There’s an unwritten rule (possibly one I made up myself) that if you’re in a reading rut, it’s best to turn to a book that you’re certain will deliver. I was introduced to the book that rescued me from my latest slump in the middle of a “Parks and Recreation” binge—during which I came to admire Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) aggressive optimism and unfettered ambition (two attributes I was seriously lacking). I picked up Amy Poehler’s bestselling memoir YES PLEASE—and I was not disappointed.
Here are a few things I expected to find in Amy’s memoir: stories about her Boston upbringing and rise to fame, a behind-the-scenes look at her SNL days, some name-dropping (of BFF Tina Fey and various costars), one or maybe seven “obligatory drug stories,” and perhaps a few heartfelt essays on following your dreams “blah, blah, blah” (Amy’s words, not mine). What I didn’t expect was some no-nonsense advice that would pull me out of more than just a reading rut.
Amy covers myriad topics punctuated with (mostly) useful advice. She makes an impassioned plea not to drink and drive, but follows it with “But by all means, walk drunk. … Everyone loves to watch someone act like they are trying to make it to safety during a hurricane.”
She intersperses her anecdotes with a motto all women should adopt while they play the comparison game: “Good for her! Not for me.” Another motto I loved was her straight-no-chaser solution on getting things done: “The doing is the thing,” she says, which is sage advice for an over-thinker like me.
But the essay that resonated with me most was when she spoke about a “little demon” that has been with her since adolescence. This demon criticizes everything she does, points out everything that’s wrong with her body, and plants seeds of doubt in her head. But she’s not the only one with this demon—it’s one that can stagnate dreams and immobilize go-getters everywhere.
As is her style, Amy offers this bitter truth and chases it with some encouraging words. “Through good therapy and friends and self-love,” she says, “you can practice treating the demon like a hacky, annoying cousin.” I love this tidbit because Amy doesn’t offer up a solution to end self-doubt all decked out in pretty wrapping paper and ribbons. Rather, she offers a new perspective and a humorous look at a deeply human struggle.
If you end up reading Amy Poehler’s surprisingly inspiring memoir, I recommend listening to the audiobook as well. Listening to YES PLEASE is what I imagine having dinner at Amy’s house is like: rousing conversation about break-ups, mess-ups, and come-ups; an appearance or two from Amy’s star-studded squad (ahem, Seth Meyers, Patrick Stewart, and “Parks and Rec” creator Mike Schur—to name a few); and a heart drunk with laughter.
But besides the laughs, the best take-away for dinner guests and readers alike would be wise words that would inspire them to conquer anything.
Tolani Osan works in Corporate Marketing at Simon & Schuster.