Waiting for the Punch by Marc Maron and Brendan McDonald Book Review

Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast by Marc Maron and Brendan McDonald might be one of the best compilations of stories you’ll ever read. It’s part manifesto, as the introductions that Maron writes in this book are just as insightful and impactful as the stories that are contained in each chapter.

It’s part self-help book, as you can’t help but put each nugget of truth in the context of your own life. And lastly, it’s part historical catalog of the human experience.

All three of those reasons on their own should be enough to get you to not only pick up the book, but start listening to podcasts. It is important to note that the podcast WTF with Marc Maron is a minor character within the book, as well.

Why? Because as Marc writes in his introduction to the book, “I think the pastime of chatting or candidly talking to people about anything or nothing is fading away. People don’t even want to leave voice messages anymore, let alone talk. We keep distance from each other because we can. It’s odd and sad. Because just by talking to each other, we can put all the aspects and challenges and joys and horrors of life into perspective, even if that is not what we are talking about. It’s relieving, comforting, and enjoyable.”

Marc Maron

Marc Maron

“I have no idea what is going to happen when I talk to a guest. I’m not sure where the conversation will go. I don’t have a plan other than to talk, to connect. I know I don’t want to be talked at or through. I don’t prepare in the same way other interviewers prepare because I don’t see myself as an interviewer. I am a conversationalist and a somewhat needy one at that.”

“The effect of listening to an uninterrupted, long-form conversation with emotional ups and downs, depth and lightness, humor and sadness, is an essentially human experience.”

Given the nature of his writing and the stories that his guests have shared Marc Maron is doing something special. That’s not to say some other podcast isn’t doing the same thing. But for the scale of the podcast, it’s reach and impact, it is something truly unique and brilliant, and this book is living proof.

The chapter list; Growing Up, Sexuality, Identity, Relationships, Parenting, Addiction, Mental Health, Failure, Success, Morality, and Life Lessons, read well together, but also in their own right. This isn’t a once and done book. This is a book I can see myself and others picking up when things happen. The next time I confront mortality or failure, I can definitely see myself reaching for this book and turning to those specific chapters.

Though the stories are from “famous” people, they are just people and they live life the same way we all do. It’s not like fame insulates someone from failure, hardship, heartbreak, or anything else. In fact, sometimes it escalates whatever it is they happen to be going through.

Brendan McDonald

Brendan McDonald

In creating a book that I will go to time and time again, Marc and Brendan have really compiled into one tome something special.

Not everything and everyone in this book will be relatable to you at first, but it’s all there. Everyone is part of the human condition and we all have the same human experience.

The other thing of special note is that having been a listener of WTF for more than a few years now, reading these stories puts them in a different context than hearing them unfold on the podcast. I can’t quite put my finger on why, although I’m sure there’s an answer, just know that the impact of these stories is magnified because you are reading it on the page.

Another thing that comes from listening to what I consider the BIG two of my podcast playlists, WTF and Nerdist, is that these stories have such resonance because they are not wholly unique. If you’ve listened to years of just those two podcasts, these stories can be heard from all sorts of people in difference to their circumstances.

You cannot underestimate the impact of a story or a lesson that is told through the voice of many different people across the same platform. And that doesn’t even count the people in our own lives who have also told similar stories or in the blogs or articles that you’ve read over your life that also contain similar life lessons.

In fact, all it does is magnify the lesson.

Marc Maron and Brendan McDonald in Studio

Marc Maron and Brendan McDonald in Studio

This is not a light read. It’s not that kind of a book. There will be pages that take you 30 minutes to read because you will find yourself lost in your own thoughts and memories, but that is a good thing. Seriously, it is.

Lastly, I’ve read The Jerusalem Syndrome and Attempting Normal also written by Marc Maron. This book is just as good. Even if you stripped away all of the guest stories, the introductions that Maron writes to each chapter are there as his own personal memoir into each of the themes of the respective chapters that they introduce.

So do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy of Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast. Marc Maron and Brendan McDonald have put together quite the book and everyone can learn something from at least some portion of this book. Also, if you’re not a podcast listener, remember all of these things and moreover all of the stuff that is just as impactful that did not make it into the book is out there and that doesn’t make it any less valuable to listen to.

Sure there are podcasts about anything and everything, but in the vein of WTF or Nerdist, or as a bit of self promotion The Stranger Conversations with Grant Markham (which I am producing), find yourself a “conversational” podcast. You won’t be sorry you did, and this book just proves that.


Read the Secret File of technical information and quotes from Waiting for the Punch by Marc Maron & Brendan McDonald.