Celebrity Picks: John Hodgman's Favorite Reads of 2017

Jon Foro on February 01, 2017

John-Hodgman225John Hodgman is an actor, a comedian, a writer, and numerous other uncategorizable things. Now John 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.

As you might guess, his reading list is eclectic. See his picks below, and look here for the latest celebrity favorites.

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Cujo is the book I cannot stop recommending. Every summer I pick a new old Stephen King to read. I read this one, sleepless at 4AM, by flashlight in a tent in Maine: a perfect reading experience. But even if you are not freezing, terrified, and in deep pain from sleeping on the ground, this story, of two very different Maine families and the rabid dog that sadly connects them, is worth reading, because it’s simply a great novel. It’s unflinching, true, and profoundly human (even when told from the dog’s perspective).

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Our Animal friends at Maple Hill Farm. A somewhat different take on pet ownership from Cujo, this is an old children’s book I am always quick to give to new parents. Alice and Martin Provensen describe and illustrate all the animals on their farm, from the adored pets to those who will end as food, with the same unsentimental love and insight. The final page—a gracious, spare elegy to the animals who have passed on that makes me cry every time—is controversial, as some people feel kids are not curious about death or needful of work that helps them think about it. Some people are wrong.

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The Stone Sky by NK Jemisin This is the concluding novel of Jemisin’s essential Broken Earth trilogy of novels that lie somewhere between fantasy and science fiction (to say more would be telling). Jemisin is one of three authors who broke my brain open in 2016 when I hosted the Nebula Awards and awakened me the new ideas, perspectives, and sheer writerly talents that have invigorated the “genre” since I last read it in earnest in the ancient days. And since I can, I’ll be greedy and recommend the other two as well: Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings are both telling incredible, fantastic stories far outside of the traditional white dude on a quest mode, and both are equally brilliant, engrossing, and plain fun to read.

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