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A Field Guide to Awkward Silences

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  940 Ratings  ·  193 Reviews
Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri turns her satirical eye on her own life in this hilarious new memoir...

Most twentysomethings spend a lot of time avoiding awkwardness.

Not Alexandra Petri.

Afraid of rejection? Alexandra Petri has auditioned for America’s Next Top Model. Afraid of looking like an idiot? Alexandra Petri lost Jeopardy! by answering “Who is that dude?”
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by NAL
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Rating details
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Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016, read-2017
Okay so let's get this straight right up top: Alexandra Petri is funny AF. I discovered her during the halcyon days of the presidential debates (remember when all this was merely some CATASTROPHIC JOKE that would never actually come true????), doing these recaps which were just bonkersly hilarious. Here, please read them! First debate, second debate, third debate. She's also done funny riffs on Steve Bannon ("a dead lizard wrapped in a Confederate flag" lolol), Pizzagate, and Tr*mp's cabinet cas ...more
Selina Kyle
When I wonder if I've become too cynical, if I'll never get as "into" a book as I remember I was as a kid, I'm always relieved to find a book that can make me laugh. It's very rare that a book makes me cry. It's almost as rare to find one that makes me snort, giggle, or chuckle out loud. Let alone more than once.

This one did.

Petri has a great balance in her essays between hilarious absurdity and insights that range from deep to soothing. She digs at my (our) generation in ways that I think I wo
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I frequently describe myself as an awkward turtle. It's a great way to convey my general uncomfortableness with social interactions while hopefully making people laugh, and thus make them like me despite my awkwardness. I've found it usually works in dispelling tension, making people snicker a little, and spurs people to offer me the reassurance that I'm not really that awkward.

Alexandra Petri gets me, I think. This book made me laugh like a maniac on public transportation. It's one of the funn
Jaclyn Day
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is wonderful. I laughed (OUT LOUD) so many times I lost count. Each new chapter is more fun than the last, although the one about her misguided childhood obsession with Robert E. Lee and going into AOL chatrooms in character (”RELee”) was particularly delightful. (As a young middle schooler, I, too, had a misguided Civil War obsession and attended reenactments with friends. As I read that chapter, I thought, “Oh! I’ve found my people. At long last.”) Anyway, if you’re feeling a little ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really enjoy her columns in the Washington Post, so I thought this would be a fun read. It was... fine. I feel like I need to stop rewarding funny white women who write these slapdash books of autobiographical essays that I buy just because I like them as people. There were some nice and insightful and moving parts of it, but it was mostly only okay. Too bad! I mean, it wasn't awful, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it. Hold out for Mallory Ortberg!
Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)
3.5 Stars

Every once in awhile we need something fun, quirky, and just out there. Something to have a good time. Something original, carefree, and will leave us laughing because it truly is ridiculous in all the best ways.

A Field Guide to Awkward Silences is one such read.

Entertaining, sometimes bizarre, always fun, relatable, (because come on, how many of us have never been in an awkward situation?), and a laugh in every chapter, it is a book that is hard not to like, nod your head in agreement
Petri wrote something smart-funny lately that I read in one of any number of news outlets (maybe it was the Washington Post), so I decided to look at this book. Awkward about describes it. Sort of teeny-boppery foolishness. Wasn't impressed, except for the amount of time she must have spent on it. Anyway, she is funnier now, I'm happy to report, and has a column in the WP.
Bri (
Disclaimer: I was provided with an Advance Reader Copy of this book for free from the Penguin First to Read program. All opinions expressed in the following review are my own and have not been influenced by Penguin.

Lately, the book market has been saturated by fun, humorous, and self-deprecating memoirs written by young women. Compared to all the similar memoirs I've read, Alexandra Petri manages to write her version in a more entertaining and unique way.

The main reason that Petri's book stand
Mar 03, 2016 marked it as postponed
I saw her blog entry about a change to the AP Stylebook.

Last week, the AP Stylebook surrendered a few more inches of ground. “Over” is now a more than acceptable alternative to “more than,” when it comes to describing relative amounts. Over already gets used more than more than. I don’t know how to protest this, other than reversing the replacement. I am not more than this. I will never get more than this. Over a few people were saying it this way anyway, but that doesn’t make it right. If all y
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Gripped my attention from the start but lost me when I halfway into the book. I understand that its a biography but I didn't feel connected to the author all the way to the end. Overall was an okay read. Had some pretty witty and funny parts but that's it.
Jul 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Witty, intelligent, original and EXHAUSTING. I can't imagine there would ever be an awkward silence in her presence. Ever.
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Some of the essays were better/more polished than others, but overall this was a cheery and entertaining read, much like listening to your funniest friend who always has a good story.
Noreen Zayna Barlas
May 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
I am sure many will enjoy this book. I personally was unable to connect with the narrative and lost interest midway.
Shazza Maddog
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Collection of articles and short stories in which Alexandra Petri shares anecdotes about her childhood and life, as well as dropping droll commentary about this, that, and the other thing.

A fun book!
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks, reviewed
The dazzle of the creative spirit is celebrated in this fun debut read: "Field Guide to Awkward Silences". Alexandra Petri recalls her undercover participation in a TV talent show, a "punster" in the Pun-Off competition, being the muse of an un-famous author, her Civil War re-enactment, her great love for all things Star Wars, and one of her final acts: crashing the "Textbook on Geriatric Care" dinner seminar with a convincing Russian accent!

It is easy to appreciate Petri's quirky zany style and
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won a free copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read, in exchange for an honest review.

Everyone who tends towards awkward has their own way of dealing with those moments when you've said or done something wrong. Alexandra Petri embraces the strange. To be fair, she's usually trying to make things better, but instead usually makes things hilariously worse.

She even seeks out chances to embarrass herself, auditioning for America's Next Top Model, and Jeopardy!, and entering national pun c
Mar 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Penguin gave me an advance copy of this for review.

This was a fun read most of the time. I think this would make a great beach book or as something to read between books. I generally like this type of non-fiction if I'm going to read non-fiction. There were a few moments where I though Petri's writing was both over and underwhelming. What I mean by that is there were times when I'd be enjoying a chapter and suddenly I'd be Googling a word. Now I have an adequate vocabulary, but this was a little
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Being a native of Wisconsin, there were parts of this book that made me think, "I know exactly what she's talking about!" The Kohler museum, for example? A sight to behold! Wisconsin fairs? You haven't lived until you've tried a cream puff! I also caught myself thinking, "I hope my family never slighted her father...or his Packer schedules!"

First of all, writing this book took some guts! Petri knows how to take her personal experiences and make them into life lessons; lessons worth laughing at
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Alexandra Petri is a columnist for my hometown newspaper, and I adore her writing. (And I can't wait for the day she can replace the newspaper's long-time humor columnist who I don't find funny at all). I waited a long time for this book on hold, and so had built up a ton of anticipation to read it. But unfortunately, I didn't care for it that much.

I guess the theme of the book is about her propensity to try way too hard, and it was carried out by her trying way too hard to make some of these v
Megan Peters
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Bought this because of the author's gorgeous opinion piece: Men of the World: You Are Not the Weather. This book is two years old so by the end of it you can see the growth between the essays in this book and that really compelling piece, but this is definitely much less mature, with sparks of brilliance flickering here and there. Some of this is excellent -- merrily funny, and she clearly has a way with words, poignant and thoughtfully in the right places -- and some is pretty misguided (like t ...more
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny, memoir, nonfiction
Alexandra Petri is hilarious. I enjoy reading her columns in the post (she's to thank for the fact that I haven't had to subject myself to any of the Republican debates), and I figured I would see if she was as funny and enjoyable in book form.

She is. Unlike other "comedy memoir writers".... that's a thing? She comes across as someone I would get along with and be friends with.

She also has the capacity for supremely awkward interactions without shame and embarrassment. As someone who has always
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Some of the essays in this book are so painfully funny that even reading them aloud to someone else, in a vain attempt to gain control over this written material, will cause you to choke or hiccup. Probably best to tell them to get their own copy of the book. Early on, the author describes entering a dog agility contest herself, claiming she was running in memory of her deceased dog, and being allowed to run the course. She did not place (of course.) I so wish I had seen this happen. She has bec ...more
Danni Green
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I first encountered Alexandra Petri because I'm the kind of person who gets enjoyment out of watching pun competitions on YouTube, and I was particularly excited to find and root for a contestant who (a) is a woman (of which there are not many) and (b) addresses feminism, onstage, in a male-dominated competitive performance environment (because she's a badass). I was excited to discover she's written a book, which I enjoyed reading very much. This collection of semi-interrelated essays are witty ...more
Jack Coates
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Comedy books are never all that good because the timing is just not reliable and the patterns are so predictable... still, this one was better than usual and I finished it. There are some genuinely funny and touching essays in here.
Jun 10, 2015 rated it liked it
It's true - interesting things do happen when you stop worrying about what others think. I enjoyed the beginning of this quirky, strange, rather out there tale. The middle to end was where she lost me. This small town gal just couldn't relate to her lifestyle and background.
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is hilarious. I want to be best friends with the author. Seriously. Kindred spirits or something.
Apr 17, 2016 added it
Definitely funny. The essay on her whistling competition made me laugh so much, I gave myself hiccups.
May 16, 2015 marked it as to-read
Shelves: books-i-won
Looking forward to getting this book in the mail. I can't believe I won this book on Goodreads!
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It pains me to give this 2 stars because I think Alexandra Petri is brilliant and hilarious, and I love her column in the Washington Post, but this book is not great. The stories make her seem very young, one is about how she is not a good driver, another is about the fact that her friend group has started getting married. Her articles in the Washington Post bring humor to the absurdities of current political news, but the stories in the book feel neither topical, nor all that funny. This was di ...more
E. Ozols
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
People who are familiar with Alexandra Petri from her scathing political satire in The Washington Post and approach this book expecting more political satire will be disappointed. People who are expecting a hilarious collection of short stories and essays about life as a dorky awkward young woman, on the other hand, will love the crap out of this. Think dorkier, non-illustrated Hyperbole and a Half. It's not for everyone, but if it hits for you at all, then it will hit hard. I feel like I'm look ...more
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“My parents, worried that I might become popular at school, got me a book of puns at an impressionable age.” 4 likes
“The things we love weave themselves into the framework of our being. They are the trellises on which our thoughts grow; we shape ourselves, our habits, our vocabularies, to accommodate them. If someone asks, “Why do you love this?” the question is as impossible to answer as “Why are you?” You cannot isolate the part of you that loves from the rest of you, or mark its beginning and ending. Old couples grow to look like each other. Old ruins blur into their ivy. Star Wars fans name their kids Luke and Leia and show up at conventions dressed as Jabba the Hutt. At first we loved the Millennium Falcon, so we wanted to build a scale replica in our basement. Now we love the Millennium Falcon because of the scale replica in our basement. Every time I watched Star Wars I used to hold my breath to see if it felt the same. But now I know it won’t. It hasn’t moved, but I have. It’s always there. It’s magic, still, but a different magic every time. I turn off all the lights in the house so there’s no reflection or glare, shut all the doors and windows, and settle in a chair with my arms folded over my knees and wait for takeoff.” 3 likes
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