Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)

by David Sedaris

Hardcover, 2017




Little, Brown and Company (2017), Edition: 1st, 528 pages


Biography & Autobiography. LGBTQIA+ (Nonfiction.) Nonfiction. Humor (Nonfiction.) HTML:One of the most anticipated books of 2017: Boston Globe, New York Times Book Review, New York's "Vulture", The Week, Bustle, BookRiot An NPR Best Book of 2017 An AV Club Favorite Book of 2017 A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2017 A Goodreads Choice Awards nomineeDavid Sedaris tells all in a book that is, literally, a lifetime in the making. For forty years, David Sedaris has kept a diary in which he records everything that captures his attention-overheard comments, salacious gossip, soap opera plot twists, secrets confided by total strangers. These observations are the source code for his finest work, and through them he has honed his cunning, surprising sentences. Now, Sedaris shares his private writings with the world. Theft by Finding, the first of two volumes, is the story of how a drug-abusing dropout with a weakness for the International House of Pancakes and a chronic inability to hold down a real job became one of the funniest people on the planet. Written with a sharp eye and ear for the bizarre, the beautiful, and the uncomfortable, and with a generosity of spirit that even a misanthropic sense of humor can't fully disguise, Theft By Finding proves that Sedaris is one of our great modern observers. It's a potent reminder that when you're as perceptive and curious as Sedaris, there's no such thing as a boring day..… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member nancyadair
"In the U.K., if you discover something of value and keep it, that's theft by finding."
I kept a diary for long periods in my life. So, I like to read diaries. I read Samuel Pepys' diary. It took me two years. I read it in bed so every night the last line I read was usually, "And so to bed."

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thought it would be great to read David Sedaris's diaries. I have read several books by Sedaris and I've heard him on the radio. The first book I read was on recommendation by a library staff person.

I was living in a teeny rural town where the police chief had his own untrained militia and was armed with ex-military weapons, including a Hummer. I heard the KKK left flyers on driveways. The local church was splitting because the denomination was not strongly anti-abortion and anti-gay and anti-anything else progressive liberal. I went to the library and asked for funny books to raise my spirits, and I was given Holidays on Ice.

Its no wonder funding to libraries has been on the cutting block under the current administration.

Consquently, I should have known what I was getting into when I requested Theft by Finding, excerpts from his 156 volume diary kept between 1977 and 2002.

I had no idea.

"What I prefer recording at the end...of my day are remarkable events I have observed.."

And he has observed some pretty strange events.

At times I thought, what did I get myself into? Other times I laughed out loud, but no way was I going to tell anyone what was so funny. It's embarrassing to laugh at something so incorrect.

And yet, I realized, Sedaris's stories were, well, pretty believable for all their bizarreness. I lived in Philadelphia and seen some pretty weird stuff myself. But that's another story.

Also, Sedaris has some pretty spot-on insights.

One of my favorites is from November 17, 1987, Chicago. The police had caught a man who had smashed windows and painted swastikas on Jewish businesses. He was a skinhead with tattoos, Sedaris writes,"which is strange, I think, because Jews in concentrations camps had shaved heads and tattoos. you'd think that anti-Semites would go for a different look."

His self-knowledge is also commendable. On January 26, 1999, in Paris, he is called a misogynist. "No," I corrected her, "I'm not a misogynist. I'm a misanthrope. I hate everyone equally."

Sedaris is thoughtful. On December 31, 1998, he wrote that his dad, visiting him in Paris, had the evening before leaned near a candle and set his hair on fire. He wrote, "This morning we went to buy him a hat." Such a good son. Helping Dad keep his dignity by covering up the scorched hair.

In his forward, Sederis suggests readers peruse the book, sampling here and there, now and then. Good luck with that. Frankly, it's hard to put down.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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LibraryThing member smallwonder56
David Sedaris is always funny. These diary entries also show his struggle to get published and establish a more stable adulthood. I worried about him when he was younger and enjoy his take on life as he gets older. Very funny book. Looking forward to the next batch of diaries.
LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Theft By Finding, David Sedaris
David Sedaris has compiled a book consisting of his diary entries from 1977 to 2002. This is the first volume. A second is to follow. In the past, I have appreciated his dry humor and enjoyed his poignant stories. This audio book, however, was beyond my ability to
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complete. Although he reads it well, in his deadpan manner, the subject matter and language is simply too low class and vulgar; the people he encounters and describes are simply all bottom feeders. Everyone is troubled, doped up, hostile and violent. He denigrates everyone on the basis of color, religion and sexual orientation. His portrayal of his life experiences in the first 2 ½ hours that I was able to listen to him was beyond what would be acceptable in polite company. I am not sure why he selected the particular incidents he did, perhaps for shock effect, but for me, it really fell flat. The content simply got too gross. Perhaps someone more open minded will enjoy it. Perhaps as the author gets more mature and more grounded, with a realistic direction for his life, his entries in the diaries will be more palatable, rather than a sample of a variety of trashy anecdotes which are unpleasant to learn about. For those faint of heart, stay clear.
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LibraryThing member mcelhra
First, I want to say that Theft by Finding should not be the first work you read by David Sedaris. You need to know at least a little about him and his family to fully appreciate his diaries. Reading the diary of someone you know is usually going to be more interesting than reading the diary of
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someone you don’t know.

I felt like I was watching him grow as both a writer and a person in reading this diaries. His entries from the 1970s are brief, usually a paragraph or two and about doing drugs or being broke and trying to find work After he becomes a student at the Chicago Art Institute, the entries become longer and more insightful. By the 1990s, his entries are more like actual essays and the most humorous entries of the book.

It was fun reading the diary entries and recognizing the events that would eventually become stories in his books or one of his essays. For instance, he writes about using his Stadium Pal, which became a hilarious story that was published in Esquire and that he read on David Letterman.

Because the entries are short, ranging from just a paragraph to around three pages, this is an easy book to pick up when you just have a short time to read. He writes in the introduction that this book, “Seems like the sort of thing you might dip in and out of, like someone else’s yearbook or a collection of jokes.” I found it to be a great book to take to the pool because I’m interrupted what seems like every two seconds by my kids wanting me to watch some trick they can do in the water. (“Watch me Mommy, watch me. Mommy, WATCH ME!) However, it was interesting enough to me that when I read it at night before bed, I had a hard time putting it down.

I can’t imagine that a fan of David’s wouldn’t love reading this book to gain more insight into his mind and learn more about his life beyond his humorous essays and books. I know I did.
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LibraryThing member writemoves
June 23, 2017

Picked up Sedaris book from library. Read about 25-30 pages. I did not like it. Return to library.
LibraryThing member bookwyrmm
Not as humorous as I expected, but it was very interesting to see the progression from slacker to best-selling author along with the changing times.
LibraryThing member MichaelC.Oliveira
Familiar stories from the past and more information about his early years. As he discusses in the book, his early years do not reflect Sedaris' refined story telling.
LibraryThing member rglossne
David Sedaris on audio is a true treat. Sedaris began keeping a diary in 1977. His early entries reveal a young man adrift, hitch hiking back and forth across the country, picking fruit, painting. and cleaning houses for a living, all the while doing too many drugs and grappling with his sexuality.
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Eventually, he goes back to college, gets a degree, and gets himself to New York, where in short order he meets Hugh and becomes a Macy’s Santaland elf. What is so wonderful here is that he grows as a writer. Later entries show the polished, funny, sardonic writer we expect. I cannot wait to read (listen to) the later entries when they are published.
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LibraryThing member dreplogle
I like to think that if I were as an accomplished diarist as Sedaris, I too would release my diaries. But first, I should have written them. A long look into someone else's life is always fascinating to me, much like a type of voyeurism, but socially acceptable. I find I have much to relate to in
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Sedaris' diaries. Not all of it of course, but enough that I can empathize with his conflicts with family, money problems, self doubt and small successes. I enjoy that he can see the funny sides of absurd situations, perhaps faster than I ever can. It makes one's life lighter. Laughing at the absurdities of one's life makes everything more bearable.
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LibraryThing member etxgardener
Reading anyone's diary is a voyaristic exercise, but reading David Sedaris' diaries is especially so. By turns both hilarious and horrifying the diaries take you through Sedaris' life from when he was just an unknown weird-o to his success as a humorist.

Most diaries become impossibly dull as the
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writer delves too much into his or her interior life. But Sedaris' diaries are anything but. I was constantly riveted by the way his gimlet eye views the world and his place in it.

If you enjoy quirky humor you'll love this book.
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LibraryThing member albertgoldfain
Initially appears that Sedaris is not as good a diarist as essayist, especially in the gritty early years where he hadn't yet found his voice. Eventually the familiar cast if characters and places show up and it reads very much like a collection of his essays. Nothing too penetrating here on his
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attitude towards increasing fame, he's often just going for humor.
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LibraryThing member Gingermama
I had never read any of David Sedaris's work before picking up this audio book, but I saw that he's from Raleigh and thought it would be interesting. Some of these diary entries are laugh-out-loud funny while others are sad, and a few I could've done without (the spiders). Through it all, the
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author's lively wit is on display, and he has a sparkling way with words. The audio book is read by the author (always preferable, I think, in order to hear the words in the way they were intended). If the Wake County library ever gets Part II, I'll be listening to that, as well.
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LibraryThing member Narshkite
Really enjoyed this! It is a great follow-up for those of us who have read and enjoyed Sedaris' essays. The book was very relatable for me, and it was fun to see how Sedaris' POV in real life is just as you would have expected after reading his essays. The book is at various times hilarious, sad,
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silly, sweet, disturbing, socially aware, offensive, and straight up odd. It is rare that I find a diary riveting, but this one really was. No question, its got a good beat and you can dance to it.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
David Sedaris is a great essayist and his books are among the funniest and clever that I have ever read. His diaries should not be the first thing that you read by him. By first reading some of his previous books you have some awareness of the characters that he references in his diaries. What is
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so good about the diaries is that you see the growth in his writing as the years go by. You also realize the struggles that he went through. Although by the end of the diaries he has achieved success, he still remains the same as he has always been. It does get a little frustrating when he writes about something significant and then there is a time lapse and he is on to a new topic. However, that is the nature of diaries. This is a review of his new book but more about David Sedaris. If you have never read anything by him than I am envious because you are in for quite a treat. Simply one of funniest authors around!!!
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LibraryThing member debann6354
David Sedaris is full of wit, is wry, is hysterical and is so smart. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Sedaris, wonderful dry delivery. Maybe not completely nonfiction but this is the kind of book that I can live with much exaggeration. Highly recommended.
LibraryThing member ritaer
Selections form the author's daily diaries. A good reminder that artists do not usually burst into full bloom. Many early entries about being broke, working at random jobs such as painting apartments or helping people move. Uneven, as one might expect.
LibraryThing member kmajort
I've likened this to a train wreck, and I think Mr. Sedaris might agree with me. Long, yet broken up. You can see the disasters looming, especially if you have enjoyed reading/listening to his published works (a lot of behind the scenes stuff).
I could not stop. And considered starting the audio
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over again! Instead, I'll go back to Barrel Fever, and read up through 2002, saving Holidays on Ice for December, of course.
Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
Oh how I do enjoy Sedaris. This isn't always laugh out loud funny like his finished polished work but it's fun and interesting and a good insight into his observation skills and artistic eye. I had a great time listening to this. And do listen to it- audio is the only way to go with him.
LibraryThing member figre
I almost didn’t get this book. I really like Sedaris and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything I didn’t nigh-on love. But why would I care about snippets from his diaries. Well, walking into a book store (yes, they are still out there – real, live, brick-and-mortar bookstores – and
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there is nothing quite so wonderful in the world) I saw it and, in a book-buying frenzy, went ahead and bought it.

Good choice.

Why, you might ask, would you care about snippets when we have so many wonderful David Sedaris essays? Because, I would answer, snippets of David Sedaris are just as good, entertaining, funny, thoughtful, and insightful as the essays.

These diaries chronicle Sedaris’ rise without actually emphasizing that rise. It shows his life as it is being led – no particular foreshadowing, no begging for sympathy of a hard life lived, no preconceived anything. Just interesting and fascinating things that happen around a person’s life. (if no other lesson is learned by the reader, it should be that we all need to pay more attention to the weird and interesting things going on around us that we just flat miss.) The contents show the struggling artist become the struggling literary star. But none of it is called out; again, it is just a life being lived.

Oh yea, the voyage is interesting and entertaining. There are insights into Sedaris’ life, but you also see the observational skills that make his writing so successful.

I don’t know that anyone should start their plunge into David Sedaris with this collection (I’d say Santaland Diaries is the place for that), but for those who understand they are reading something special when they read Sedaris’ work (the neophyte or the long-time fans like myself) this is a fun trip.
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LibraryThing member bookczuk
Liked the explanation of the title. Maybe my least favorite Sedaris, though.
LibraryThing member cindywho
Terrible as a long car listen, better as a going to sleep listen, Sedaris' chosen diary entries are short vignettes attesting to his skill at observation. Man, did he do a lot of drugs in his younger days. It was interesting to put together an actual timeline of the events and relationships related
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in his essays from previous books.
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LibraryThing member urnmo
Pepys is next :-P

But actually: I love this. It's wonderfully uneven. Boring, funny, sad, scatological, and gay. But not all at once.
LibraryThing member gaillamontagne
David Sedaris, the author, is an ordinary guy who can tell you every day events and make them seem unusual and and funny. This book is literally Sedaris' diary from 1977-2002. David Sedaris comes from what may be a typical family but describes it in a dysfunctional way. He witnesses more odd events
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in a day than I might see in a year or, maybe I just don't see life like he does. He reminds me of a Woody Allen type character but also has a healthy respect for other people and values honesty about himself and others. Another review says it well, "Theft by Finding offers a rare look into the mind of one of our generation's greatest comic geniuses". I had no idea what I would find in checking out this book. He is a very different person than I am but I really appreciate his honesty and candor. So funny.
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LibraryThing member alanna1122
I listened to the Audio Version of this and really enjoyed it. David Sedaris is a terrific story teller and I enjoy his writing best when he is reading it.

This was a really fun format for me. I enjoy diary writing and loved these bite sized entries that varied so much in subject. From serious life
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events to just observations about everyday life - I found them all interesting.

As usual, Sedaris always strays into some subjects or descriptions that made me super uncomfortable - but I can take it and it's worth it for the other 95% of the book.
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LibraryThing member eglinton
By now it’s well established that David Sedaris writes and lives with such ingenuity, craft, and wit that even his laundry lists would probably be entertaining. This compilation of scattered diary entries over several decades does come close to testing that point, and indeed the author admits, in
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an introductory note, that “I don’t really expect anyone to read this from start to finish.” But it is perfectly possible to read it picking up at any point, and Sedaris always fashions his jottings into interesting shape. With that in mind, this book could agreeably serve as a browser for bathroom visits or overnight guests.
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