A few of our selections for the best Humor and Entertainment titles of 2017, along with some thoughts about why we liked them. See all 20 picks, or browse all of our Best Books of the Year across 15 categories.
Please Kill Me documented the time when the Ramones, Blondie, and Talking Heads prowled the Bowery in the early 70s in search of success, someone to offend, or something to break. Meet Me in the Bathroom takes the same “oral history” approach – collecting the memories and words of the people who lived it – to pick up the story in 2001, when the Strokes, Interpol, the Killers, and dozens of other musicians and artists brought new energy to the city in the wake of 9/11, inheriting a heavy, completely awesome, and kind of meaningless mantle: Saviors of rock and roll.
Outside of his day jobs as an actor and comedian, Hodgman is a self-described "weird dad with terrible facial hair" with a new memoir. Vacationland chronicles his journey into coastal Maine, a "metaphorical wilderness of middle age" where you wander alone with thoughts of your inevitable decline and demise. Sounds bleak. But the chapters of Vacationland—spanning awkward moments from his childhood to college, marriage, parenting, and beyond—are more straightforward than straightfaced, making these essays as relatable and moving as they are funny. And they're really funny.
This is what must be the definitive-for-all-time survey of 70s and 80s mass market horror, and probably the only one. Accompanying his funny and thoughtful commentary, hundreds of titles are summarized, critiqued, and conveniently organized by subject matter. It can't have been easy, but Hendrix—author of Horrorstör, an IKEA-inspired ghost story—is no stranger to the eldritch, and he's up to the task. Where does one file Rabid, wherein "a small dog moves into a loving home and a living bomb explodes in madness, agony, and death!"? That goes in Chapter Three, "When Animals Attack," along with Satan's Pets, Squelch (caterpillar horror), and Crabs: The Human Sacrifice. (Other rubrics include "Creepy Kids," "Real Estate Nightmares," and "Inhumanoids.") There was one sacrosanct rule for the artists (and writers and publishers): Never be boring; all others were broken, or at least warped.
I have just now discovered that someone stole Shea Serrano's The Rap Yearbook from my shelves. That's irritating, but I can't really blame whoever did it; Serrano's talent for Absurd-Yet-Insightful Takes —accompanied by Arturo Torres's hyper real, occasionally surreal illustrations—made that entertaining, unlikely bestseller equally fit for the bathroom and coffee table. Serrano and Torres have now taken their talents to the realms of basketball, answering pivotal questions such as "If You Could Dunk on Any One Person, Who Would It Be?" and "What's the Plot For Death Hammer 2: Hammergeddon?" Is this important? Yes.
Some of the best books, in my opinion, don't really end when you turn the final page. Instead, something about them sticks with you, causes you to look back, challenges you, or maybe just revisits you from time to time. One Day We'll All Be Dead qualifies. In this case, not only do many of Scaachi Koul's laugh-out-loud accounts of her experiences in her everyday life bring smiles time and time again, they also strike with a surprising poignancy that both speaks to your core and challenges you moving forward. It's great for bite-sized reads in its structure, but good luck not devouring it in one sitting. Either way, the end seems to come much too soon. --Penny Mann