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I really enjoyed Colson Whitehead's memoir about the time he spent playing in the World Series of Poker, but almost a month after finishing it, I'm having a hell of a time articulating why.

Whitehead freely admits he isn't that great of a poker player—his greatest advantage seems to be his deadpan expression, a hard-to-read poker face he presents to the world all the time, not just at the card table. When a magazine agreed to bankroll his entry fee in the tournament, he wasn't in a great place in his life, newly divorced and a little aimless professionally and creatively. He spends a good chunk of page space talking about how dreary his life was at the time.

How is that fun reading?

I've concluded that what it comes down to is Whitehead's voice. He's so dry and witty, and while he may complain at times, he always does so with an ironic glance in the mirror first. He knows he's a little bit of a sad sack, and if he laughs at himself first, it gives us permission to laugh too. Just be warned, his humor is very much on the cerebral side. It's not the kind of word play that causes spit-takes. It's the kind that makes you smile, slyly, with just one side of your mouth. If you have a mustache to twirl and a cat to pet, you could do those things too.

I personally have spent more time than I care to admit watching televised poker tournaments. I was in college when Texas Hold 'Em exploded in popularity, and you could waste hours upon hours of your day watching poker “celebrities” on ESPN trying to outwit and outbluff each other into the big money. I also played in a home game for a while, and was bad enough to think I was pretty good. So I recognized a lot of the names Whitehead dropped in the book, which was kind of fun but also kind of sad, to think how many brain cells I've used up on something like poker. Based on this book, I think that's pretty much how Whitehead feels about his poker experience, too.

I know I'm becoming a broken record when it comes to audio books, and if that's not your thing I totally respect that, but this is yet another book where the audio version really added to my enjoyment. First of all because Whitehead has a lovely deep voice and is a fantastic reader, but also because his sardonic vocal tone perfectly matches the tone of the book. They're his words, after all, and he knows exactly how to deliver them for maximum—yet deadpan—effect. I think some of the jokes are subtle enough that they could fall flat if you just read them off the page without knowing much about Colson Whitehead or his darkly funny outlook on life.

Find it at your library!

Forgive me for this, but can I just say I am Super First-World Frustrated that I didn't get to listen to an audio version of this book? I knew as soon as I read that Phoebe Robinson of the 2 Dope Queens podcast had a book coming out that I wanted it in audio. I mean, why wouldn't I? I've read a bunch of books this year by comedians, and there's nothing better than hearing their words straight from the horses' hilarious mouths. But every time I checked Amazon in the months leading up to release date, they showed only paperback and ebook as purchase options. I sighed, shrugged, and requested an ebook version—and the entire time I was reading, I was imagining how much better the book would be if I could hear it in Phoebe's voice.

So imagine my surprise, dismay, and eyebrow twitchiness when I just checked Amazon to confirm that there really is no audio version available—you know, before I post something on the Internet claiming it as fact—and there it is, smirking in my face—the audio version! The temerity! It's a good thing I am not a comic book villain and thus unable to shoot Hate Lasers from my eyeballs, because my laptop screen would have been toast.

I guess my loss is your gain (you lucky bastards), because I'm here to tell you from personal experience, listening to this book is almost certainly going to be more fun than reading a print copy, especially if you haven't ever had the pleasure of experiencing Robinson's antics on her podcast. I've listened to a handful of episodes in the past few weeks so I was able to color in the gaps with my imagination, but trust me, Robinson has a unique voice and it's a lot funnier out loud.

She covers a wide range of topics, including microaggressions, Michael Fassbender, being called “uppity,” a list of demands for the first female president, and as you might have guessed, black hair and why white people lose their minds over it. She makes even the tough parts at least a little funny (which, as she points out, is necessary to avoid being labeled an angry black woman). She walks that tightrope between too silly and too serious really well. The best comedians know you can unload a lot of truth on people if you package it up the right way.

With regards to Plume and NetGalley for the review copy (even though, you know, it wasn't an audio version). On sale now!