By Ellen ShapiroLISA KAY GREISSINGER and Shakthi Jothianandan
Updated July 23, 2012 12:00 PM
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Monkey Mind

by Daniel Smith |

REVIEWED BY ELLEN SHAPIRO

People PICK

MEMOIR

In this unforgettable, surprisingly hilarious memoir, journalist and professor Smith chronicles his head-clanging, flop-sweating battles with acute anxiety. Born into a neurotic but loving Long Island family, he experienced his first full-blown attack after an adolescent sexual trauma, joining the nearly 30 percent of Americans who suffer from anxiety disorders. Despite a seemingly successful life (honor student, great girlfriend, prestigious job), he became paralyzed by his fears-some elaborately catastrophic, some as ridiculously mundane as choosing condiments for a roast beef sandwich. He’s clear-eyed and funny about his condition’s painful absurdities: the bitten nails that make his hands look like they’ve been “manicured with an immersion blender,” the copious perspiration to which he devotes an entire chapter. Smith knows he can’t be cured, but cognitive therapy and medication have helped him tame his “drama queen” mind. So has this little reality check: “Well-educated, upper-middle-class Jews,” he reminds himself, “seldom end up sleeping in dumpsters.”

The Next Best Thing

by Jennifer Weiner |

REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSINGER

NOVEL

Weiner’s lively skewering of the television industry stars an aspiring young screenwriter, Ruth Saunders, who heads to L.A. and gets her sitcom pilot green-lit. Lo and behold, once the show is picked up by a network, it turns out she must make unpalatable changes-adding crass sex jokes and the casting of too-thin actresses-to keep the studio executives happy. Weiner, who co-wrote the short-lived sitcom State of Georgia, knows all too well the world she’s describing. And while her themes aren’t new, she’s written an entertaining story about the dream-crushing compromises on the road from page to screen.