Growing up a privileged Manhattan kid, Jeff Nichols should have had it all. Instead, he got a plethora of impairments: learning disabilities, a speech impediment, dyslexia, ADD, and a mild case of Tourette's syndrome.
In Trainwreck, his weird and witty memoir of utter dysfunction, Nichols gives an irreverent look at how one "idoit" made good. Bounced from elite private schools, he limps through college, earning the nickname "Iron Lung" for his uncanny ability to inhale from a four-foot bong without coughing. By the skin of his teeth, he graduates and lands a job on Wall Street...as a moving target for coked-up traders tossing order cards at his head. Bumming money from his parents to pay for drugs and prostitutes, Nichols hits bottom before he discovers Alcoholics Anonymous, the perfect place to develop material for his new career in stand-up. Several disastrous twists and turns later, he finally makes good when a crazy stroke of luck leads to his story being turned into a feature film by the same production company behind indie hits like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Savages.
Hilarious and oddly inspiring, Trainwreck is proof that a life disastrously lived can still turn out beyond anybody's wildest imaginings.
Reading Group Guide
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“I have overcome very little to accomplish nothing” (page 1). Do you agree or disagree with the author’s description of himself? What do you think is the author’s greatest accomplishment? What is his greatest flaw?
What were the four reasons that led Jeff to Alcoholics Anonymous? Which drug does he consider the most dangerous and why?
Despite all the author’s flaws, is he a likeable character? Can you relate to any of his experiences? What are his good qualities?
Why do New Balance sneakers paralyze Jeff? What other phobias does he have?
“I suppose fishing satisfies some hunter-gatherer instinct in me” (page 103). Discuss the author’s relationship with fishing and how it has affected his life.
Why do you think the author wrote this book? Do you think he is trying to shine a light on learning disabilities and addictions?
Jeff visits several mental health professionals. Do any of them help him? What do you think is at the root of the author’s problems?
What is the lesson in the yellow shirt story? Which of his stories do you find the most shocking?
What is Jeff’s view of Ritalin? What is your opinion about the prescription of this drug?
In the aftermath of the house fire, Jeff notes that he became “detached from the situation, an observer instead of a participant.” How did this event affect Jeff?
“I am not really sure whether I am an alcoholic” (page 189). What do you think—is Jeff an alcoholic or does he simply use AA as a support group for his other issues?
Did you find this book offensive, funny, or both? After reading the book, do you want to see the film?
Tips to Enhance Your Book Club
Catch a Film: Once you’ve read the book, rent the film and discuss how it compared with the memoir.
Catch a Cause: Organize your group to volunteer with a local organization that works with the learning disabled.
Catch a Big One: Book a fishing charter with the author at: www.secondchoicecharters.com.
"This is a romp of a book, a rowdy ride...leavened with a dazzling comic energy." -- Frank McCourt, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela's Ashes
"We've worked for years with Jeff Nichols on- and offstage, writing and performing sketches, and while he's a borderline lunatic, he's also one of the funniest guys we've ever met. This book manages to let the best parts of him shine through while celebrating the worst." -- The Whitest Kids U' Know
"There's nothing worse than having a friend ask you to read her son's miserable memoir of wanton life abuse. I intended to read three pages and lie and cheat pretending I had read the clueless work. Instead, I read Trainwreck in one sitting. I didn't do any work all day long. It's that good. Don't buy this book or your day too will be ruined." -- Laurence Leamer, author of Madness Under the Royal Palms
"How an idiot like Jeff wrote such a wonderful book is mind-boggling. Trainwreck is raw and funny and brutally honest...I highly recommend reading it." -- John Viener, comedian, writer, and voice actor on Family Guy