Beach Reads: 16 Great TV-Themed Books for the Summer

Kimberly Potts
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

It’s beach season, and if the thought of interrupting your binge-watching is too much to bear, let us give you 16 ways to have your TV and sand surfin’ time, too. Click through this slideshow to check out this season’s best TV-themed book releases.

‘Al Franken, Giant of the Senate’ by Al Franken

There are plenty of laughs in the former Saturday Night Live writer and performer’s memoir, and much of it comes as he shares his experience of suppressing his sense of humor while campaigning for his current gig as a senator from Minnesota… his staff frequently has to remind him that certain comments are for “inside the car,” he writes. But along with tales of making Mitch McConnell laugh, writing songs with Orrin Hatch, and hating Ted Cruz, Franken includes multiple chapters on his years at SNL, including the drug culture during his time at the show, how Norm MacDonald — and politics — led him to leave SNL, and how the alcoholism of his wife and his SNL writing partner led to the creation of Stuart Smalley and Franken’s screenplay for the movie When a Man Loves a Woman.

(Grand Central Publishing)

‘Revenge of the Nerd: Or… the Singular Adventures of the Man Who Would Be Booger’ by Curtis Armstrong

The title, of course, refers to his signature role as beloved Booger in the Revenge of the Nerds movie series, but Armstrong has also spent plenty of time in TV land, from Moonlighting and Felicity to more recent fare like American Dad!, New Girl, and Supernatural, and his too-short-lived reality series, King of the Nerds. His movie and TV experiences are well covered in the book — head straight to the hilarious chapter on Risky Business for a sample on what a gifted storyteller he is — in mini-oral history detail that provides new, firsthand accounts on a lot of the off-screen shenanigans that occurred on each project (yep, all the Bruce Willis/Cybill Shepherd stories were true). Armstrong also writes much about his eventful childhood, which included stints in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Switzerland. Many a school tale is shared — and again, no detail too cheeky or raunchy to be included — because, as Armstrong writes, “school tends to be the great crucible of nerd self-identification.”

(Thomas Dunne Books, available July 11)

‘Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens’ by Eddie Izzard

The Emmy winner and star of The Riches will almost certainly have enough interesting material for at least one more memoir in his life, but this one is an already chockful read, filled with stories of his childhood and the painful loss — at age six — of his mother, and his early years as a street performer who would eventually end up playing standup gigs at venues like Wembley Arena and Madison Square Garden. The wonderfully informed and compassionate performer, who’s more than hinted at a political run in his future, also writes of his cross-dressing, how Doctor Who helped him come out as a transvestite to audiences, and his famous marathon of marathon running (he ran 27 full marathons in 27 days across South Africa in 2016), which began out of a desire to prove he could accomplish something out of the ordinary with his body, and ended up raising more than $6 million for charity.

(Blue Rider Press, available June 13)

‘Notes from the Upside Down: An Unofficial Guide to Stranger Things’ by Guy Adams

October 31, the premiere date for Season 2 of Netflix hit Stranger Things, is sooooo far away, but this gem of a guide will help make some of that wait go by a little more easily. With “insights into the origins of the show, including the mysterious Montauk Project conspiracy theory, to a useful Eighties playlist,” the publisher also promises the book will reveal how “Spielberg is such a huge influence,” which Stephen King books you need to read “(hint: pretty much all of them)” to add to the joy of binge-watching the series, and fun details like who inspired State Trooper David O’Bannon’s name.

(Touchstone, available Aug. 29)

‘Are you Anybody?: A Memoir’ by Jeffrey Tambor

Whether you know and love him from Arrested Development, The Larry Sanders Show, Transparent, or all of the above, you probably won’t be too surprised to find out the Emmy and Golden Globe winner is as delightful a self-profiler as he is in those eclectic roles. Finding his biggest successes after a career that has included plenty of commercials and “hey, aren’t you…” semi-recognitions from fans, Tambor humbly and appreciatively writes about each of his recent career hits, as well as scoop on his brief time as a Scientologist, his work as an acting teacher, and the joy and education of being the father of young children as a man in his 70s.

(Crown Archetype)

‘Why You Better Call Saul: What Our Favorite TV Lawyer Says About Life, Love, and Scheming Your Way to Acquittal and a Large Cash Payout’ by Steven Keslowitz

Real-life attorney and pop culture writer Keslowitz provides Better Call Saul fans with the perfect excuse to obsess (continue obsessing?) about the series in the off-season with this book, which dives deep on analyzing our favorite members of the fictional Albuquerque legal community and their cohorts. The relationship between the McGill brothers, Kim’s grifting exploits with Jimmy, whether or not the eventual, full-on transformation of Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman truly reflects who Jimmy is are but a few of the thought-provoking questions the book raises, and the delights to be found in the chapter titled “From Kettlemans to Cobblers: A Critical Analysis of the Legal and Ethical Issues on Better Call Saul” will not only tickle you, but almost certainly spark a Season 3 — and 1 and 2, let’s be honest — rewatch.


‘Orphan Black Classified Clone Reports’ by Delphine Cormier

Here it is, the official guide to all things Orphan Black, information and photo-packed, in a highly collectible package, making it the perfect consolation for the series finale in August.

(HarperCollins, available Aug. 15)

‘The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian’ by W. Kamau Bell

The host of FXX’s Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell and the Emmy-nominated CNN series United Shades of America, standup comedian Bell takes his unique political and social humor to book form with essays on everything from 9/11 and sports to his self-proclaimed awkward attitudes about white women and white guys. Plenty of his observational humor is aimed at himself, as he talks about being a black nerd, being a very tall black male, and, in one of the standout chapters, “My Most Awkward Birthday Ever.”


‘This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare’ by Gabourey Sidibe

The Precious Oscar nominee and Empire star shows off her skills for putting a humorous, irreverent spin on sharing every aspect of her life, be it her parents’ divorce when she was a kid, her aspirations to further her education and become and independent young woman, dating, being discriminated against while shopping, and the judgments others make about her weight (and her own complicated feelings on the topic). Her takes are irreverent and smart, including her explanation about how her pre-fame stint as a phone sex operator taught her the skills and confidence that propelled her to pursue her acting career.

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

‘Odd Birds’ by Ian Harding

The Pretty Little Liars star… sorry, maybe his name doesn’t jump out at you, but his nearly 7 million Twitter and Instagram followers certainly know who he is. Anyway, in addition to playing Ezra on the Freeform network series, Harding is also an ornithologist, i.e. one of his favorite pastimes is studying birds. It’s that angle that he uses to examine his life as a nature lover and teen TV heartthrob, associating a different bird to each musing on navigating his career, family, friends, and commitment to treating with respect all the living things around him. For PLL fans, the book is a must-read, not only for Harding’s breezy writing style, but for the many details and anecdotes dropped from the PLL universe.

(St. Martin’s Press)

‘Nevertheless: A Memoir’ by Alec Baldwin

The scandals surrounding his very public divorce from Kim Basinger; his even more public custody battle — and that voicemail — surrounding their daughter, Ireland; his early career battles with drug and alcohol abuse, addictions that nearly killed him when he was working on Knots Landing… it’s all in here, along with tales of working with Anthony Hopkins, and Richard Burton impersonation contests, a list of the actors he’s not particularly fond of (Harrison Ford being the biggest name on his hit list), and how he realizes that 30 Rock was the best work of his career.


‘Grace Notes: My Recollections’ by Katey Sagal

Sons of Anarchy and Married… With Children star Sagal writes that she penned her memoir for the loveliest of reasons: so that her children would have the chance to know all about her life, without the kinds of lingering questions she has about her parents. So they’ll get to know all about her early love of music, which led to her gigs singing with Bette Midler and Etta James, the history of her acting career, and how she met future husband and collaborator Kurt Sutter at AA. Sagal shares the intimate — truly — details of her life, including a battle with diet pills, painful childhood years of witnessing her mother’s illness, and the devastating stillbirth of her first child during Married. She also writes about the happy births of her other three children, and shares fun details like the Hollywood legend who is her godfather — Norman Lear — and her best friend during her college years: Paul Reubens.

(Gallery Books)

‘Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular’ by Mayim Bialik

The woman who grew up during her Blossom years to become The Big Bang Theory’s Amy Farrah Fowler — consistently one of the long-running comedy’s most delightful performers — offers how-to info to young women on everything from dating (including sex) and body changes to embracing the chance to learn and the map for living a healthy life. It’s a book aimed at young adults, but the actress, neuroscientist, and mom drops some relevant reminders for the not-so-teenaged among us, too. Handy drawings, graphs, and other visual aids accompany her copy.


‘Money, Murder, and Dominick Dunne: A Life in Several Acts’ by Robert Hofler

Dunne, a successful — and then not — TV and movie producer turned journalist, lived his life very much in the public eye as the chronicler of those whose scandals — O.J. Simpson, the Menendez brothers, Phil Spector — were the subjects of the public’s fascination. But Hofler writes that the stories Dunne covered, and the secrets he uncovered, for Vanity Fair and his TV series Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege & Justice, helped keep the spotlight off what was Dunne’s own storied life, including a rivalry with his brother, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne; extramarital affairs with men; gossipy friendships with the likes of Princess Diana, Barbara Walters, and Elizabeth Taylor; and the brutal murder of his daughter, Dominique, whose death — and Dunne’s coverage of the killer’s trial — added to a falling out amongst the Dunne family.

(University of Wisconsin Press)

‘Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night’ by Jason Zinoman

Even if you understand that Letterman remains an influential pop culture presence even in retirement, New York Times comedy critic Zinoman’s personal and career biography of the icon will shed light on just how widespread his impact is throughout all mediums of the comedy and TV world. Covering his early TV days in Indiana through his complicated relationships with, well, pretty much everyone, including his shows’ writers and Late Night With David Letterman co-creator and one-time Letterman love Merill Markoe and his move to CBS, Zinoman’s book is an all-access pass to Letterman’s TV history, relationships, and groundbreaking work, including 135 Stupid Pet Tricks segments, the classic Velcro suit, and the plan to do an entire episode of the show underwater, long before BoJack Horseman did it in animation.


‘Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Other Four-Letter Words’ by Michael Ausiello

Spoiler alert: This book isn’t out until the fall, but it needs to be on your radar now. Get ready to sob, laugh, sob, fall in love with editor and TV spoiler god Ausiello and his late husband, Kit, then sob some more. “Late” is the word that sparked the spoiler alert, for Ausiello’s beautifully written memoir unfolds the story of his 14-year relationship with Kit, who died from a rare form of cancer in 2015. Kit’s death is sad and tragic, but his and Michael’s relationship was anything but, and many of those tissues you’re going to go through will be sparked by their love story, and shared wicked sense of humor.

(Atria, available Sept. 12)

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