There’s always that one book you see every time you go to a thrift shop — biographies of George Bush, vampire romance novels for teens, stories about dead pets. Jewel’s A Night Without Armor was mine. I’ve seen so many copies of her collection of poetry at Salvation Army that I could start my own library. Back in the day, I mocked it so much that my friends started buying copies too, giving Jewel her 15 minutes of literary fame in suburban Michigan.
Though most celebrity novels tend to be as — or more — cringe-worthy than Jewel’s, some are actually worth reading. The latest celebrity to impress the literary world is comedian B. J. Novak, whose short story collection, One More Thing, has been greeted with generally positive reviews. In honor of his ability to manage what few others can, here’s a (Jewel-free) list of novels written by celebrities that are good for more than their embarrassingly bad poetry.
1. The Woman Who Wouldn’t by Gene Wilder
Most of us remember Wilder for his creepy performance as Mr. Wonka inWilly Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, but after his days of oompa loompas were over, the actor took up writing love stories — and was actually pretty good at it! The Woman Who Wouldn’t, which tells the story of a 1903 violinist looking for love, was deemed “poignant and whimsically romantic” by Publisher’s Weekly. Wilder even gives Chekhov a cameo in the novel, illustrating that he knows as much about literature as he does about Wonka Bars.
2. Shopgirl by Steve Martin
If you’re one of those people who (rightfully) believes that the book is always better than the movie, rejoice: Although the film adaptation of Martin’s novel wasn’t a success, his book received rave reviews. The story of a lonely store worker, Shopgirl is a surprisingly sad pursuit compared to the rest of the comedian’s work. Martin should actually consider making the jump to tragedy in film as well, as Shopgirl spent 15 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.
3. In His Own Write & A Spaniard in the Works by John Lennon
Lennon once famously declared “It’s weird not to be weird,” so it’s no surprise that his short stories feature plot lines like a cow’s milk emerging pre-bottled. Though his book might be too off-the-wall for some readers, it received generally positive reviews, with The London Sunday Times declaring, “It is fascinating, of course, to climb inside a Beatle’s head to see what’s going on there, but what counts is that what’s going on there is really fascinating.”