Paula Poundstone loves to read — slowly
Long before Paula Poundstone became a well-known stand-up comedian, with HBO specials to her credit and a regular gig on NPR’s “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me,” she admits to sort of attending Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. In her new book, “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness,” Poundstone attempts to answer one of life’s eternal questions. She’ll be in town June 24 for a 7 p.m. show at the Wilbur Theater. Remaining tickets are $27 or $36.
BOOKS: Do you read books by other comedians?
POUNDSTONE: No, which isn’t a dis to comedians. It’s because I read unbelievably slowly. I’m only going to get through so many books in my lifetime. I was much inspired by “Homegrown Democrat” by Garrison Keillor. I don’t know whether it’s a comedy book, but he can’t help putting jokes in it. Garrison’s excruciatingly well read. Just once in a conversation with him I would like him to reference “Leave It to Beaver” first.
BOOKS: How does being a slow reader affect your life with books?
POUNDSTONE: I always told myself I wouldn’t reread because I’m going to miss too much. But I did just reread Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” I grabbed it because it was thin. It was really fun. I keep asking audiences whether there was ever a peg-leg pirate with a parrot in literature before. Think of how many things that impacted. Only Frankenstein rivals that because he has a cereal.
BOOKS: What are you reading now?
POUNDSTONE: Sadly I’m not reading any books right now. I’m trying desperately to keep up with The New York Times, which I started getting again because Trump was bashing it so. I never got a newspaper before because I’m too slow of a reader. I carry them around when I travel. Half of my suitcase is The New York Times. The last thing I finished was “Redeployment” by Phil Klay. I’m really intrigued by people who have served, partly because it’s incumbent upon everyone to hear their voices. I started with “Fiasco” by Thomas E. Ricks. I’ve read and loved “Grunt” by Mary Roach.
BOOKS: What other war books would you recommend?
POUNDSTONE: Last year I read “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque because I’d been watching “Boardwalk Empire” obsessively, which takes place right after World War I, and I’d also read “Into the Silence,” the history of the first guys who tried to summit Mount Everest. They almost all served in World War I. I knew nothing about that war. Although “All Quiet” is fiction, it really nails the descriptions.
BOOKS: What will you read when you get back to books?
POUNDSTONE: Adam Alter’s “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” one of my favorite topics. Also “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and “You Can’t Touch My Hair” by Phoebe Robinson. In between each of those, it’s likely that I’ll read another P.G. Wodehouse. I just love him.
BOOKS: Do you have any Massachusetts reading memories?
POUNDSTONE: In high school I was so much into my own drama that I really didn’t grab this education that was given to me for nothing. Having said that, some of my teachers were so good that some of it just went into my pores. I had an 8th-grade English teacher who was spectacular. Ruth Forbes. I was supposed to read “A Tale of Two Cities.” Although I wasn’t, I was following the story in Mrs. Forbes’s one-woman show. She would act out the sections she had assigned. She turned me on to Charles Dickens, who remains my favorite author and probably is why I still overuse the comma.
BOOKS: When did you become a reader?
POUNDSTONE: Every time I went by Paperback Booksmith in Copley Square the cashier was always sitting reading. I thought, ‘My god I want that job.’ The day I got hired they made a rule — you couldn’t read at the register. I did get every book that I should have read in high school and read them, but it was too late to write any papers on them.