By Adam Markovitz
Updated September 07, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

In essays on topics ranging from hero worship (of Kurt Vonnegut) to family traditions (ham on Chanukah) to sexual awakenings (a particularly effervescent hot tub), Steve Almond (Candyfreak) tosses out a truly impressive number of awkward overshares throughout (Not That You Asked). But even his candor doesn’t cover up the fact that these humorous autobiographical pieces aren’t nearly as funny or insightful as they are smug and cagey. Knee-jerk defensiveness and self-deprecation (”I’m proud to be ugly…What are you?”) pervade the book, making the reader feel more like an audience member than a confidant. There’s no doubt that Almond is a gifted writer, but, sadly, he never gives us a chance to be on his side. C-