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Sleepwalk With Me and Other Painfully True Stories

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  8,393 ratings  ·  716 reviews
Hello, I am Mike Birbiglia and I want you to read my book. Too on the nose? Sorry. Let me dial it back.

I’m Mike Birbiglia and I’m a comedian. You may know me from Comedy Central or This American Life or The Bob & Tom Show, but you’ve never seen me like this before.

Naked.

Wait, that’s the name of another book. Also I’m not naked as there are no pictures in my book. Al

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Hardcover, 191 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Simon & Schuster
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Naked by David SedarisThe Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo MartinezSquirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David SedarisSleepwalk With Me and Other Painfully True Stories by Mike BirbigliaTake the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell
This American Life
4th out of 98 books — 36 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsNight by Elie WieselAngela's Ashes by Frank McCourtEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Best Memoir / Biography / Autobiography
442nd out of 2,599 books — 2,912 voters


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Community Reviews

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Sarah
Did anyone else read the entire book in Mike Birbiglia's voice? Not out loud, that would be really creepy and weird, but in their head-voice? Because I did. I kept trying to get myself to stop and just read it in my normal head-voice, but I couldn't. Anyways....

The book was hilarious. It had some similar themes that he has in his stand-up, and a few familiar jokes, but I thought most of the stuff was different enough from what I'd already heard from him that it didn't feel stale. The whole thing
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Rebecca
I love Mike Birbiglia's stand-up, but this collection of essays (many which are jokes from his act) suddenly has more poignancy . His humor is so subtle (it helps when you are familiar with his delivery and style) and there were moments where I genuinely laughed out loud...in public. But it's when he discusses the hard moments of his life that he draws the reader in. I don't know of a good word to use for the funny, bittersweet feel of this book, but anybody who wants to feel their humanity, in ...more
Terry
Eh. This book has that same fault as all other books by comedians (Samantha Bee's book is another such disappointment)---it's just a series of routines strung together in book form. There's almost no point to actually reading something like that; it would at least make sense to get the audiobook. I did chuckle out loud a few times, which is a compliment. But I felt that this book wasn't sure what it wanted to be--a memoir of his childhood? A memoir of his medical issue (based on the title, the o ...more
Kater Cheek
Mike Birbiglia is a funny guy. I've heard him on "This American Life" a couple of times, and he's a great comedian. He manages to make me laugh without resorting to racism, misogyny, or a surfiet of swear words, unlike many comedians. So when my friend lent me her book club's selection for last month, "Sleepwalk with Me: and Other Painfully True Stories" I was surprised to hear that the book club didn't like it.

So I went into this book with guarded expectations. After all, I'd already heard the
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Dawn
This was funny. Sort of.

I liked it. Sort of.

I have to confess.. I liked the first half a lot better than the second half. I found it funnier, laughed out loud more.. The second half was ok, but I wasn't laughing as often, and I wasn't as drawn into it.. And there might just be a reason for that. How do I say this... I might have been slightly drunk when I read the first half of the book. I remember thinking it was so funny, definitely a four star rating.. And then the next day it was just.. I d
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Blanche
Let's start by saying I adore Mike Birbiglia. He is an incredibly talented and genuine comedian, as well as a very sweet man (I got to meet him in person after his latest show). His recent movie, of the same title, was delightful. So when I saw this book, I obviously had to pick it up.

The book tells many stories that I have heard in his standup acts, but also includes a deeper look into his progression through the slog of becoming a professional comedian. Those views were my favorite parts of th
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Rob
I became a fan of Mike Birbiglia after hearing a handful of his stories on This American Life and The Moth. But before I could get around to checking out one of his albums or seeing one of his performances, Sleepwalk With Me was published, so I picked it up expecting great things. And in some ways, it is great. Just not quite as great as I expected.

In the AV Club interview that persuaded me to buy the book, I took notice when Birbiglia explained that his writing’s guiding principle is that it no
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Mike
Sleepwalk with Me, Mike Birbiglia's purposeless and unfunny memoir, castrates his stand-up routine by putting it into the delivery-less medium of book form. Stand-up benefits by giving the impression of effortlessness; that is not so much the case here.

Most of Sleepwalk with Me deals less with 'painfully true' and more with painfully ordinary: distant dads, being picked on at school, discovering masturbation, that lousy summer job, realizing that Catholic belief is kind of silly, and let's not f
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Jason Paulios
Love him on cd and on the radio but it just didn't translate so well onto the page. The jokes seemed calculating and occasionally lazy. They probably would work delivered orally but in a book the stories seemed rambling and too thin.
Tim
OK, before reading this book, I had encountered Birbiglia's sleepwalking story in three different formats:
a) as a short story told live at The Moth (via This American Life);
b) as a one man show (captured on CD, Sleepwalk with Me Live);
c) dramatized in the 2012 movie, Sleepwalk with Me.

So I picked up this book because I'm a fan.

Does the story survive the transition from verbal to literary? Yes, but I really think his stories work best as part of Birbiglia's verbal repertoire. Some of the low-key
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Jason
I first learned about Mike Birbiglia when he shared a story on This American Life. He's shared a few more stories on TAL since then, and he's also had a comedy special. Mike is an entertaining comic, and he had me laughing during his bits on TAL, on his special, and during this book.

There were a few less-exciting chapters, but overall this book had me smiling and sometimes even laughing out loud late at night when I should have been asleep but I was awake because sometimes Mike just really make
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Rebecca
p. 43 Growing up, I was a big fan of the Indiana Jones movies. I watched them again recently and found them to be misleading. Aspiring archaeologists across the world probably show up to their first day of work with their weather-worn fedoras and their whips and they're like, "Where's the cavern of jewels?" And their boss is like, "Actually, today we're gonna start off by dusting thousands of miles of nothing." The thing I admire most about these movies is the conviction and sense of self that I ...more
Michael Emond
I have been wanting to read this book for a long time but the library loan system failed me – it seems no library has this book in Canada which is a shame since it is amazing. But I lucked out since it forced me to buy the book and I am glad to have it in my collection. Maybe not up there with Tina Fey’s Bossy pants but a close second of comedians who write interesting autobiographies while still making it funny. I love the fact it was a quick easy read but due to Mike’s brevity you don’t feel l ...more
Tung
I found Birbiglia’s stand-up special “What I Should Have Said Was Nothing” hysterical. I love his delivery, and his stories are solid. Descriptions of this book enticed me – Birbiglia’s humor and storytelling combined with relationship drama? Sign me up. Sleepwalk with Me is essentially a memoir that describes his childhood, his choice of comedy as a career, and his many (many, many) early failings trying to break into professional comedy. Despite my fondness for Birbiglia’s comedy, at the end o ...more
Jennifer


I'm a follower of the NPR program This American Life, where I first started hearing some of Mike Birbiglia's comedy routines. Admittedly, Ira Glass has a lot of pull with me, if Ira Glass said it, or liked it, I usually can't help myself in at least giving it a chance. I generally don't like comedians. I might begrudgingly laugh, but I have a hard time enjoying myself, because the flipside of what makes a comedian a good one...is so often their downfall. Their lives often seem - well, bipolar, t
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Andy
Dec 03, 2010 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
Birbiglia is a fantastic storyteller, and it's amazing to see how far he's come since trying to be a more normal comedian. He was funny then, but he's hilarious now that he's moved into the more personal storytelling.

If you read this book as your introduction to him, however, you may find yourself a little cooler on him than I do. A significant portion of the comedy comes from his delivery. This would be an ideal thing to be an audiobook. Luckily, I've heard versions of many of these pieces on T
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Rebecca
I've been a huge fan of Mike Birbiglia, especially his segments on This American Life, and with the movie version of "Sleepwalk" about to hit theaters in my area, I wanted to follow my own rule of reading the book first.

This was a delightful read. Birbiglia combines poignancy and humor, my favorite combination on This American Life stories as well. For the most part, he is incredibly effective. I really did laugh out loud, which is something I rarely do while reading. My favorite part was when h
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Philitsa
I wouldn't go so far as to say this book was hilarious. It was comedic in style, definitely. But I didn't laugh, not even close. I just recognized that he was trying to be funny. I knew when the funny started and when it ended. I acknowledged the funny. That's as close to "enjoyable" as this book came for me.

Part of the lack of hilarity stems from the fact that he focused SO MUCH of the book on his awkward childhood. Don't think you cornered the market on awkward childhoods, Mr. Birbiglia. I ca
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Doug
A pretty fun collection of anecdotes by a comedian, it's an easy read and perfect for commuting.

This may be a little off topic, but comedians must be the most self-critical people on the planet. If I didn't know who Tina Fey was, after reading Bossypants, I'd just assume that she looks like some ugly monster with big hairy forearms and not a ridiculously beautiful person. And all comedians who write books like this seem to have really socially awkward childhoods, but they all gloss over that pa
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J.C.
I'm a closet stand-up fan and Birbiglia is one of my current favorites. This book duplicates a fair amount of his stand-up material (and his National Public Radio bits) verbatim. That said, he's a comedian who clearly crafts every single word of every bit--so the fact that he would repeat bits word for word is not surprising.

This book is worth reading for Birbiglia's epic stories of sleepwalking alone. There are several other stories that are classics in the making, too. Plus, if you were a Mit
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Beth
So boring and not what I thought it would be. I've spent 4 weeks trying to slog through this book because it was small, but I find that I keep reading other things. That must be because I'm bored. I got about 2/3 through so i count it as finished. I enjoy the genre of humor essays, but I didn't find this funny. It was just kind of sad reading about his life. And where i thought it would be interesting, the sleepwalking of the title and what happened in his life because of it, that subject didn't ...more
Laura
I saw Mike Birbiglia perform some of these stories live when I went to see a recording of the NPR segment Selected Shorts. He had me sold before I even opened the book! This was a quick, light, funny read that I really enjoyed and helped me clear my head. I would definitely recommend it, though it helped to see him live so I could hear his voice a little bit as I read these stories.

All in all, it was a fun book, and quite enjoyable :)
Nick Kives
Mike Birbiglia is a comedian and yes, a number of his jokes are in the book, but it expands on them, and has the stories behind them. There is also a pretty good story about Mitch Hedberg about the first time Mike met him, and also parts of memorial services for Mitch.

Some comedians write books and it ends up just being their jokes on paper, but this book is actually a lot more, and one of the better of the types I have read.
Peter
I agree with my friend Rachel that MB's stand up stuff/stories are best experienced hearing him perform them, I do really like how well the book turned out. And one of my most favorite books of all time being "Sein Language" by Jerry Seinfeld, there's a certain enjoyment of seeing an "official" version of "riffs" I'm already pretty well acquainted with. I just wish he'd included the "Dennis Eckersly story".
Sarah
Strangely enough, I bought this book for my Kindle when I needed help to fall asleep. Reading takes my mind off of my life, so I can relax, but I can't risk getting too involved in a book (i.e. thrillers, mysteries, fantasy) because I will stay up all night reading. I wanted something I knew would be good but that I could also read in installments. I've heard of Mike Birbiglia from "This American Life", and he's one of my favorite contributors. I choked on a Dr. Pepper listening to some of his s ...more
Laura Pinchot
I'm a fan of Mike Birbiglia's stand-up and appearances on Bob & Tom and This American Life. Many of these stories were familiar. The only thing that I think would be better would be an audio book or the off-Broadway show because this was missing Mike's aw-shucks delivery.

However, it was still very enjoyable. Touching and funny personal stories in a very breezy style.
Sarah
Hilarious and poignant. A very quick read. This is the kind of book that is probably better if you get it on tape.
Judith
I never heard of this comedian till someone loaned me a copy of his book, but he is very comical and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's good to have a nice light comedy interspersed with my regular heavier fiction and nonfiction. It's like spending an evening at good improv show.
Heidi Wiechert
This is a collection of stories from the life of Mike Birbiglia. Some of them I had heard already from his stand up routines, which I highly recommend. Others, such as the time he helped his mother recover from surgery or when his comedy hero overdosed on drugs, were new to me. Very few comedians have the perplexed and somewhat innocent vibe of Mike Birbiglia. The mystery that is life doesn't seem to stick to him as he goes through it, day by day. He's far from perfect with his binge-eating and ...more
Kathy
At first I didn't think I would really enjoy this book because I didn't know Mike Birbiglia...but I got to know him, and found out I really liked him! Many times he had me laughing out loud! I definitely plan to try to see him perform, whether live, TV or netflix!
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The Casual Book Club: Sleepwalk With Me: Discussion 2 6 Nov 05, 2014 10:05AM  
  • I Know I Am, But What Are You?
  • A Bad Idea I'm About to Do: True Tales of Seriously Poor Judgment and Stunningly Awkward Adventure
  • Zombie Spaceship Wasteland
  • Tasteful Nudes and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation
  • Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence
  • And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft and the Industry
  • Half Empty
  • People Are Unappealing: Even Me
  • You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations
  • Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America
  • The New Kings of Nonfiction
  • Scenes from an Impending Marriage
  • The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant
  • Take the Cannoli
  • How to Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by the World Champion
  • Girl Walks into a Bar . . .: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle
  • I Drink for a Reason
  • The Jerusalem Syndrome: My Life as a Reluctant Messiah
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“It had that kind of open-ended fear to it - like that feeling you get when you're driving and you see a cop. And you're not speeding. You don't have drugs. But you're just thinking, I hope he doesn't notice I'm driving.” 24 likes
“When you're in a relationship with someone who's selfish, what keeps you in it is the fact that when they shine on you, it's this souped-up shine. And you feel like you're in the club. And you don't even know what club it is. You just know you want to stay in it.” 16 likes
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