- You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News
- Publisher: Plume
- Year: 2010
- Pages: 320
In my review of John Dies at the End, by Cracked’s pseudonymous senior editor David Wong, talked briefly about how the resurrected humor magazine’s new online format works surprisingly well. I find it consistently funnier than, say, The Onion, whose satire is more biting but which I find terribly formulaic.
The relative success of the new website and its list-based articles eventually spurred the editors to do what most successful humor websites eventually do: take their existing content, add a couple of new pieces, and attempt to sell it to fans that have already read the material online. See Stuff White People Like and Maddox’s The Alphabet of Manliness for just two examples.
- Super Mario
- Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover
- Year: 2011
- Pages: 304
We were a Sega household growing up; I’m not sure what drove my parents to wrap up a Genesis one Christmas instead of a Nintendo, but my childhood was nonetheless more about Sonic the Hedgehog than Mario the “plumber”. That being said, we had no shortage of interaction with Nintendo products either before or after, generally playing them at friends’ houses. Or, as was the case for a number of years, occasionally renting an original NES from the video store for the weekend.
It was impossible to avoid Nintendo’s cultural impact in the late 80s and most of the 90s, even as other manufacturers began to make inroads into the console market; and far from being simply a video game company, Nintendo cultivated a brand that included magazines, mail order merchandise, and a two-hour commercial called The Wizard. And while Nintendo had various hits, and its name alone could sell swag, its name was intrinsically linked with a little Italian named Mario Mario.
- Publisher: Scribner
- Year: 2011
- Pages: 288
Ken Jennings may always be known as “that guy from Jeopardy!“; that’s certainly how I tend to think of him. For those of you who don’t know, Jennings became a minor celebrity in 2004 when he won 74 straight games of the popular TV quiz show, winning just over $3 million total. I expected a brief time in the limelight for Jennings; when he wrote a book called Brainiac, about his experience in quiz shows and the broader world of trivia buffs, I was unsurprised and wrote it off as a gimmick. When he wrote a second book, Ken Jennings’s Trivia Almanac, I once again took it for an easy way to ride the short-lived wave of fame that carries intellectuals.
But then I saw Maphead, a book about cartographers, self-proclaimed map geeks, and the strange, occluded subculture of geography and maps. My curiosity got the better of me: I gave it a try.
- Half Empty
- Publisher: Doubleday
- Year: 2010
- Pages: 240
Four years ago, I read David Rakoff’s Don’t Get Too Comfortable, a book of collected essays. Rakoff, an out gay man, reads like a more curmudgeonly and hyperliterate version of David Sedaris, like the bastard love-child of Sedaris and Chuck Klosterman. Years later, Rakoff’s next book, Half Empty, capitalizes on his dark worldview by offering a series of loosely-connected essays in defense of the notion that pessimism is not all bad.
- Masters of Doom
- Publisher: Random House
- Year: 2003
- Pages: 352
I can still remember buying—as a child of 7 or 8—Doom at the local grocery store; it was $5, and came in the form of two 3.5″ floppy disks. At the time, I had no real inclination what it was, other than than package promised a first-person shooter video game that involve monsters and machine guns. What’s not to like? At the time, I could not have known than I was only one of many tens of thousands—hundreds of thousands—discovering the same phenomenon. Of course, I had only bought the shareware version, which comprised the first of three episodes, and lacked the finances to pay $40 or $50 for the full version, but I played those 9 levels over and over again, and my new obsession also caused me to pluck the first of four novelizations from my dad’s bookshelf. Eventually, I would get the full, expanded Final Doom version of the game, and its followup, Doom II.