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designed this website. He also designed the JS Worldwide website. He has also designed all kinds of other stuff, beautifully.
I think this is the first book I ever picked out on my own and read by myself. I’m pretty sure it is. I can tell you this for sure: Lou Gehrig always has been and always will be my favorite baseball player. And I’m from Boston, so that’s saying something about the influence of this book.
Before there was the Internet, there was What Do People Do All Day? to describe the whole world and everything in it. Still hours of fun to explore every page.
He wears a sweater and sails a boat and drives a car and gets dumped on a garbage barge. Oh, and he’s a mouse.
An adventure story starring a carved wooden boat that travels all the way across Canda. A carved wooden boat? you say. That’s right: a carved wooden boat! I wished I could be that boat.
This book and the other Great Brain books that followed are a handy how-to guide in the arts of scheming, swindling, cheating, and being a younger brother.
We just called them “Tintins.” I’d say, “Do you have any new Tintins?” and my friend Jamie would say, “I just finished The Black Island. You can borrow it but you have to give it back.” YOu always had to give them ack because these books are precious.
Yeah it’s James Joyce, but so what? He ain’t so tough. The beauty of these stories is in their simplicity. You’ll be able to taste the peas with vinegar and pepper in “Two Gallants.” Read this when your friends are reading Catcher in the Rye. (And read that one, too.)
A character named Borges comes across an encyclopedia of a fictional land. Pierre Menard rewrites bits of Don Quixote verbatim, by coincidence. Funes remembers everything that happened, ever. Amazing. Worth re-reading about every five years or so.
If you get far enough to read about the toilets in the title essay, you’ll probably go on to read every word Wallace ever wrote. This book also contains the most terrifying description of baton-twirling you could ever read.
For the serious typographer as well as the font enthusiast: histories of all the classic typefaces from the days when fonts weighed about 50 pounds (because they were made out of lead). Simply indispensable.
is an illustrator and a writer. Probably best know for his books about a dog named Chowder. But he’s working on plenty of new books right now.
I can't overemphasize how perfectly James Marshall balances sweetness and absurdity in these stories.
Everyone Poops is a continuous source of 'inspiration.
Witty dialogue, fantastical adventure and a wonderfully dark sense of humor seem to effortlessly flow from Roald Dahl's pen.
This series is perhaps the most unique, thoughtful, and provocative fantasy I’ve ever read.
I was mesmerized by the way Verne describes the science and logic of the world in which this story takes place.
There are too many incredible books to list, but these come to mind first for me as important in my own upbringing. I was basically steeped in Tintin as a child, basted by Oz and Tolkien, troubled by Jansson, tickled by Asterix and taught by Lear. It wasn’t until High School that I saw Codex Seriphinianus, and I was thrown irrevocably into the world of illustration for good.
Adam Selzer was born in Des Moines and now lives in Chicago, where he writes humorous books by day and researches history, ghost stories and naughty playground rhymes by night. After eleven published books, including the acclaimed Smart Aleck's Guide to American History and I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It, not to mention How To Get Suspended and Influence People (which people try to ban now and then), he is just famous enough to have a page on wikipedia. He has been described as "subversive, but in a fun way....like the offspring of Bob Dylan and some Muppet." (taken from the author's website, adamselzer.com)
A story of two kids who sneak out to go to late night double feature picture shows and end up fighting aliens with wrestlers and detectives. I pretty much based my life on Pinkwater's teachings, and this one, in particular. It's set in a thinly-veiled version of Chicago, and the fact that I live near some of the locations now is not entirely a coincidence. It's available in a really good collection called "5 Novels" which also has a couple of other masterpieces in it.
A book about a guy who finds out that his father is a grave robber. I love grave robbing so much that my neighbors are reluctant to come to my barbecues.
How Nick Romano went from being an altar boy at 12 to dying in the electric chair at 21. A really tough, gritty novel about life on the streets in the 40s, this book is also the origin of the phrase "live fast, die young, have a good looking corpse." I found this in a bin at a thrift store in high school and bought it because I knew Jim Morrison had liked it; a week later it was my favorite novel ever. The writing just pounds you in the face.
The easiest Dickens to start with is A Christmas Carol (you already know the plot, and it's short), and the best ones are probably Great Expectations and Bleak House (which has a guy who spontaneously combusts in it). But sometimes I feel like I have a duty to tell people that Martin Chuzzlewit is under-rated; it comes right in between his early, zanier books and his later, more serious ones so you get the best of both worlds. Dickens books can take weeks to read, but they're worth it. You lose yourself in a larger-than-life world full of kooks and crooks with lots of droopy taverns and winding alleys. Even the most serious ones are funny as hell.
A collection of Ebert's worst reviews - just about everything you need to know about writing is mixed into these. Reading Ebert's best and worst reviews will tell you more than 100 "writing craft" books. He was really funny when he was ripping into a movie - he says one of them should be chopped up and made into free ukulele picks for the poor. And the notes he had for that movie where Shaq plays a genie are some of the best writing advice you can get.
Spinelli's first book, re-reading it in college is what made me realize that YA books could be just as "literary" as anything else on the shelves.
Roth's latest and apparently last book, a story about a gym teacher in a Jewish neighborhood in New Jersey during World War 2 who questions his faith when a couple of kids die of polio. He seems to have no idea what's going on in Europe. But the reader does.
A nonfiction book about controversies among Shakespeare scholars (like, does Juliet talk about having an orgasm? Did Shakespeare revise his work? How much of Macbeth is missing from the script we have?) Academia is weird world full of cliques and drama, Rosenbaum succeeds in making it look as though professors throw folding chairs at each other during conferences. He also speaks as well as anyone about how Shakespeare can just cast this spell over you that you may never recover from if it hits you just right (while freely admitting that most Shakespeare productions, and most essays about him, are boring as all get out).
Look, writing middle grade humor is really, really hard. Way harder than YA humor. I re-read this one lately and couldn't believe how funny it was. Barbara Park made it look so easy.
Bill Bryson drives across the country, makes fun of things, and muses about how America has changed over the decades. One of those books where you can just open to any page and read a bit.
BONUS REC OF OBSCURIA:
The Sears Catalog and Consumer's Guide, Fall 1900
They reprinted an abridged version of this in the 1970s; you can find it online for a couple of bucks. It's the best bathroom reading in the world. The 1927 one is neat, too.
This was the first recent(ish) YA novel that got me excited to write about teens, because it made me think I was reading about, well . . . me.