- 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.
- 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.
- Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
- Year: 2011
- Pages: 464
I’ve never been much of a comic fan; my brother liked them for the both of us. Despite a flirtation with our local comic store’s annual summer clearance sale, and a long-lived passion for the 6-issue Double Dragon series in 1991, the medium left me largely cold, and I eventually became enamored of the long-form novel.
As a result of either my age or my eventual indifference to the format, I was unaware or unimpressed of most of the important happenings in the medium. I learned most of the historical ones—e.g., the origins the Batman and Superman, and their eventual censorship or transmogrification during the panic of the 1950s—from David Hadju’s The Ten-Cent Plague, and many of the latter-day events either from first-hand knowledge—e.g., hearing about Bane breaking Batman’s back or Doomsday killing Superman—or finally reading the graphic novels themselves—e.g., Alan Moore’s critical 1980s work The Watchmen and V for Vendetta. For what it’s worth, I tried reading Roger Stern’s 1994 The Death and Life of Superman, though it was beyond my 9-year-old self.
- 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.