Holiday Gift Bag: Hyperbole and a Half

It’s Christmas Eve, but I think we have time for one final dip into our Holiday Gift Bag. Today, let’s look at Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half.


A lot of y’all probably read Brosh’s amazing website already — she specializes in pants-wettingly funny essays, accompanied by her equally hilarious semi-primitive artwork — and the occasional extremely sad story, which often ends up being fairly funny, too. Yeah, she’s got a great grasp of the way comedy can be found in tragedy.

But now she’s written a book, some of it taken from her website, and some of it all new material. There are a few old favorites, like “The God of Cake” and “The Party,” and there are quite a few that are completely new — the full story of her hopelessly crazy Helper Dog, Allie’s letters from (and to) her 10-year-old self, getting lost in the woods with her mom and sister, and plenty more.

It’s not all silly stuff, though. The book also includes her lengthy essay on what it’s like to be depressed, as well as her thoughts on perception and identity — and the nature of thought itself. But even then, Allie has a strong sense of the way life’s most serious moments still end up being surreal and unexpected — so they’re still pretty silly. This is in no way a bad thing.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Internet loves Allie Brosh, which is just proof that the Internet is really, really smart.

Let’s talk about the art first. It looks really goofy and crude, doesn’t it? No human looks like that, with the stick arms and cone hair. But it ain’t crude at all. Yeah, it’s designed to look like it was done in MSPaint — but Brosh spends a lot of time tweaking the art to make sure it looks right. And it’s got a lot of sophistication hidden behind the primitive exterior — there’s a lot of emotion and unexpected detail. If she’s making the art in MSPaint — well, she’s really good at making art in MSPaint, ain’t she?

The book is very funny. You will find stories in here that will make you laugh ’til you need new underwear. But her essays on depression are some of the most heart-breaking things you’ll ever read — and also the most insightful and educational. I’ve been depressed before, but after reading Brosh’s essays, it’s very, very clear that I’ve never been clinically depressed. And I also feel like I have a much greater understanding of what an absolute hell it must be to go through that, and I know now not to say a lot of the things I used to say. Her “dead fish” analogy should be required reading for anyone who has friends or family who are depressed.

If you know someone who loves Allie Brosh’s website, you should get ’em this book. If you know someone who loves really amazing humor and goofball cartoons, you should get ’em this book. If you know someone who likes a little seriousness with their comedy, you should get ’em this book. And hey, it may be Christmas Eve, but this one’s a fairly new release, so you may even be able to find it at your local bookstore. So go pick it up!

Oh, and if you want even more gift ideas, check out my previous Holiday Gift Bag posts. You might find some other ideas under my posts about graphic novels, superhero prose fiction, and even the fabled Not a Comic Book tag. Happy last-minute shopping, everyone!

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