"I generally have very little idea of what I'm talking about. With that in mind, here are some books you might enjoy, if you're me, or someone like me, which you probably aren't, statistically speaking, but who knows? (Do you think I used enough commas in that sentence?)"
JSA: The Golden Age Cover Image
ISBN: 9781401267360
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Published: DC Comics - March 21st, 2017

One of my fave graphic novels, and one of the few that I've re-read with pleasure. A real novel, too, with a beginning, middle, and end, and not just part of an ongoing comic book series.

In the aftermath of World War II, members and associates of the Justice Society of America attempt to return to civilian life, but have a hard time adjusting. Many are haunted by their war experiences, and some are hounded for alleged Communist sympathies.

Features lots of characters you might not remember, like the original Green Lantern, Starman, Hawkman, Mr. America, and the Nazi super-villain known as the Ultra-Humanite. 

It Can't Happen Here Cover Image
By Sinclair Lewis, Michael Meyer (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780451216588
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - click to see which location!
Published: New American Library - October 1st, 2005

1935 dystopian fantasy of a homegrown Fascist takeover of the United States. Powerful, compelling, and frightening.

Murder Must Advertise: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062341655
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Published: Bourbon Street Books - December 2nd, 2014

If there are any better mysteries than Sayers's Lord Peter novels, I've never found them. Wit, excitement, challenging puzzles, and crisp, precise language that's a joy to read.

Murder Must Advertise isn't the first book to feature Lord Peter Wimsey—that would be Whose Body?—but it's nearly a standalone, and it's my favorite.

I can't state this strongly enough: If you like a good whodunit, you must try Sayers.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062073563
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - click to see which location!
Published: Harper Paperbacks - February 1st, 2011

One of my favorite mystery novels. A controversial classic that can still stir up arguments nine decades after it was published. Do not let anyone tell you how it ends.

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents Cover Image
By Lemony Snicket, Seth (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780316393065
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Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - October 4th, 2016

Thirteen short mysteries, set during the time in his youth when Snicket was in Stain'd-by-the-Sea, asking All the Wrong Questions ("Who Could That Be at This Hour?", etc.). The first part of the book contains the stories, while the second part contains the solutions. The puzzles themselves remind me of Encyclopedia Brown or Ellery Queen, but the stories are full of Snicket's characteristic dark humor, overwrought prose style, literary and musical references, and gothic sensibility. Previous knowledge of the Snicketverse is not necessary. Ages 9 and up.

The City & the City Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345497529
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Published: Del Rey Books - April 27th, 2010

Unforgettable. A mystery inspired by Dashiell Hammett, set in a city that Franz Kafka might have imagined. Recommended for both mystery and science fiction readers.

Tourist Season Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399587146
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Published: Berkley Books - November 1st, 2016

Hilariously gruesome, or gruesomely hilarious? Hiaasen's Miami is a wacky, dangerous paradise, even before a killer declares open season on tourists. This book was inspired(?!) by the author's "other" career, as a reporter for the Miami Herald.

Murder with Peacocks Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312970635
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Published: St. Martin's Press - January 15th, 2000

Hilarious first book in my favorite contemporary mystery series, featuring Meg Langslow—blacksmith, amateur sleuth, and failed Southern belle. In this adventure, Meg has been drafted into helping plan three weddings in one summer in her Virginia hometown. One of the wedding guests has been murdered, the sheriff is clueless, and it's up to Meg to solve the case before more of her family are struck down.

I also especially recommend the fifth book in the series, We'll Always Have Parrots, in which Meg and her family attend a science fiction convention, with predictably deadly results.

Dying Inside Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765322302
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Published: Orb Books - March 3rd, 2009

I find myself almost incoherent in my admiration for this book. A book that has stayed alive in my mind for years. Nobody is better than Silverberg. The fact that the same author could write this and the absolutely different but also stunningly brilliant Lord Valentine's Castle is mind boggling.

The next time somebody says that science fiction isn't "real" literature, hand them this.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399573101
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - click to see which location!
Published: Riverhead Books - October 4th, 2016

Vowell delivers an amazing combination of historical lore, nerdy humor, contemporary political commentary, and personal experience in this story of the American Revolution. She's a national treasure.

I also highly recommend her Assassination Vacation, a combination of travelogue and history focusing on the deaths of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804173407
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - click to see which location!
Published: Vintage - July 7th, 2015

Fascinating biography of William Moulton Marston, psychologist, screenwriter, feminist, self-promoter, sexual rebel, alleged fraudster, claimant to the invention of the lie detector, and the creator of Wonder Woman.

Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374534998
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Published: Scientific American - May 12th, 2015

If the Jesuits and Thomas Hobbes had had their way, calculus would never have been discovered. A fascinating account of a century's worth of conflicts between originality and orthodoxy. Full of wonderful characters, profound philosophy, and, yes, math.

Devotion: A Rat Story Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594634598
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Published: Riverhead Books - April 28th, 2015

Disturbing, on multiple levels. I don't know if the author would approve of the comparison, but it felt like a Stephen King short story without the supernatural element (if that makes any sense). The fact that it's inspired by something that actually happened not far from Brentwood makes it extra special (and by "special", I mean "creepy").

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions Cover Image
By Edwin Abbott Abbott, Thomas Banchoff (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780691165554
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Published: Princeton University Press - March 22nd, 2015

It's hard to explain just how big an influence this slim novella was on me in high school. This plainest of stories (pun intended) opened my mind to the fascinating concepts of multi-dimensional geometry in a way that no textbook could.

The Three-Body Problem Cover Image
By Cixin Liu, Ken Liu (Translator)
ISBN: 9780765382030
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Published: Tor Books - January 12th, 2016

The first book in an ambitious hard-sf trilogy, this is an alien invasion you can believe in. This was my first encounter with Chinese science fiction, and I'm eager to read more. The winner of the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel. (I voted for it.)

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476783000
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Published: Gallery Books - October 7th, 2014

Adams's best novel.

Yes, really.

The Hitchhiker's Guide series is awesome, wonderful, hilarious, etc.

This is better.

And yes, it's the second book in a series, but that doesn't matter. This is a book that stands alone.

Everybody Dies: A Children's Book for Grown-Ups Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062329646
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Published: Harper Design - May 27th, 2014

This absolutely, wonderfully, subversively brilliant book has probably sparked as many conversations as any book in the store. Originally self-published by L.A. author/illustrator Ken Tanaka, Everybody Dies has been reissued by Harper Design, which means that this long-time Brentwood favorite is now available to spread confusion, amusement, and occasional consternation nationwide. Customers' reactions have ranged from hilarity to outrage, with some people finding genuine comfort in the simple message. Although described as "A Children's Book for Grown-Ups," I've found that many children are actually more comfortable with it than their parents.

396 Pure, Unadulterated, Dyed-In-The-Wool, 100% Made-Up, Completely Fake Disneyland Facts Cover Image
ISBN: 9781300399476
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Published: - November 16th, 2012

More lyrical than Clarabelle Cow singing Klingon opera. More cheerful than Eeyore reciting Vogon poetry. More intelligible than Donald Duck explaining the plot of National Treasure. In a word, more damning than the faintest of praise.

Some things I learned from this short collection of astounding information:

  • Disney is considering having the animatronic Abraham Lincoln be introduced by an animatronic Captain America.
  • After park closing, the Innoventions building's speed was sometimes significantly increased so that it could be used as an industrial centrifuge.
  • The Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland was so realistic that several of Disney's True Life Adventure documentaries were filmed on location in the attraction.
  • After Disneyland's popularity soared to the point that people started visiting the park religiously, the park's post office had to be closed to maintain the separation of church and state.
  • Before 1955, the happiest place on Earth was the Everett County [Florida] Home for the Pleasantly Delusional.
  • Art Linkletter became popular for recording candid interviews with small children before doing so was considered creepy.

I could go on, but I don't feel like it. Just buy the book already.

The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx Cover Image
ISBN: 9781416536031
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Published: Simon & Schuster - August 1st, 2007

This collection of "letters from and to Groucho Marx" is laugh-out-loud funny on nearly every page. Groucho and his correspondents were among the most brilliant, erudite, and hilarious writers of their time. Among the many highlights, my favorite is the story of Groucho's improbable friendship with T. S. Eliot.

Also by Groucho Marx:

Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales: Selected Writings of Groucho Marx: Who knew that Groucho could be funny in print, as well as on screen? This collection of magazine articles, letters, poems, and prepared speeches shows that Groucho could entertain readers on almost any subject. In particular, his (frequently inaccurate but always hilarious) reminiscences of vaudeville are not to be missed. Editor Robert Bader's commentary is informative, and Dick Cavett's introduction is funny, but the star of this show is "the one, the only" Groucho Marx.

Groucho and Me: When the author of an autobiography tells you in the first chapter that he's not going to be honest with you, you know things are going to get interesting.

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143118589
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Published: Penguin Books - March 1st, 2011

All the creativity and brilliant wordsmithery of The Eyre Affair, applied to a dark tale of an intriguingly original post-industrial world, ominous and funny and very English.

Set at least 1000 years from now, nearly five centuries after Something Happened. Nobody's sure what it was that happened, but it resulted in Homo sapiens being supplanted by Homo colorensis. I can honestly say I can't remember ever coming across anything quite like this before. Improbably, Fforde makes the Colortocracy sound plausible.

Could be Fforde's best book yet. (First book of a projected trilogy.)

Zorgamazoo Cover Image
ISBN: 9781595142955
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Published: Razorbill - September 2nd, 2010

An excellent book for adults and kids, too—and also for teachers—is Zorgamazoo. An adventure, in verse, with nice, friendly creatures, and some things much worse. Will our heroes prevail, or will they get eaten (in which case they'd fail)?

A Mathematician's Lament Cover Image
By Paul Lockhart, Keith Devlin (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9781934137178
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Published: Bellevue Literary Press - April 1st, 2009

Lockhart's discussion of what's great about math, and what's terrible about how math is taught, raised my spirits enormously. Don't skip Keith Devlin's rewarding introduction.

Buying this book was the best investment I ever made. It completely changed how I think about and use money. To say that it saved my life wouldn't be much of an exaggeration—it certainly saved my sanity.

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060842352
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Published: William Morrow & Company - October 28th, 2008

This book grabbed me from the first sentence and never let go:

Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing: dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a cold sore under the mistletoe.

I'm not sure there's anything I can add to that. Pick it up any time of year for a little holiday terror.

Other Christopher Moore titles I particularly recommend include:

The Island of the Sequined Love Nun is an interesting take on how religions get started, masquerading as a wild, funny story of sex and crime in the Western Pacific. Or vice versa.

Fool is vulgar, offensive, ahistorical, irreverent, rude (in every sense) retelling of King Lear that does major damage to the plot. (Previous knowledge of Lear is a plus, but not a requirement.)

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal manages the neat trick of treating Jesus both respectfully and irreverently. It also explains why Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas Day.

The Three Musketeers Cover Image
By Alexandre Dumas, Richard Pevear (Translator), Tom Gauld (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780143105008
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Published: Penguin Books - September 1st, 2007

You think "old" means "boring"? You think seeing the movie means the book holds no surprises? Think again, mes amis! Adventures don't get any more exciting than this. Get ready to lose some sleep, because you won't want to put this book down.

The Jungle Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143039587
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - click to see which location!
Published: Penguin Books - December 1st, 2006

A portrait of immigrant life in America a century ago, by turns inspiring and infuriating. The amazing level of detail shows Sinclair's journalistic talent. The author sets out to outrage, and succeeds. (Warning: This book may turn you into a pro-union vegetarian.)

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid Cover Image
ISBN: 9780465026562
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Published: Basic Books - February 5th, 1999

What is thought? What is a mind? If you like big, tough questions, tackled with intelligence and humor, you should read this. Possibly the most profound book ever written about mathematical logic and computer science.

Ecotopia (40th Anniversary Epistle Edition) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781597142939
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Published: Heyday Books - November 1st, 2014

The author skillfully balances an entertaining sci-fi narrative with a call for the reader to help create a better, more sustainable, more authentically human way of life.

The Phantom Tollbooth Cover Image
By Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780394820378
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - click to see which location!
Published: Yearling Books - October 12th, 1988

This is the book that made me a reader. Pure pleasure for logophiles (word lovers) and numerophiles (a word I just made up for lovers of numbers) alike.

Recommended for ages 10 and up (and up and up).

Nineteen Eighty-Four Cover Image
By George Orwell, Thomas Pynchon (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780452284234
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Published: Berkley Books - May 6th, 2003

A thrilling tale, and much more. A fascinating exploration of the interaction among language, memory, thought, and belief.

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) Cover Image
By Julie Falatko, Tim J. Miller (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780451469458
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Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - February 2nd, 2016

Snappsy is a ferocious predator of the swamps! No, wait, he's just a guy minding his own business.

Whatever. He didn't ask to be in this book, you know.