Inch-thick collection of the comic book adventures of ten year-old Barry, who has a 350 IQ, and his best friend Jeremy, who loves Oreos. They save the world from aliens, giant gorillas, the government, and themselves. An impressively large percentage of the dialog is foul language my home schooled children do not yet know exists.
Why I picked it up: A nostalgic birthday present from Gene, collecting some of the first comics he every shared with me.
Why I finished it: They were a revelation back then, and they still are. Barry shoulders his responsibilities as the smartest boy on Earth with determination and glee. Judd whipsaws between slapstick and poignancy at the drop of a hat, and his timing is perfect.
I'd give it to: My wife Sara loved Winick's Pedro and Me and Frumpy the Clown, but Barry is just too crass for her. So I'll send a copy to my old friend Keith, who put up (and put up with) Gene and me in Boston during ALA Midwinter.
Ever Bloom was just a normal teenager. She was popular, had a boyfriend, and her little sister annoyed her. Then her dad swerved off the road to avoid a deer and her whole family died. Next thing she knew, she could see people's auras, hear thoughts, and learn anyone's life story with a touch.
Damen Auguste, a mysterious new student at her school seemed strangely familiar. Because he's the only one able to help when others' thoughts threaten to overwhelm her, she starts to fall for him and finds herself sucked into his world of danger and mystery.
Why I picked it up: I like stories that take place at school but have a dash of the paranormal.
Why I finished it: I was hooked right from the beginning when Damen Auguste stalked into the classroom and calmed Ever with a touch.
I'd give it to: Julia, so she can see how non-tragic her life is. Eliza, who needs to find another fictional boyfriend besides Edward Cullen. (Get a Life!) Emily, who loves the constant, "What's going to happen next?" of a mystery.
Thomas is the most recent arrival in the Glade, an oasis at the center of a deadly maze. The boys who live there wait for supplies, maintain order, and risk their lives to find a way out. Thomas has a strange sense he's been there before, and other boys feel like they know him. Then another newbie arrives and everything changes.
Why I picked it up: A friend told me I HAD TO read it.
Why I finished it: Right book, right time. I was on a week-long road trip and needed a quick, violent read.
Ben works in a video store most of the time, plays in bands, and smokes a lot of weed. He drinks too much, falls in and out of love, goes to concerts, and is obsessed with music. Most importantly, he captures his life's highs, lows, and repetitions in daily three-panel comics. This collection includes 2004-2006.
Why I picked it up: Tod Parkhill of Young American Comics introduced me to Snakepit, and I've been reading it ever since.
Why I finished it: It took me two years to read this 285 page book. Months when by when I wouldn't read a page, but then I'd need to sit down and read through six months of comics. It sits on my shelf and at moments it calls to me. I'll read Ben's next book the same way. The repetitions of his life makes me think about my own,and how comfortable I've become with its patterns, despite how different my life is from Ben's. I also like his skull T-shirts and find Ben's art, and its improvement over time, inspiring.
I'd give it to: Former and current slackers and punks, and anyone who feels normal life isn't interesting enough for a book or that they lack the skills to draw a comic.
Malcolm Gladwell examines the concept of success in great detail. His working thesis: even ultra-successful people who changed the world were dependent on several factors lining up in their favor. I don't believe he means to diminish the import of hard work and even obsessiveness that led several billionaires to their place in history, but he shows that the stars had to align at that particular time to give the opportunity.
Why I picked it up: I thought Gladwell was the dude that wrote Freakonomics, but by the time I realized I was mistaken, I was hooked. Also, a math teacher I work with recommended it.
Why I finished it: It made me feel better about myself. That I am not a titan of industry is possibly attributable to the fact that I was born in the wrong year or did not get the opportunities heavyweights like Bill Gates did. Hearing about birth order's effect on the odds of making it on Canadian hockey teams, or Bill Gates' 1968 access to a PTSA-purchased computer in his private school in Seattle gave me the information I needed to understand why those people succeeded. The story of a putative failure who is technically the smartest man in America but who lives alone in Montana, unpublished, was fascinating.
I'd give it to: Stats freaks and anyone struggling with their self-image.
This autobiographical tale of a soldier revisiting his part in a 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees by Lebanese Christians is a graphic novel version of the award-winning animated documentary.
Why I picked it up: I wanted to know what the incongruous title of the story meant, plus the mind-blowing artwork drew me in. Also, I wanted to learn of a real historical event without sitting through a lecture. (I was 12 when the massacre happened, but I never heard about it.)
Why I finished it: I'm not a big graphic novel fan, but this one worked for me. Visually, Polonsky varies his layout, point of view, and design. Folman's war experience lacked nobility, honor and other action movie stereotypes -- it was a refreshing and visceral gut-punch. We find out crucial details that he has repressed as he does. (Many young Israeli soldiers had serious mental health issues after participating in the massacre.)
I'd give it to: Hawks, doves, and art students.