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October 13, 2015

Six books to read in the meantime

by Annie Wu, posted Nov 23rd 2007 11:08AM
Y: The Last ManWith the writers strike pulling a black cloud over our collective television set, have you been feeling super-sad? Do you feel lost, without a sense of direction, now that your favorite show has run out of new episodes? Do empty pints of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia and fresh receipts from the video game store litter your home, serving as a constant reminder that you love TV, you breathe TV, and you need TV to fill your life? I certainly hope not, because that would be kind of pathetic.

What's weird is that before the invention of television, there was this thing called "books". People used their eyes, just as they use them for watching television, to "read" these books. Books are hard to come by these days, but if you visit the library, they might have one or two, hidden in the back room. Please note you may have to slip an Alexander Hamilton or wear a low-cut shirt to gain access to the book room. Anyway, books are a great way to escape reality (TV). If you manage to track a few down, why don't you pick up a book or two while the writers strike is in effect? If the idea of straying so far away from television terrifies you, here are some books that aren't too far off point, so you can join in nice and easy.

1. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan: This is a comic book series from Vertigo that has completely hooked me and my sad little friends. It's about a guy named Yorick Brown who, for some mysterious reason, ends up being the last male mammal on Earth. Well, he and his monkey, Ampersand, are the last males, anyway. After this strange plague, Yorick; a secret agent from the government, Agent 355; and the geneticist, Dr. Mann travel the world to discover the reason for this biological massacre and find Yorick's family and friends. It's a lot crazier than I've made it out to be, trust me. Now here's the TV connection... The story is written by Brian K. Vaughan, who joined the Lost writing team not so long ago as Executive Story Editor. I like to think that he is a big reason why Lost pulled itself out of that Season 2 slump. A lot of the unexpected twists and turns felt very Vaughan-esque. So, if you've been appreciating the last season of Lost, pick up some trade paperbacks of Y: The Last Man. If you haven't been enjoying it, pick up the book anyway, because I said so.

2. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert: I suppose it's a bit unfair to attribute this hilarious book to just Mr. Colbert, because just about his entire Colbert Report staff (and a few buddies, including Strangers With Candy BFF Paul Dinello) worked on it. The book exudes the pompousness of Colbert's on-air persona and, well, America. If they made it any more patriotic, each word would have been stitched by Betsey Ross' descendants and there would be a hot centerfold of Lady Liberty. The book is also a lot like The Daily Show's America: The Book in that I felt a little weird about reading it in public because there were so many pictures. Maybe it's just me, but after a certain age, it felt wrong to read anything with more than a couple of spot illustrations. Oh, and, I kept laughing out loud while reading in the cafe, causing coffee and bits of croissant to get lodged in the wrong airways. So, read the book, but be careful.

3. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay: One of my friends recently met Jeff Lindsay and her head almost exploded with glee. I guess hardcore Dexter fans are scary like that. Lindsay wrote Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the book that formed the basis for Showtime's beautifully bloody Dexter, and the sequels, Dearly Devoted Dexter and Dexter in the Dark. The first novel follows the basic Ice Truck Killer story (although they call him the Tamiami Butcher) with a few differences from the television series. The storylines for the last two books stray more dramatically from the series, so it's a good read if you're looking for a bit of an alternate universe.

4. The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman: I'm sure there's at least one avid TV Squad reader who just rolled their eyes upon the mention of this book. Not only have I been pushing this on everyone around me, but I have talked about it in as many Daily Show reviews as possible, just because I'm madly in love with this book. Sorry if you've gotten sick of my love and devotion. Maybe you're just jealous, ever think of that? For those of you that have been fortunate enough to escape my mad promotion: I love this book. It's one of the few that have managed to make me laugh out loud and I always pick it up when I'm having a bad day. Written by the Daily Show's John Hodgman (aka PC), this fake almanac reflects his same deadpan, pseudo-intellectual humor. Plus, there's a list of 700 Hobo Names. Need I say more?

5. Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style by Tim Gunn and Kate Moloney: It is a well-known fact that Tim Gunn is the epitome of fabulous. As the sole voice of reason on Project Runway, it's only right to listen to Gunn when he gives advice. Well, recently, he released a guidebook on fashion and looking your best. I saw him at the Baltimore Book Festival when he was promoting this book and he totally sold out to his mass of screaming fans (mostly middle-aged mothers and art school students). Looks like the world is desperate to get Gunn makeovers. So, instead of scarfing down chips and watching poorly conceived replacement reality TV, pick up this book and make yourself look pretty. Or use it as a fancy napkin for your greasy fingers.

6. Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba: Most of my friends (and some of you readers) are probably sick of hearing me fawn over Death Note, the anime. Sorry, but after years of seeing nothing but crap from the anime world, I was excited to experience something that wasn't annoying and had to share. Of course, like with most animes, this show started off as a very popular manga. The story is incredibly twisted and strange and, although I haven't read through the entire series yet, I've heard that it's loaded with a lot more details than the show. There are a few characters that weren't very well covered in the anime that are much more prominent in the manga series.

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I loved "Y the Last Man", loved "I Am America... And So Can You!" and absolutely LOOOOVED "The Areas of My Expertise", so I wholeheartedly agree with this list.

I think with the onslaught of reality television coming our way due to the strike I may have to check out Death Note...

November 24 2007 at 1:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why have they not made Y the Last Man into a series? HBO could get itself out of its current slump by picking up this graphic novel.

November 23 2007 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike Bach

This is atrocious. We watch TV to avoid reading books. To deal with this strike, we must not read, but instead watch shows we've not yet seen, or re-watch shows we've seen time and time again.

As everyone's favorite curmudgeonly diagnostician said, "Read less, more TV."

November 23 2007 at 2:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Dexter books are not as good as the show. Which is odd. They're actually rather mediocre. Great subject - not well written.

November 23 2007 at 1:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For those who aren't into anima or comics, try reading JD Robb's "Naked in Death" series. These set-in-the-near-future mysteries are wonderful escapist brain-candy, and the characters are diverse and dynamic.

November 23 2007 at 1:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Whoa I didnt know you all like anime, specifically Death Note. Interesting I might pick it up.

November 23 2007 at 12:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon is very, very good.

November 23 2007 at 12:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How about "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald and "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella or "The Game" by Neil Strauss...

November 23 2007 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Patrick R

Y: The Last Man does rock and I share your hunch that Vaughan played a role in the revival of Lost. Comics in general are great for tv fans because they're typically written in a similiarly episodic style.

November 23 2007 at 12:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Annie, I can't thank you enough for recommending Death Note. I watched the whole anime recently and absolutely loved it. It was brilliant! I did start reading the manga soon but it was too familiar...I started reading it right after watching the anime so I knew everything beforehand...maybe I'll read it in a few months when it's not so fresh.

And I also read the first Dexter book recently. It was pretty good, but having watched the 1st season first, I was slightly disappointed. I was expecting...more, I guess.

November 23 2007 at 11:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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