Andrew Osborne’s Best of 2011: Books

My favorite reads of the year (some of which actually came out in 2011)!

1. The War For Late Night by Bill Carter

Like a movie sequel, this follow-up to The Late Shift is a super-size version of the original, featuring just about every player in the post-Carson late night firmament.  The politics and personalities are fascinating, and I actually came away with a little (or maybe even a lot) more sympathy for Jay Leno in his notorious dust-up with Team Coco.

 2. Ready Player One by Ernie Cline

This near future science fiction tale about an online ‘80s-centric pop culture scavenger hunt was such a geekily specific journey to the center of my Gen-X navel that I reflexively resisted the pandering until the propulsive, page-turning narrative broke down my defenses and won me over with the literary equivalent of a sugar rush.

3. The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman 

Tina Fey’s enjoyable Bossypants was like hearing the comedy queen bee from the tenth row of a hot ticket New Yorker Festival panel at The Director’s Guild Theater on West 57th Street.  But Silverman’s similar collection of autobiographical anecdotes, show biz tips and fart jokes was like bantering with a cool friend on an impromptu road trip to Hampton Beach.

4.  Worm by Mark Bowden

The fascinating true-life tale of a high-stakes showdown between an international geek elite and shadowy “black hats” for the soul of the internet, rendered in prose that makes concepts like packet switching and DDoS attacks juuuust comprehensible enough for laymen (like me) to follow the story.

5.  Morning Glories (Volume 1 & 2) by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma

Lost + Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the vampires = this Image Comics series about a Scooby gang of good, evil and morally shady teens battling the sinister faculty of an exclusive, supernatural prep school where something weird is going on (though I’m guessing we won’t find out exactly what for at least a few more volumes)!

6.  Zone One by Colson Whitehead

A fresh, literary take on the zombie genre more concerned with the psychic aftermath of catastrophic loss than brain-hungry monsters (though there are plenty of those, too).

7.  Griftopia by Matt Taibbi

An appropriately angry, black comic takedown of the Ayn Rand cult, “the grifter class” responsible for the latest financial meltdown and The Biggest Asshole in the World (a.k.a. Alan Greenspan).

8.  Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris

I thought Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls was pretty much the final word on the cinematic revolution of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but Harris puts a fresh, engaging spin on the topic with an in-depth examination of the films in the 1968 Best Picture race (and the shifting culture they symbolized).

9. Mid-Life by Joe Ollmann

Great human-scale cartooning and storytelling in the tradition of Pete Bagge and Alison Bechdel, Ollmann’s graphic novel follows an aging hipster as he contemplates adultery with a frustrated kiddie show host.

10. 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective by Garry Trudeau

This book is so heavy it nearly knocked my mother-in-law over when I handed it to her after receiving it last year for Christmas – and yet it only contains 10% of the strips in Trudeau’s epic ensemble comedy about the last forty years of American history.

WORST OF 2011:  Drood by Dan Simmons

A supernatural mystery novel about Charles Dickens in the underworld of Victorian England by the author of the great arctic chiller The Terror sure sounded like a good idea…until I got to about page 500 and realized I was far too bored to bother plowing through the remaining 268.

Honorable Mention:

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Assassination Vacation & The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

Rat Catcher by Andy Diggle & Victor Ibanez

Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Undying Love by Tomm Coker & Daniel Freedman


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