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Self Help

Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth’s new book, ‘I’m No Philosopher, But I Got Thoughts,’ delivers an authentic dose of sunny

Sprinkled with meditations, inspirational quotes, and personal travails, too, the book left this ‘Wicked’ fan feeling lighter

Kristin ChenowethJohn Russo

If you have been a reader of this column, you may have noticed I gravitate toward self-help books that are practical, science-based, and without too much fanfare. And it might surprise you that I was delighted by Kristin Chenoweth’s “I’m No Philosopher, But I Got Thoughts,” a book that is more faith-based, earnest, and frankly, kind of silly. But in a good way, I promise. Allow me to explain.

First, a confession that I’m deeply, almost embarrassingly deeply, into musicals. “Wicked” was the first show I saw on Broadway, when I was 16 and full of teenage feelings that made me the target audience for a show about women, finding yourself, and friendship. While I missed Chenoweth’s original run in the show, the cast recording has been a steady faithful companion in my life for the last 20 years, and every intonation of her performance has become a part of my DNA. When I saw her in “Promises, Promises” years later, there was a tiny, parasocial part of me that felt like I was catching up with an old friend, (one who happened to sound as flawless live as on CD). I’ve read her memoir, “A Little Bit Wicked,” more than once, I know she will be at her nearest 7-11 on 7/11 for a free Slurpee every year. It’s possible that I am, as the kids say, a stan.


So yes, in many ways I am the core readership Chenoweth was hoping to reach with “I’m No Philosopher.”

While an overarching personal narrative runs through Chenoweth’s latest, it is clearly designed to be a book you reach for whenever you need a bit of levity. After a lovely foreword from Ariana Grande, heir to the Glinda throne in the upcoming “Wicked” movie, Chenoweth introduces us to the guiding principle readers will find in its pages. “This book is my gift to you: a celebration of whatever makes this day joyful, a mini vacation from whatever makes it a challenge.” And for the most part, it is.


Kristin Chenoweth's latest book is "I'm No Philosopher, But I Got Thoughts."handout

Some pages have space to journal, like one that asks you to write yourself the love letter you need and hide it somewhere for your future self to stumble upon later. Other pages are filled with short meditations, quotes meant to inspire, or whimsical thoughts, like a list titled ”Words and Phrases I Can’t Say Because They Gross Me Out,” that includes both “cervical spine” and “honor just to be nominated.” If you’re not religious, there may be too much God talk here for you. (I found it easy to take what works and leave the rest.)

Chenoweth also gets darker than I expected in a book this playful, touching on the loss of a good friend who died by suicide, her own depression after sustaining an injury on the set of “The Good Wife,” and her ambivalence and later acceptance about meeting her birth mother. I found it refreshing: There is some strange comfort in knowing that celebrities are not immune to the pitfalls of life.

Even in her darkest moments, Chenoweth possesses a bubbly lightness. After her on-set injury, she learns that the laceration would have been much worse had she not had hair extensions in. “That’s right. I owed what was left of my concussed brain to a well placed line of hair extensions. Never — never — underestimate the power of a good weave.” It feels like catching up with your slightly wacky favorite aunt over a glass of bourbon. Maybe you believe only a little bit of what she says, or maybe none of it hits the mark, but it’s the joy of her company you’re truly after. You’ll laugh, you might even cry, and you’ll leave feeling a little lighter and a little more loved than before.


I’m No Philosopher, But I Got Thoughts,” by Kristin Chenoweth, Harper Celebrate, $22.99.