Summer reality TV reading: Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, Lost and Found, Reality: the Novel, The Homeless Channel

If you’re searching for summer or beach reading, three (relatively) new books offer the chance to take a bit of reality TV with you away from your television. Only one, though, is grounded in actual reality; the others create new, fictional worlds inspired by reality television.

Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style is the Project Runway mentor’s first book, which lends its name to his upcoming Bravo show. An excerpt shows that despite being co-written, it retains Tim’s personality and sense of humor, never mind his practical advice. Discussing cleaning out your closet, for example, he asks, “What is a closet, really, but a catalogue of the different personas we have auditioned and discarded?” Then he cites both Kierkegaard and Sex and the City. How you can not love him, or love having a dose of Tim whenever you want?

Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst’s satire of reality show very much like The Amazing Race, is in paperback next week. It follows a group of dysfunctional competitors–from an “ex-gay” couple to a mother and daughter. It’s written in the first person, but changes narrators every chapter, which gives perspective about their state of mind as they race or just contemplate their lives. The real conflict comes, however, as the book flap asks, if “any of the players [can] keep their most painful secrets hidden even as the show’s creators scheme to reveal them to the world.”

Reality: The Novel by Jeff Havens is another satire of reality television–it seems that writing a novel about reality TV involves satirizing it–but this one involves the production side. It follows Trent Tucker, a reality show producer who hates his job creating shows such as “Gangland Romance,” “Pregnant Hookers,” and “Who Wants to Marry My Rich, Dying Grandmother?” From the public’s demand for reality TV to the literally cutthroat competition between production companies. Publishers Weekly said the book’s “characters are clichéd and the plot hackneyed,” but just like a good reality show, “the clever surprise ending puts everything in perspective.”

The Homeless Channel by Matt Silady is yet another fictional, satirical take on the phenomenon. This one, however, is a graphic novel that follows a character who “starts a 24-hour cable network called The Homeless Channel,” and has to battle “an unexpected romance, a sibling out on the streets and corporate sponsors who think they know what’s best for her network.” There’s an excerpt on the author’s web site, and Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.