Is There Anything B.J. Novak Can't Do?

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 (Jennifer Rocholl)

My wife and I read a lot of books to our five-year-old daughter. Some of them are newer, like Should I Share My Ice Cream?, while others hail from the faraway time of our own childhood, like The Giant Jam Sandwich or Me Too Iguana. But what they have in common is they all contain pictures. Because we want to instill in her that reading is fun, I'll often point to a picture mid-page, to crack a joke and make her laugh.

And yet I have never heard my daughter laugh so long and loud than at The Book With No Pictures (Penguin; $17.99). The title doesn't lie: the book contains no pictures whatsoever. And it has the same rolling-on-the-floor effect on every single kid I've read it to.

Written by actor, screenwriter, producer, comedian and author B.J. Novak, who appears Oct. 11 at the JCCSF, the book is less a story and more a meta bonding experience. The book first admits that a book with no pictures might sound boring, but then explains that when an adult reads a book, they have to say each and every word printed in its pages. You can imagine what comes next: through a series of nonsense phrases and silly onomatopoeias, Novak forces the adult reading the book to make a complete fool of themselves.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than getting a laugh from a kid,” Novak told Vanity Fair upon the book's release, and I'm telling you, the laughter from The Book With No Pictures is especially delectable. Kids go from thinking the joke's on them—a book with no pictures, really?—to realizing the joke's on the grownup.... and boy, do kids ever love to see grownups royally clowned.


Novak appears in conversation at the JCCSF on Oct. 11, and he'll surely discuss different aspects from his hugely varied career: starring on The Office, writing and starring on The Mindy Project, the brilliant short-story collection One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories and more. Is there anything he can't do?

Actually, there is. As Novak told Vanity Fair: "I can't draw."