Mindy Kaling takes the EW Book Quiz: Her favorite books, and the book she'd kill a bug with

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Mindy Kaling, known for writing zippy tweets and hilarious episodes of The Office, is trying her hand at authoring a book: Her collection of essays, anecdotes, and humorous observations, Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me (and Other Concerns) will be coming out Nov. 1. In the meantime, EW got a chance to chat with Kaling about her somewhat un-Kelly-Kapoor-like reading habits and taste in books.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When do you find time to read? I imagine your work is all-consuming.
MINDY KALING: I read a lot on planes because I’ve been traveling so much. There’s a certain level of exhaustion where you can’t create anything, but you definitely can read and take things in. Sometimes when I try to work on a plane ride, I’m like, “God, I’m not funny right now, I’m just too tired.” But I still have the energy and attention to really dig into a book. I tend to read a lot on planes, which to me, tend to be like these cross-continental six-hour flights. So that’s not insignificant, and I get a good chunk of reading done.

What was your favorite book as a child?
As a child, my favorite book was probably Harriet the Spy. You’ve seen pictures of me [as a child in the book]. I wasn’t child actor material at all — I wasn’t a conventionally cute child. I think if there’s one thing that I regret never having gotten a chance to do as a kid — and there’s literally only one — it would have been to audition for Harriet the Spy. That was such a great book because it was not about how cute she was. In fact, she wasn’t especially adorable or anything. She was such just an adventurous city kid and she had weird confidence even though she wasn’t that popular. She was a nosy little chubby kid who was special, and it was always one of my favorite books growing up.

Is there a book you’ve never read that, for whatever reason, you’ve pretended to have read?
Oh, yeah! Infinite Jest. On my first week working on The Office, Mike Schur, who’s a great friend of mine and actually contributed something to my book — he went on to create Parks and Recreation — told us not only is he like a huge fan of David Foster Wallace, he also kept in touch with him before he died. They were pals. They’d send e-mails back and forth, so when I was starting on The Office, and Mike was one of four people who had been on the Harvard Lampoon, and he was talking about Infinite Jest, I totally pretended I’d read it because I wanted Mike to think I was cool.

He even directed that Decemberists music video based on the tennis game in Infinite Jest.
That’s right! Listen, I own the book — I feel like that’s sort of part of the battle, right?

Right! What’s an over-hyped book you just don’t get?
Let me see. Hmm. Usually, I’m like a sucker for hype, so for me, my tastes are like so embarrassingly mainstream that if something is super-hyped, I tend to love it! I’m that person.

For some reason, I’ve had the thought that you’d make a really good YA author. Are you a fan of YA?
So, with me, I’m always like embarrassingly late to the boat in figuring out what the good YA is. So I like it when I hear about it, but I don’t know a whole lot of 13-year-old girls who can tell me what’s cool. I actually feel like there’s a whole second chapter of my life where I write YA novels. My friend Sophia is great friends with Lauren Conrad, and I know it’s incredibly lucrative and changes girls’ lives and they’re super devoted to you forever.

What’s a book you would kill a bug with?
[Laughs] The Dukan Diet. My Dukan Diet book I’d kill a bug with.

But in your book, you say you love diets!
Oh yeah, I do, and I love the book, but … it’s a diet book. I can kill a bug with it.

What’s a favorite book that you’ve read for school?
I would say probably House of Mirth. I read that in 9th grade, and that book completely changed my life. I love Edith Wharton, and my teacher Ms. Fox had us read it, and I just never read a book like that before, like a book that’s from the early 1900’s but felt so modern in terms of what the main character was going through.

That’s such a great book. I feel like it preceded so many modern-day books, movies, and TV shows.
Isn’t that book freaking amazing? I love that book. It’s so current. I think that’s what makes it so timeless. Listen, I freaking love Jane Austen, love Charlotte Brontë, I love stories about frivolous families, and you know, sisterly rivalries — I love that. But House of Mirth so describes the feeling of being trapped in a time of not wanting to get married but sort of having to, and having one chance out of it and the tragic side of that. Because in the Jane Austen books, they usually end up getting married, right in the nick of time, and in House of Mirth, it’s what happens when you don’t. And she didn’t even want to! She would have been okay not doing it. Anyway, I just love that book. It’s just so good.

Follow Stephan on Twitter: @EWStephanLee

Read more:
Mindy Kaling: Her fashion blog is back! — and it features a preview of her book
Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ sells over a million copies, proving she can do no wrong
Excerpt from Mindy Kaling’s book ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’ available online
Take a look at Mindy Kaling’s new book cover for ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me?’

Comments (26 total) Add your comment
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  • Templar

    I’d kill a bug with Catcher In The Rye which I found to be total crap. Best book I ever read is a tie: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

    • lefty

      Catcher in the Rye was my over-hyped book that I just didn’t get.

    • Linney17

      Oh, I agree. I read it. And it was just okay. But if you tell someone that, it’s like you killed their grandma. I can appreciate it, in a sense but I won’t apologize for not falling all over myself to endlessly praise it.

      • Scobes

        That’s exactly the way to word it – I can ‘appreciate’ it but I don’t get the crazed love for it.

      • Mark Lutterbeck

        check out young adult serial “Seven Deadly Sins” by Mark Stephens on ITunes and B&N…first selection is free

    • Stacie

      Bean Trees. We had to read it in high school and I totally did not get it. I’ve read other Kingsolver books and liked them, but never liked that one.

    • Chase

      @Templar: Thanks for mentioning LONESOME DOVE. My favorite book of all-time.

  • SaraJeanQueen

    Love Mindy Kaling. Can’t wait for her book to come out.

    • Flyer

      Agreed. Tina Fey’s book is already on my Kindle, just waiting for Mindy’s book to show up and hang out with it.

    • Rania

      …You find the greatest thgnis!!! I especially love the custom stuffed animals, they do a wonderful job of interpreting the drawings. Such talent!Maeve looks quite content to be a leopard, and a sweet one at that.Best,Paula

  • alex

    On the subject of Catcher in the Rye – i read it in high school and LOVED it. No idea if i’d feel the same way now though because i’m not a grumpy, lonely teenager (but i was when i LOVED it!).. i think that book has to fit in the right niche of your life. if you read it outside of that niche, it probably won’t be for you.

    • Brigette

      AGREED! It’s an amazing book. I still love it even though my angst years are over. And I love Mindy even more than I already did for loving House of Mirth. That book blew me away too.

  • alex

    also, Mindy rocks.

  • Celimene

    I’m another member of the “I own Infinite Jest but just haven’t read it yet have pretended to” club. Mindy Kaling would be so much fun to hang out with. Must read this.

    • etm

      I friggin love the title! I laughed when I heard it.

  • Jen

    The looks of horror I get when I say I hated The Great Gatsby…sorry folks, that book I just didn’t get it. The Scarlet Letter was also tortorous read, because of a tortorous teacher who had no idea how to teach anything literature. I get Orson Scott Card, I get Jim Butcher, Robin Mckinley, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte…

    • madduxfan

      I am glad there is someone else who wasn’t so taken with The Great Gatsby..read it and thought “What I am not getting? This is not a great book by my standards.

    • Elaine

      I liked “The Great Gatsby”, and as for “The Scarlet Letter”, I almost killed myself getting through the introduction, and almost stopped reading it, but once I got to the main body of the book I couldn’t put it down!

  • Jessica

    I cried so hard at the end of The House of Mirth. It was a wonderful novel.

  • pdxstomp

    The Grapes of Wrath is my over-hyped book. I can appreciate it for what it is, but thought it was boring. My disdain for it is similar to Elaine’s for the movie The English Patient.

    • Templar

      Actually, while I greatly admire Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath works better as a film than it did on paper.

  • melizaberry

    I hate Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff and Cathy are horrible people I don’t understand why it’s called romantic.
    I am excited to read Mindy Kaling’s book!

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