Essayist David Rakoff thinks “Rent” is a travesty that infantilizes AIDS and inflates the legacy of late creator Jonathan Larson. Finally, someone said it out loud! So much sarcasm drips from his stinging new collection, “Half Empty,” that you may need to sop it up with a biscuit. Hear him read from his masterwork of extreme pessimism — but check your hopes and dreams at the door.
» Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW; Sept. 23, 7 p.m., free; 202-364-1919. (Van Ness)
Historian Mae Ngai’s “The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America” examines the influx of Chinese immigrants into California in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Ngai focuses on the real-life Tape family as it walked the tightrope between what it meant to be American and what it meant to be Chinese.
» Barnes and Noble, 4801 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda; Sept. 23, 7 p.m., free; 301-986-1761. (Bethesda)
Outspoken political cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall will talk about, read from and sign copies of his “Anti-American Manifesto.” The tome contains his view on how America is heading down the path of economic and political disaster. Rall’s work doesn’t just push the envelope; he addresses it and delivers it to your front door.
» Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th St. NW; Sept. 27, 6:30 p.m., free; 202-387-7638. (U St.-Cardozo)
In “Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir,” Fatima Bhutto, niece of the late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, recounts the white-knuckle night in 1996 when her father was murdered and the long line of tragedies that plagued the Pakistani political dynasty that followed. The poet and commentator will speak, take questions and sign copies.
» Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW; 7 p.m., free; 202-364-1919. (Van Ness)
The Claws Come Out
If your landlord bears a striking resemblance to a ferret, then you’ll surely relate to David Sedaris’ set of short stories, “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary.” The satirist’s latest work is a lighthearted zoological primer on all things mammalian. It turns out, these critters may not act very differently from our mothers, co-workers and strangers. Sedaris’ title tale spotlights a squirrel and a chipmunk whose unlucky-in-love story smacks of Romeo and Juliet’s. In “The Toad, the Turtle, and the Duck,” the three animals bond while waiting in a complaint line; “Hello Kitty” is about a curmudgeonly cat who attends AA meetings. After sharing a reading about his anthropomorphic characters, Sedaris will field audience questions and sign copies of his book.
» Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW; Oct. 4, 8 p.m., $40, $45; 202-994-6800. (Foggy Bottom)
Rice, Rice Baby
Condoleezza Rice’s “Extraordinary, Ordinary People” is a candid collection of family memories that spans her life, from growing up in 1950′s Birmingham, Ala., to her political and cultural achievements. Rice shares how her father instilled in her a love of sports and politics and how her mother encouraged a passion for piano and fine arts.
» Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW; Oct. 15, 3 p.m., free; 202-364-1919. (Van Ness)
“Please Take Me off the Guest List” is visual candy from Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, Freshkills singer Zachary Lipez and book designer Stacy Wakefield. Hear remarks from the authors, a brief musical performance and how they pooled their skills — photos from Zinner, essays from Lipez, design from Wakefield — to share their adventures.
» Busboys and Poets, 1025 5th St. NW; Oct. 28, free, 6:30 p.m.; 202-789-2227. (Mt. Vernon Square)
It’s That Inking Feeling
Kat Von D has come a long way from the cheeky tattoo artist on TLC’s “Miami Ink.” For one thing, now she dates Jesse James. Meet Kat and snag a signed copy of the diary-esque “The Tattoo Chronicles,” a reflection on the significance of ink and what it’s like for one’s career path to include sketching permanently onto the skins of Green Day and Kings of Leon members.
» Barnes and Noble, 4300 Montgomery Road, Ellicott City; Oct. 29, 12:30 p.m.; 410-203-9001.
After three years of battling breast cancer, Nancy Brinker’s sister, Suzy, died in 1980 at age 36. Two years later, Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure and has been working to improve awareness of the disease ever since. She’ll talk about her book, “Promise Me: How a Sister’s Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer,” and how one person can make a difference.
» Barnes and Noble, 1819 Reistertown Road, Baltimore; Nov. 4, 7 p.m., free.
No Nanny State
Comedian, actor and radio/ television host Adam Carolla will share his vitriolic take on how common sense has been replaced with hand sanitizers and lawyers in “In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks.” His rhetoric about how culture has reached ridiculous levels of audacity is not for anyone who likes “Oprah” or Whole Foods.
» Barnes and Noble, 7851 L Tysons Corner, McLean, Va.; Nov. 7, 3 p.m., free.
Take a Vowell
Although “Unfamiliar Fishes” won’t hit the shelves until March, Sarah Vowell will give readers an advance taste of her nonfiction work in progress. Her gaze has turned to 1898 Hawaii, when, in the spirit of manifest destiny showboating and chest-thumping, the U.S. attempted to become an international superstar overnight.
» Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW; Nov. 7 through Jan. 2, 8 p.m., $25-$35. (Foggy Bottom)