Clockwise from left: HarperCollins; HarperCollins; Simon & Schuster

A Very Previously.TV Holiday Gift Guide: Books 'Written' By Fictional TV Characters!

Though you'd think fictional characters would have better things to do than write real-world books, Monty Ashley tells you which ones are good.

As you may already be aware, it is what is euphemistically called the "holiday season," which is code for "spend all your money buying presents for your loved ones and also people who wrote something amusing on a website. It's always challenging to give someone a gift, because you want to strike a balance between things they're supposed to care about and things they actually care about. For example, someone might watch a lot of television, but that's hard to base a gift around. They presumably already have a television set. And eyes. But what if a television show were somehow made portable? And readable? Do you see what I'm getting at?

You do. Great. There's more than one kind of television tie-in books. Some are just collections of pictures or artwork, combined with interviews with the cast and creators. Some are shockingly detailed behind-the-scenes accounts of how the show came to be, although most of those books seem to be about Star Trek. The best kind -- and consequently the kind I'm talking about -- is the kind where the book is "written" by the fictional characters in the show itself.

But how are you supposed to know which books will be most welcomed by the recipients of your generosity? Which books are even worth reading? Which books, in short, are most like watching television?

HarperCollins

HarperCollins

The 7 Secrets Of Awakening The Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today: The Gang Writes A Self-Help Book

The main characters in It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia are, without exception, horrible people. So the gag is that they've gotten together to write a self-help book. It proceeds pretty much how you'd expect. Dennis's chapters are egotistical; Mac's chapters are all about punching things; Charlie's chapters are gibberish; and so forth. A lot of the material just goes over things that happened on the show, like Dennis complaining about being "shushed" once. Just like on the show!

So? Skip. A lot of the humor on Sunny is based on shouting, which doesn't come across on the printed page.

Disney Book Group

Disney Book Group

Whodunnit? Murder In Mystery Manor

Once upon a time, there was a terrible reality show called Whodunnit? in which the contestants had to solve a "murder" each week, and whoever did the worst job would be the "murder" victim in the next week's show. There were fake autopsies and sedated jungle cats and all sorts of nonsense. And there were two tie-in novels, where murder took place at Mystery Manor and Mystery Island. If you run across someone who actually watched this show, I highly recommend blowing their mind with a book full of the mysterious backstory of Giles the Creepy Butler. And they'll be glad to learn that the book is exactly as formulaic as the show was, with murders happening with monotonous regularity. Sadly, there is no physical version, so if your loved one isn't into ebooks, they may have to be happy with the audio version. This isn't technically written by one of the characters of the show, but it's close enough and who's writing this article, anyway?

HarperCollins

HarperCollins

How To Archer: The Ultimate Guide To Espionage, Style, Women, And Cocktails Ever Written, by Sterling Archer

Like the cast of It's Always Sunny, Sterling Archer is a huge jerk. But unlike them, he's canonically excellent at his job of being a secret agent. So this handbook is pretty great. It explains, as well as Sterling Archer can, how to be a spy. There's a lot of stuff about how to dress, which is an important part of being an Archer-style spy. There's also a recipe section where there's a very plausible hollandaise sauce, which alone makes this one of the most useful TV tie-in books ever prints.

Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster

The Secret Diary Of Laura Palmer

In 1990, there was a show called Twin Peaks, which captured the imagination of the country with its fancy direction and deliberate refusal to make sense. Everyone was asking who killed Laura Palmer, which turned out to be a question that David Lynch wasn't terrible interested in answering. After the first season, Mr. Lynch's daughter Jennifer wrote this book, which serves as a prequel to the series. In it, you can learn all sorts of fascinating things like how the town of Twin Peaks is straight-up batshit insane. Which you could probably have gathered from the show, but then you wouldn't get all the sex scenes. There are probably young people who have seen Twin Peaks but don't know about this book, so (as long as they're not too young) you can probably blow their minds. Or, generously, pass the book on to them and give them a boost into the sequel, coming soon to Showtime!

There's also a Dale Cooper autobiography, but his life is presumably less interesting than Laura's was.

Hachette Books

Hachette Books

Pawnee: The Greatest Town In America, by Leslie Knope

This is one of the best books by fictional characters, and I assume it's because the show's writers were more involved with it. Leslie Knope's book about Pawnee was actually featured in an episode of Parks & Recreation, which ended with Amy Poehler delivering a speech that's in the book as an endnote. Pawnee is very nearly Parks & Rec in book form, which is a high compliment indeed. And there's a big section on how almost everyone in town is in this cult that came out of a folder supply company that will feel very familiar to anyone who knows people that got really into Getting Things Done.

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