totally ready to absolutely love this book. As it turns out...not so much.

I just don't understand why she wrote the book the way she did. She has taken what to me seem eight random historical/cultural figures - Joan of Arc, Abraham L
Feb 04, 2009 Don rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I'd like to think that Ms. Poundstone could appreciate the circumstances under which I read this book. I was at a bag sale at a local library, at which I had the opportunity to fill up a shopping bag for just $1. Glancing at the table, I noticed a travel book that caught my attention, figured it was worth a buck, figured I could probably fill the bag with any old crap and even if I never read the other books I'd still have that travel book.

That being said, I do enjoy Ms. Poundstone on NPR's "Wai
Oct 04, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, memoir
Much like when she performs stand-up and interacts with the audience, in her memoir Paula Poundstone interacts with the stories of historic figures. She'll be telling the story of somebody like Beethoven and that will trigger an apparently random connection in her mind with something from her own life and she will follow where her thoughts lead. In no way do I think she was comparing herself to people like Abraham Lincoln. This just felt like her doing her thing.

This isn't a typical memoir by a
Feb 01, 2008 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I like Paula Poundstone's humor a lot, and I did enjoy this book. I just think she's at her best with an audience to feed off of, especially when she engages with them in her act. The pace of the book was a little slow, and generated more chuckles than laugh out loud reactions. She has a stream of consciousness style and makes some big leaps between seemingly disconnected topics (which aren't so disconnected after all once you catch up with her line of thought). The fun is when she catches you b ...more
Caren Stein
Nov 19, 2012 Caren Stein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Paula is my favorite female stand-up comic. I loved this book so much, I bought the audio book so I could hear her and as I was like getting a seven chapter show. I think the way she integrated historical figures that she loves/admires was unique and I appreciated it AND, I learned things about them that endeared a few to me even more.
Paula should write and write and write some more. For those who give a psychological analysis of Paula's personal life instead of reviewing the bo
Apr 02, 2016 Christina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, humor, audio
I always enjoyed Paula Poundstone's clean, observational stand-up. I don't think I was aware of her legal problems, and she touches on them in this book, but it's primarily a vehicle for her stand-up routine. The audiobook, read by the author, was therefore particularly enjoyable, and the content wasn't as dated as I expected. But the device of giving a biography of a famous person in each chapter as a framework to tangent off of didn't work for me. It felt like filler to bulk up the content to ...more
Aug 31, 2008 Pete rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paula Poundstone is a well-known comedienne who is a frequent panelist on NPR's news trivia show Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me. She has had several HBO and Comedy Central specials and tours the country performing her stand-up act. Now, she is also a published author. It must have been challenging to adapt what is a pretty standard - albeit unusually hilarious - stand-up act into a 250-page novel, but by interweaving her story with that of famous personages such as Joan of Arc, Helen Keller, and Abrah ...more
Dec 15, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memiors, comedy
I love Paula Poundstone. I've been a fan since I was a kid and her observations and quick wit have never ceased to amaze me.

This book as a book isn't very good. It's basically a bunch of random stories mixed in with short biographies of famous figures. If I had read this as an actual book it would've taken me about a year because I seriously can't handle books written in that sort of format.

However, I listened to this as an audiobook. It is narrated by Paula herself. It was hilarious. It works
Dec 29, 2007 Susan rated it liked it
I often laughed while reading this book but I wish it had been shorter. I felt like it wasn't worth the time I spent finishing it but I could never read more than a few pages a night before getting sleepy. This is not literature ... it's a string of one liners, loosely strung at that. Paula's schitzophrenic style is funny in a performance but sometimes disturbing when reading. I kept thinking, "Now wait a minute - how did we get here?"

Unfortunatley her chaotic style distracts from her very inter
Dec 02, 2013 Danielle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, own, memoir
I've always like PP and I was very interested to read her book. It's set up in a very odd way, though that's to be expected - she's a rather odd person. It's distressing to hear about the trouble she had after being arrested for driving drunk with her kids in the car, but ultimately it's very heart-warming to hear how devoted she is to her kids (though they may grumble when they're older about having so many of their foibles revealed in the name of comedy). I listened to the audiobook read by he ...more
Nov 20, 2012 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could complain that this book reads like a bunch of stand-up comedy lines strung together with little cohesive plot, but I will instead say a) Paula Poundstone IS a stand-up comic and b) the way she recalls her own history and the histories of famous people (the Wright Brothers, Beethoven, etc) is a funny and effective patchwork of disjointed anecdotes -- exactly the way I remember my own history and the tales of others. Reading this book is like dipping into someone's brain for a few hours, a ...more
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Paula Poundstone is an American stand-up comedian. She is known for her quiet, self-deprecating style, political observations, and her trademark oddly masculine style of dress, a suit and tie outfit.
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“It is my wish to die of unique causes, perhaps in a high-speed tricycle crash, a bizarre stapling incient, or as a result of inadvertently sucking my brains out through my ear while trying to untwist the vacuum hose.” 9 likes
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