“The Misanthrope’s Guide to Life” by Meghan Rowland and Chris Turner-Neal

Misanthrope's GuideTitle: The Misanthrope’s Guide to Life (Go Away!)
Authors: Meghan Rowland and Chris Turner-Neal
ISBN: 9781440525087
Pages: 197
Release date: September 2011
Publisher: Adams Media
Genre: Humor
Format: ARC
Source: Review copy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Scratching your head over what to get for your favorite misanthrope this holiday season? At a loss over what to slip into your post-collegiate kids’ stockings? You can’t go wrong with The Misanthrope’s Guide to Life, a slim, humorous book by Meghan Rowland and Chris Turner-Neal.

Rowland and Turner-Neal took DC by storm with the inappropriately funny 2birds1blog, intended as a twenty-something’s guide to life. Rowland and Turner-Neal excel at hip, raunchy humor that often references pop culture, and they always situate their humor in their real experiences: graduating from school, getting fired from a job, wondering whether they will ever find a career that both matches their talents and keeps the cable on.

DC’s hip-to-it readers have responded by voting them the Best Blog in the City Paper’s 2010 and 2011 polls, not to mention an admirable third-place in “Best Local Scandal of 2010.” (Who could possibly have competed with Marion Berry?) 2birds1blog has also attained distinction as WTOP’s “Best Local Blog” and an NPR intern’s “Best of the Web” picks.

The pair’s first book, The Misanthrope’s Guide to Life, offers advice on making friends (and somehow keeping them), commuting to work, the work/life balance, sex and love, surviving the holidays, and dying, to name a few. While the book purports to offer advice for misanthropes of all ages, it’s not surprising that the authors shine in the sections for twenty-somethings.

One of the best parts of the book include a rant well-known to fans: Meg’s distaste for those who ignore public transportation etiquette, from Metro pole-leaners to riders with rolling backpacks trailing behind them. The authors attribute such behavior to paradigm shifts:

In the past several decades, America’s understanding of what a “family” is has undergone significant changes. Children today are not necessarily raised by a mother and a father, but may be raised by a single parent, a same-sex couple, or, apparently, roving packs of rabid wolves.

Although their blog has become popular for going into hilarious and sometimes over-the-top detail about their daily lives, the book sticks strictly to its misanthropic theme. Terrified of spending happy hour with your coworkers? Made them feel bad by telling them you’re a recovering alcoholic. Want to quit your job? Plan an elaborate fake wedding. Amusing, sure, but perhaps a little disappointing for fans looking for more of Meg and Chris’s personal stories.

Rowland and Turner-Neal have created a brand that is predicated upon being open about their personal lives. What could be funnier than Meg’s infectious diarrhea episodes, or the time she almost hooked up with a guy who tried to use fish tranquilizer as an aphrodisiac? They have proven on their blog that they are at their most uproarious when they are disclosing some embarrassing fact about themselves. In breaching propriety again and again, Meg and Chris become a standard against which other twenty-somethings struggling with identity and purpose can hold themselves and think, “Maybe my life isn’t so bad, after all.” A dubious honor, but one that has amassed a cult-like following for the bloggers. It is puzzling, then, that they would abandon their signature style for a more conventional humor book.

Longtime readers of 2b1b might be tempted to skip the short introduction to get into the good stuff, like the quiz about what kind of misanthrope you are. (Options include Avoidant Misanthrope, Crotchety Misanthrope, Stealth Misanthrope, and straight-up Asshole.) But if you are interested in the book because you are a fan of 2b1b, don’t miss the introduction. This is the only part of the book where the authors directly reference their own lives.

Those qualms aside, the duo does not fail in their quest to entertain. Passages like the one describing Christmas shopping rites abound:

Since most Americans have never directly experienced famine, catastrophe, or the privations of war, we have to manufacture nightmarish, traumatic events to serve as bonding experiences. This is how Black Friday came to be.

The Misanthrope’s Guide to Life is fun to flip through—a good bathroom book, perhaps—but I’m still waiting for a joint memoir from the comedic force behind 2birds1blog.

Don’t just take my word for it! Buy The Misanthrope’s Guide from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle version is available).

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