Shelf Life Confessional: Which books have made you lose it in public?

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During the weekends, New York City is a hectic, overcrowded, energetic place to be. Throw in some great fall weather and additional out-of-town marathoners and you’ve got one even more hectic, overcrowded, energetic place to be. During these sort of weekends, a quiet moment in this city is about as reasonable a thing to expect as finding an affordable apartment.

So don’t ask me why I opted to read Mindy Kaling’s quirky, sweet new book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) in a busy, bustling park and assumed my giggle fits would go unnoticed. (They didn’t.) I knew I was in trouble when even the introduction made me laugh heartily in a public setting and I only continued to do so through her funny, relatable brand of storytelling.

Early in the book, Kaling writes the “Alternate Titles for This Book” included “When Your Boyfriend Fits into Your Jeans and Other Atrocities,” “Harry Potter Secret Book #8,” and “So You’ve Finished Chelsea Handler’s Book, Now What?” That last one struck me as especially funny considering a chapter in Handler’s Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea about how her parents react to the telephone once caused me to erupt into silence-piercing laughter that drew many annoyed glares on a train. (Reading the entirety of Tina Fey’s Bossypants warranted a very similar set of reactions.)

Of course, that was nothing in comparison to the times I attempted — and failed — to read George Carlin’s Brain Droppings, David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day and John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces in silence at my college’s student center, or any time I’ve perused those utterly brilliant Onion compilations at a book store. All were embarrassing instances in which I wound up having to desperately stifle my laughter (or, church laugh, if you will) by biting the inside of my cheeks, gasping for air, or, worst case scenario, actually putting the book down. In short, I should really only read in the comfort of my (overpriced) apartment.

Then again, laughing in a public setting (especially a quiet one) because of a book pales in comparison to the shame of uncontrollably weeping. I made the mistake of reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s beautiful and harrowing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close at a coffee shop and the heartbreaking tale had me slumped over in my seat with an ugly cry that would have put Oprah to shame. For the record, the person next to me offered me a tissue. How nice. (I truly pity the person that gets stuck sitting next to me at the movies next month. I hope they bring tissues, too.)

I know I can’t be the only person who’s reacted this way to literature. In fact, I’ve seen fellow New Yorkers make the same mistake of reading an extremely funny or terribly sad book in public settings before. So it’s time to confess: Which book made you completely lose it in public? Did you read a tearjerker on a crowded bus or read a hilarious piece of comedy in a painfully quiet library? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. So just find a quiet place, reflect on your own public-reading faux pas and share in the comments section below.

Read more:
Mindy Kaling takes the EW Book Quiz: Her favorite books, and the book she’d kill a bug with
Excerpt from Mindy Kaling’s book ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’
Mindy Kaling: Her fashion blog is back!

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