Books We Love: No Biz Like Show Biz
STEPHEN THOMPSON, HOST:
If you're listening to our show, there's a pretty good chance that you're interested in show business. And there's also a pretty good chance that you're a reader. So we thought, let's combine those two interests. I'm Stephen Thompson. Today we are recommending great books for people who love show business on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR.
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THOMPSON: Joining me today is POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR producer Candice Lim. Hey, Candice.
CANDICE LIM, BYLINE: Hi, Stephen.
THOMPSON: So every year, NPR puts together a grand and glorious labor of love. It's a package called Books We Love. And each year, the Books We Love team gathers up recommendations from a huge assortment of NPR staff and book critics. Those recommendations are then assigned searchable tags and entered into an interactive reading guide that's perfect for anyone looking to discover, buy or share books. You can filter books by subject and by genre, and you can pick more general filters that help narrow down the selections according to your interests. One of those filters is called No Biz Like Show Biz. Candice Lim, my literate friend, what is your first show business pick?
LIM: Well, Stephen, I want to start off hot. I want to start off strong. My first pick is "Anon Pls." by Deuxmoi. Deuxmoi is an anonymous Instagram account that posts celebrity blind items. So people send in very mundane things, like - this is made up - just spotted Pete Davidson at Carbone, or something like, this recent Oscar winner is joining the Marvel franchise. And this account gained a lot of followers during the pandemic because people just kind of became citizen paparazzos when people are staying at home, you know.
But the creator of Deuxmoi has always been anonymous, and now they have written a book, and this is that book. It is a fictional story based on the creation of the account. And in this version, Deuxmoi has written themselves as Cricket Lopez. She's, like, this overworked assistant to this celebrity stylist who is pretty horrible, but Cricket is very burnt out. And so one night she posts on her Instagram account, Deuxmoi, asking if anyone has any, like, celebrity gossip they want to spill. And soon this account just becomes a flood. This valve release of pent-up gossip raging from, like, very low stakes things like the Pete Davidson at Carbone all the way to, like, very pretty serious accusations against A-list celebrities.
And I will be honest - I am a weekly peruser of the Deuxmoi Reddit thread where people post, like, the best blind items, and they have discussions, but they also criticize Deuxmoi a bit. And I think I walked into this book with low expectations, and I was very surprised because the book is very well written. And I think as someone who is very deep in the Deuxmoi swamp, this novel really put together a lot of the behind-the-scenes questions I had. Like, for example, why is Deuxmoi always posting about Jack Quaid? Or how does Deuxmoi determine credibility? - because they are not a journalist. They are not checking their sources.
And I think this novel does a good job of really exploring those landmines and also the motivations behind the account. I feel like I walked away understanding Deuxmoi a little bit better, not as an account, but, like, as a person who had to take on a lot of internal debt to run this whole operation. And so this book really hits a spot for Deuxmoi followers. It's very fun for celebrity obsessives, especially if you're, like, a Gawker or Lipstick Alley person. And there is a bit of an unexpected love story in there, which really, really gives this that true Hollywood arc.
THOMPSON: I would imagine there's kind of a cottage industry around trying to figure out who this person is. A, are you a part of that? And B, does this book kind of give you any Easter eggs or any sense of - or hints of who it might be?
LIM: Great question. I mean, a while ago, Hailey Bieber claimed to a publication that she does know who Deuxmoi is. She has found their identity but has chosen not to publicize it. And that's interesting. I personally am not too curious about who Deuxmoi is. They also have a podcast, which is funny - right? - because that's, like, your voice.
LIM: They also have merch, which - do with that what you want. But yeah.
THOMPSON: All right. So that's "Anon Pls.," a novel by Deuxmoi. That's spelled D-E-U-X-M-O-I. Candice, give me your next pick.
LIM: So my next pick is "When In Rome" by Sarah Adams. This book starts with a mega pop star's car breaking down in the middle of Rome, Ky. And that car is driven by Amelia Rose. She is kind of this, like, Ariana Grande type of pop star. And she's about to go on a world tour, but she's burnt out by fame - very relatable to us.
LIM: And her car breaks down in front of Noah Walker's house. And Noah Walker is a pie shop owner, kind of like Ned from "Pushing Daisies." But he's a little closed off, and Amelia needs a place to stay. He has a room to spare. And this novel kind of just follows their, like, slow-burn chemistry that eventually just kind of bursts at the seams. But this book is very small-town romance mixed with a little fame sprinkle, and I like that it's not Hallmark cheesy.
THOMPSON: I was going to say it's got a little bit of Hallmark in the plot, right?
LIM: Exactly. And that's the thing. I think it really rebounds from that by, you know, evading that corniness. And I think it does that because the depiction of the industry is actually quite believable, and it's quite modern. And so I think that allows you to not be distracted, and it allows you to spend the novel just rooting for two people who are stubborn but indeed very perfect for each other.
THOMPSON: All right. So that's "When In Rome: A Novel" by Sarah Adams. Candice, give me your last pick.
LIM: So this is by far my favorite nonfiction book of the year. It's "The World's Worst Assistant" by Sona Movsesian. And if you are a Conan O'Brien fan, you know who Sona is. Sona has been his assistant for a very long time. She co-hosts a podcast with him. And on Conan's TBS show, she did a lot of, like, hilarious remotes and overseas trips with him. But she has written a memoir, and it's really funny. And it starts with her childhood growing up in Southern California, where I also grew up. And I think she does this very interesting, good job of pinpointing our relationship to LA when you grow up right outside of it. And I think the book does a good job of traveling through her comedy-adjacent career. You know, how did she become Conan's assistant? Why has she been his assistant for so long, and how does she get away with basically doing the bare minimum? I remember this gag on the TBS show where she watched, like, 58 episodes of "Friends" in four days at work.
And I think Sona is so sharp and spunky and sweet. And you can even tell on the show she has, like, this very incisive humor because she's never afraid to push back on Conan, and she's never afraid to make fun of him. And on paper, that type of writing really made me laugh out loud. And I like the parts where she's taking you behind the scenes of Conan's biggest moments, like the White House Correspondents' Dinner or when they went to Armenia for the show. And she kind of writes with this air of, like, how the heck did I get here? But that humility really grounds the writing. And I find her very honest and relatable and lovable. And I love Sona, and I loved this book.
THOMPSON: That's great. So she manages to kind of tell almost, like, a shadow history of Conan's career as well as her own story. Is that the...
LIM: Totally. I think they really run parallel to each other. But Sona, because she's - I'm going to say she's kind of one of us, right? She's a normal. She really does a good job of just being very honest. Like, stop - record scratch. What's happening? - and then jumping back into it. But also, Conan O'Brien wrote the foreword for this book, and he, you know, reads the audiobook of that foreword. And I think there has always been this mutual respect both ways. And that is so effervescent in this book, which is that Sona is grateful for all the great things Conan has brought her. But also, you know, Sona has injected so much greatness into Conan's life as well. And I think that mutual respect and the mutual success is very, very, very evident.
THOMPSON: Nice. That's "The World's Worst Assistant" by Sona Movsesian. Thank you very much. If you want to discover even more books NPR loves, visit npr.org/bestbooks. That brings us to the end of our show. Thank you for being here, Candice.
LIM: Thank you, Stephen.
THOMPSON: And, of course, thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. This episode was produced by Rommel Wood and Candice Lim and edited by Jessica Reedy. The Books We Love team - wonderful team - is Beth Novey, Natalie Escobar, Maureen Pao and Meghan Collins Sullivan. Hello Come In provides our theme music. I'm Stephen Thompson, and we will see you all tomorrow.
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