Chapter One Nonfiction books get the blockbuster movie trailer treatment. Then, find the perfect reading snack with a mash-up game featuring book titles reimagined as foods.

Chapter One

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JONATHAN COULTON: You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WNYC. I'm Jonathan Coulton, and I'm here in studio with your host, Ophira Eisenberg.


Thanks, Jonathan. So today we're bringing you a very special literary favorites episode. Writing can be lonely work, you know, it's just you, your laptop, your adult beverage.

COULTON: Yes, that's right. You're switching back and forth between Word and then Twitter and then Instagram and then Word again and then Twitter and maybe a little Instagram.

EISENBERG: Yeah. That's why people drive themselves crazy or they go off to murderous hotels in the mountains like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."

COULTON: Well, it's true. Look at me. All work, no play makes Jonathan a dull boy. Wait a minute, why does it say that?

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: I'm very interesting. Which brings us to this next game we played with contestants Abigail Ellman and Ren McDermott. Puzzle guru John Chaneski who joined us in a music parody game about lonely people. And it turns out a lot of those people are kind of a big deal in the literary world. Have a listen.


EISENBERG: OK, your game is called Alone Together, like we all are in life. And it's a music game.


EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton.

COULTON: Thanks for that uplifting image, Ophira.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) It's just part of this show. There's a hidden theme to this show.

COULTON: There's a lot of darkness in the show. I'm enjoying it very much.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) That's right.

COULTON: This is a game about famous reclusive people. And each clue is set to a song that's about being alone or wanting to be alone. So name the recluse, and for a bonus point, name the title of the original song. So there's 2 points per clue. And if you don't know the song, your opponent can steal that point. Here we go.

(Singing) Didn't like to write too much, mostly short stories and such. Wrote a novel of stature, title mentioned a catcher, maybe Caulfield's like myself, oh, oh, oh, oh.


COULTON: Abigail?


COULTON: J.D. Salinger. And can you name the song?

ELLMAN: And the song is "Dancing With Myself."

COULTON: That's right.


COULTON: (Singing) Glad I'm alone now. The poems that I write, I don't don't show them around. At my Amherst home now, my sister Lavinia, guess what she found?


COULTON: Abigail?

ELLMAN: The poet Emily Dickinson.

COULTON: The poet Emily Dickinson is correct. Do you know the name of the song?

ELLMAN: "I Think I'm Alone Now."

COULTON: Ish (ph)?

ELLMAN: "I Think We're Alone Now."

COULTON: Yeah, that's right.


COULTON: (Singing) When I was young I had more books than anyone. Flying planes was just for fun. But now I shun. All by myself - I don't like germs, all by myself. Nails so long.


COULTON: Thanks for that one clap, everyone.


COULTON: I just want to say there were a lot of half-diminished chords in that one.

EISENBERG: I know (laughter).

COULTON: And that one was pretty hard to play.


COULTON: Does anybody know the freaking answer?

EISENBERG: Ren - Ren...

COULTON: Oh, did somebody...

EISENBERG: Yeah, Ren buzzed in.

COULTON: Oh, Ren buzzed in?


COULTON: I didn't hear because I was yelling at the audience.


EISENBERG: You were, like, getting in touch with your inner Celine Dion.


COULTON: Ren, what is the answer?

MCDERMOTT: Howard Hughes?

COULTON: Howard Hughes is correct.

MCDERMOTT: And it - "All By Myself."

COULTON: Yeah, you got it.


COULTON: (Singing) I had a great sketch show, Tyrone, Prince, Rick James to name a few. But then I walked away, I'm probably never making "Half Baked 2."




MCDERMOTT: I think I'm really wrong, but Joaquin Phoenix.

COULTON: That is incorrect...


COULTON: ...Sorry. Abigail, do you know what it is?

ELLMAN: Dave Chappelle.

COULTON: Dave Chappelle, that's correct. Do you know the name of the song?

ELLMAN: "I Walk The Line."


ELLMAN: "We Walk The Line."


COULTON: It's not a pronoun problem, Abigail. I'm sorry.


EISENBERG: It's like the marching band version of a Johnny Cash song.

COULTON: Ren, this is highly unorthodox so I'm not entirely sure this is kosher, but I think you can steal that point if you know the name of the song.

MCDERMOTT: "Lonely Line." I Walk The...

COULTON: No, no, also incorrect. We were looking for "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams."

MCDERMOTT: Oh, yeah...






EISENBERG: Yeah, I know.

COULTON: OK, here we go. (Singing) Just a comic strip I wrote about a boy. Imagination rules he's with his stuffed toy. This kid believes his tiger is alive. People loved it but I quit in '95.


COULTON: Abigail.

ELLMAN: Bill Watterson.

COULTON: Bill Watterson, that's correct. And the name of the song?

ELLMAN: "Sending Out An S.O.S..."

COULTON: Sorry, that is not the name of the song.

EISENBERG: But that is a lyric.

COULTON: That is a lyric from the song. I will give you 0 points for that. Ren, do you know the name of the song?



COULTON: It's getting really heavy up here.

MCDERMOTT: Once I have a seed from her, then I'm lost. I'm thinking about ships and...


COULTON: She made - you're saying Abigail messed you up?



MCDERMOTT: ...I'm blaming Abigail.

ELLMAN: Can I can I jump in again?


COULTON: If you want. I can't give you the point though.


COULTON: But yeah. You can show how smart you are.

ELLMAN: "Message In A Bottle."

COULTON: That's correct.


COULTON: This is your last clue you will be relieved to hear. (Singing) When I played Spassky, the Cold War was raging. I beat him then left the spotlight. Something's not right. I was a grandmaster. I always won the game. I was a grandmaster. It was chess that brought me fame.


ELLMAN: Abigail.

ELLMAN: Bobby Fischer.

COULTON: Bobby Fischer.

ELLMAN: "Eleanor Rigby."

COULTON: "Eleanor Rigby." Well done.


COULTON: John Chaneski, how did our contestants do?

JOHN CHANESKI: Well, Jon, Abigail will be moving on alone into the final round. Good job.


EISENBERG: I've got to say, I feel like every book I've loved in my life has been ruined by the movie adaptation of it. Do you have books that have changed your life?

COULTON: Yeah. I guess I would say the book that has most changed my life is "Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution," and it changed my life because it made me terrified to eat carbs.


COULTON: Yeah. You know, my wife and I were doing that diet for a while. And somewhere in the middle, she said let's go out and treat ourselves to some sugar-free jello.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: And I was like, oh, no. Please don't let's treat ourselves to sugar-free jello. But anyway...

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Let's go crazy tonight.

COULTON: Yeah. Let's go crazy. Let's really - let's (laughter) - but really I do think that book would make a great movie.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah. In a world full of carbohydrates, one doctor has the guts to wage war against the food pyramid. His only weapon a stick of meat and some nuts and seeds.

COULTON: Yeah. See? I got goosebumps when you did that. I would totally watch that movie.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Spoiler alert - Dr. Atkins - he dies at the end.

COULTON: Yeah. That technically is true. Well, contestants Marti Davidson Sitchel and Bill Holzapfel are the guinea pigs when we try to combine the fascinating world of non-fiction with dramatic film trailers.

EISENBERG: Our next game is called In A World. We love getting to theaters early for the trailers. So in this game, we've reimagined blockbuster-style movie trailers for some of our favorite non-fiction books. For example, it might sound something like this...

COULTON: Trapped in a race against time, one pop sociologist and New Yorker magazine writer must search for the exact moment when trends and ideas become sticky and start spreading like a virus.

EISENBERG: And to find out what that is...

COULTON: The answer is "The Tipping Point."

EISENBERG: OK, contestants, so we'll give you overblown trailers for famous non-fiction books, and you have to name the books. You don't have to give us the author. I mean, that's great if you want to show off - totally fine - but we're just looking for the title. And remember these are all non-fiction. The winner of this round will, of course, move on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show. Here's your first clue.

COULTON: In a world where different genders don't always understand each other, two nearby planets will teach us all how to get along and fall in love again.



MARTI SITCHEL: "Men Are From Mars And Women Are From Venus."

EISENBERG: That is correct.


EISENBERG: Let's hear the next question.

COULTON: In a world where he has nothing to lose but his chains, one proletarian will usher in the march of history and throw a party that no class will struggle to be invited to.



BILL HOLZAPFEL: "The Communist Manifesto."



EISENBERG: Those party animals Marx and Engels. Guys, you're doing great. Let's hear our next clue.

COULTON: He thought he had it all figured out until now. One English naturalist will embark on the ultimate ocean voyage. And, with the help of some finches and giant tortoises, discover where we all came from.



HOLZAPFEL: "The Origin Of The Species."

EISENBERG: Yes. That is correct.


EISENBERG: That is exactly how I would say it. The title is actually "The Origin Of Species." OK. Next question.

COULTON: In a belief system where the erotic can lead to spiritual bliss, one ancient Hindu philosopher will reveal everything you ever wanted to know about sex and won't skimp on the pictures.



SITCHEL: "The Kama Sutra."

EISENBERG: That's right. Yeah.


SITCHEL: Sorry. I got excited.

EISENBERG: You said (laughter) - did you really get excited? You said it in a very sexy voice. I like that you're like...

SITCHEL: I'm trying.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Let's have our next clue.

COULTON: They don't follow the rules. They make them. An English professor teams up with a children's book author to explore the language usage, composition, form and spelling. And this time it's grammatical.



HOLZAPFEL: Strunk And White - "The Elements Of Style."

EISENBERG: Yes, indeed.


EISENBERG: I know you've read that, by the way. You said it so confidently.

HOLZAPFEL: I think I had it in college.


HOLZAPFEL: I cracked it maybe once or twice.

EISENBERG: This is your last clue.

COULTON: She was just doing her job, but the stakes were too high. Now, one female Facebook executive will rise up and encourage all women to stop holding back and angle themselves towards reaching their goal.




EISENBERG: "Lean In" is correct.


EISENBERG: John Chaneski, how did our contestants do?

CHANESKI: In a world where only one can be victorious, Bill is that winner. Congratulations, Bill. Marti, thank you so much. You were a fantastic contestant. Bill, you'll be moving on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show. Well done.


CHANESKI: Just listening to that game made me hungry because now I'm craving Milk Duds and, like, a tub of buttery popcorn right now. But I probably shouldn't because it's too many carbs.

EISENBERG: You know what I do? I smuggle in celery sticks and rice cakes and a little Pinot Noir into the movie theater in my purse because it's healthy.


EISENBERG: And I also feel superior to everyone else.

COULTON: (Laughter) Yeah, that's a nice feeling. But I also am an expert movie snack smuggler. Did I ever tell you about the time I brought in my own block of parmesan cheese? And I had a grater, too. And so when I got the popcorn, I would just grate...


COULTON: ...The cheese over...

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah, I've heard that story a few times.

COULTON: Oh, sorry.

EISENBERG: Yeah, it's one of my favorites, though.

COULTON: Yeah, that's a good one.

COULTON: Then when you grate it and some gets on the floor...


EISENBERG: Yeah, it's high stakes.

COULTON: It was embarrassing.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) It is harder to snack, though, when you're reading. Let's admit that...

COULTON: That's true.

EISENBERG: ...Because we can't have popcorn.


EISENBERG: Pages are going to get all oily and buttery and then you can't resell it on the internet.

COULTON: No, no, no, popcorn is not a good reading snack.

EISENBERG: Unless you have an e-reader, right? Then it's OK because you can just take some rubbing alcohol on a squeegee.

COULTON: Yeah, you can clean it right off. That's why when I read, I like to read with a giant plate of nachos.

EISENBERG: Oh, oh, I am painting a picture. Relaxing night in, just you, your favorite book, plate of nachos for one.

COULTON: I guess it sounded less sad in my head. Anyway, hopefully this next game will give us inspiration for some literary-friendly snacks. Contestants Julia Rowny and Dan Durkin do their best to mix reading with culinary pleasure in this mouthwatering mash-up game.


EISENBERG: So this game that you guys are both perfectly skilled for. We think that Americans don't read as much as they should, but they love watching cooking shows. So in this game, we are combining the two activities. We're going to give you a description of a famous book along with some information about a food or beverage. And you have to tell us what the mashed-up new title is of each cookbook. Yeah, let's go to our puzzle guru Art Chung to give us a fine example of this.

ART CHUNG: Yeah, let's give this a shot. Truman Capote's account of Kansas farm murders revealed a bone-chilling truth. The killers were a fan of a dish featuring finely-chopped meat and congealed bodily fluids. The answer to that would be "In Cold Blood Sausage," "In Cold Blood" and blood sausage.

EISENBERG: But not all the answers will be that delicious.


COULTON: And here's a hint, the title of the book will always be first, followed by the food or beverage. All right, here we go. In Ernest Hemingway's classic novella, an aging fisherman struggles to reel in a giant marlin, then says screw it and kicks back with a refreshing summer cocktail containing cranberry juice, grapefruit juice and vodka.



JULIA ROWDY: "The Old Man And The Sea Breeze."

COULTON: Oh, yeah.


EISENBERG: Finally, a Hemingway book with a happy ending.

COULTON: That's right.


EISENBERG: Tom Wolfe's chronicle of the U.S. space program describes how the astronauts were disappointed that the moon wasn't made of cheese. Instead, they were forced to use ricotta to fill their conch-shaped pasta.



DAN DURKIN: "The Right Stuffed Shells."



COULTON: Laura Hillenbrand's 2001 nonfiction book about a legendary championship horse reveals why he ran so fast. Waiting for him at the end of the finish line was a delicious Southern breakfast dish featuring round breads drenched in a savory sauce.



ROWDY: "Seabiscuits And Gravy."

COULTON: Delicious and correct.


EISENBERG: Margaret Wise Brown's classic bedtime story features farewells to things we all have in our rooms - two little kittens, a red balloon and a Southern treat made with graham crackers, marshmallow filling and a chocolate coating.



ROWDY: "Goodnight Moon Pie."



EISENBERG: I feel like that's what you say to a moon pie when you eat it at midnight, right? Goodnight moon pie.


COULTON: Michael Lewis examines pro football through the story of an impoverished young player adopted by a family that offers him love next to a small dish of leafy greens with his choice of Italian or ranch.



ROWDY: "The Blind Side Salad."

COULTON: That's right.


COULTON: This is your last clue. This Charles Portis Western features a 14-year-old girl seeking to avenge her father's death with the help of Marshal Rooster Cogburn and some coarsely ground corn meal boiled in milk.




DURKIN: "True Grits."

COULTON: Yeah, that's right.


CHUNG: Ophira, both contestants did amazing. But Julia, congratulations, you're moving on to the final round.

COULTON: Coming up, we'll be talking to Lauren Weedman, actress and author of the book "Miss Fortune: Fresh Perspectives On Having It All From Someone Who Is Not OK." And then she'll play a game about unusual memoir titles.

EISENBERG: And get ready for an explosive ending. Our contestants duke it out in a final round about literary classics for the glorious ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube.

COULTON: And look out for a plot twist. This is no ordinary final round.

EISENBERG: You've said too much. Stick around.

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