Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Jess Recommends...JEN LANCASTER!


Welcome to a new thing I'm trying out--where I recommend some books in a genre or an author, if it's new to you, consider it my recommended HOW TO guide, if it's something you already enjoy, consider it a suggested TO READ.
This started as a post to recommend memoirs, but I spent the majority of the post about Jen Lancaster's memoirs, and then I was disappointed because I couldn't talk about her fiction books.  And since this is a thing I made up for a blog that I write, I became aware that I can basically do whatever I want.  So today I'm recommending a full author, and 
that is:

Her bio from her website: 

After a corporate layoff in 2001, down on her luck, and stuck selling off cars, jewelry, and designer purses, [which sucked, FYI] Jen launched a website to air her frustrations about unemployment.  She began detailing her descent from designer clothing and spa visits to the unemployment line on her blog jennsylvania.com. 

Her acerbic wit quickly won the blog a massive following.  Jen’s first memoir, Bitter is the New Black, was published by the Penguin Random House imprint NAL in 2006. Since then, she has published [at least] one book a year and her memoir The Tao of Martha was optioned for a sitcom by FOX.” 

To give you a perspective on her humor and personality, her website also says:

"But let's be honest here...the above tells you what I do, not who I am." 

And then she goes on to list facts about herself, I'm including my favorites here:

I always wear pearls, even at the gym, in the pool, or while refinishing furniture for my side business.

I adore 1990s gangster rap, even though I'm coming to you straight out of Lake Forest. 

Nothing makes me happier than having something to complain about. Righteous indignation, you're my favorite indignation of all. 


I initially discovered Lancaster after a break-up (mine, not her's).  I was at Border's with a friend (that's how long ago this was), and I saw Lancaster's second memoir: Bright Lights, Big Ass, and it was a $10.99 paperback.  As a broke college kid, I had trouble investing that much into an unknown non-fiction author.  So my friend, who was out of college and a well-paid air traffic controller, got it for me to get me out of my life slump.  I started reading the book, and didn't stop.  I went back and bought Bitter is the New Black, and have followed Lancaster closely ever since. I have had every book she's written pre-ordered and I read them as soon as possible.  When she forayed into fiction, I was there, and I enjoyed them, but her latest fiction work absolutely blew me away. I had to share her genius on this blog. 



Jen has published 8 non-fiction books so far, in order of publication they are:


Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a condescending, egomaniacal, self-centered, smart-ass, or why you should never carry a Prada bag to the unemployment office

This is Jen's first memoir, but the second book of hers that I actually read.  This book is hilarious, honest, and great for people who have a bit of voyeurism.  If you're a younger reader, I recommend looking into the 90s Dot-com bubble because it is relevant to understanding how quickly things happened to Jen in terms of unemployment, etc.  I loved this book because it showed some real dark humor and some snark that is perfection.

 Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-indulgent Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?

Like I said, this is the first one of Jen's books that I actually read, and it didn't truly apply to me in any way (other than the fact that I like to judge people, and people in large groups tend to annoy me).  The largest city I had lived in up to the point that I read this book was about 20,000 people, so...  But I think that it actually says something about Lancaster's writing and the connection that I feel to her hilarious opinions.
I really enjoyed following an honest opinion on how diets and exercise works.  I loved hearing about Jen's personal trainer, and I enjoyed her takes on dieting and the opinions of the people around her that led to her desire to diet and write this book, I highly recommend it...like all of the books by Jen.


Pretty in Plaid: A Life, A Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase

I really loved this memoir because unlike the other books Jen had written to this point it provided a reference point for a lot of the stories and ideas what she has.  I liked getting the back story on Jen's childhood, etc. This is great for anyone who loves the Midwest or childhood stories.  I LOVED the stories about her teen years.


My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict's Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is a New Black; Or, a Culture-Up Manifesto

This one is probably my favorite memoir of Jen's because I am a pop culture junkie.  I watch pretty much every single reality TV show out there, even the really, really trashy ones.  I loved hearing about Jen's battle to culture-up and change a bit, and I liked the overall message within the book. This book also solidified to me that Jen's husband Fletch and my husband are basically the same person. (This seems very fitting because Jen Lancaster and I are kindred spirits.)  This one is a great read for anyone who is as obsessed with trash TV, movies, and celebrities.


Jeneration X: One Reluctant Adult's Attempt to Unarrest Her Arrested Development; Or, Why It's Never Too Late for Her Dumb Ass to Learn Why Froot Loops Are Not for Dinner

I'm going to be perfectly honest here, this is the one memoir of Lancaster's that I didn't love.  And I'm going to be honest about why, because I felt that it was a little condescending. I love Lancaster, but it's fair to say that we come from different generations.  I was substantially upset about this book when it first came out, and I first read it, because I felt betrayed.  However, looking back, it's fine.  Just not my cup of tea. I recommend this for older readers.  30+.

The Tao of Martha: My Year of LIVING; Or, Why I'm Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog

This memoir was a great read after my disappointment with Jeneration X.  I used to fantasize about living in Stepford, so Martha Stewart is my homegirl.  I loved Jen's adventures in crafting and attempts at domesticity.  I recommend this one for anyone who loved Pinterest, lives in a house, or has fallen in love with Jen Lancaster at this point.
This is Lancaster's newest memoir, which came out in 2015, and if this cover doesn't sell you, I don't know what you're still doing here.  In this memoir, Jen makes a bucket list and works on living her life with, you guess it, no regrets.  I adored this, because Jen has truly become a friend I depend on and enjoy seeing into her life, and getting to experience her wishes and dreams in this book was fantastic. I recommend this to anyone who loves travel, checklists, or this amazing cover.
Jen has 4 Fiction books on shelves already, and one coming soon:


If You Were Here

This was Jen's first foray in fiction, and it was alright.  I adore this author, and I've read everything she's ever published, as I said.  A lot of her personality and memoirs come out thought this book, which lost me a little bit.  This book, I'm just gonna say, is a loosely biographical story about renovating a house in the suburbs.  I recommend this to anyone who owns a home, loves Jen, or thinks their significant other is silly.

Here I Go Again

I enjoyed this work of fiction infinitely more than I enjoyed If You Were Here, this story follows a high school bully through some lessons. This is actually the paperback cover, which I liked more than the hardcover.  I liked this story a lot because it hit close to home for me--thinking about like in the terms of the effect they have on others.  I recommend this one to anyone who went to high school. :)

Twisted Sisters

A sort of companion novel to Here I Go Again, we keep a similar cast of characters that are related to the previous story in small ways.  The messages are very much the same, and I don't have a sister, but I connected to the sibling relationships in this story. I recommend it to people with siblings, or if you read and enjoyed Here I Go Again. 
As mentioned, this is absolutely my favorite fiction book she has written.  And it's possibly my favorite book she's written ever.  I ADORED this book.  Unlike her other fiction, this one was a true departure from the author's own stories and experiences.  I think this book should be required reading for any woman over the age of 18.  Up until I read this book, I was worried that the author's fiction books just weren't going to be something I loved.  But, she came through. This is the ONE you guys.  If you read only one book on this list, it should be this one.

By the Numbers is set to be released June of 2016, and yes, I already have it pre-ordered.

1 comment:

  1. Love Jen Lancaster! I was actually recommended her stuff by my sister-in-law who said she reminds her of me. Intrigued, I got Bitter is the New Black....amused, I then got her other stuff. A mirror image of my thoughts and such.....My husband is amused because of some of the excerpts I've read, he asks if I have a twin. No holds barred writer! Love it! :)