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101 Things NOT To Do Before You Die
By: Robert W. Harris (2006)
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Robert Harris does one thing really well in his new book, “101 Things NOT To Do Before You Die.” He gives us all clearance not to follow the norm – by saying that it’s okay leave food on your plate, to put a novel down if it’s boring, and to shun a movie critic and see movies just because you want to. There are many more items, 98 more to be exact, and it’s written in a tongue-in-cheek manner that is as entertaining as it easy to read. There are also items in the book that probably amount to new knowledge for most folks. For example, did you know there are no eggs or cream in an egg cream? Or that there are tricks to remember the names of new people you meet? As a whole, there is a lot of information in “101 Things NOT To Do Before You Die”that is likely to change the way you approach everyday situations. Yes, there are times Harris tries a little too hard and also includes items that most of us couldn’t care less about, but for the most part this book is light, entertaining and often hilarious. ~Mike Farley

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: An All-American Road Trip
By: Guy Fieri and Ann Volkwein (2008)
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If you have seen every episode of Guy Fieri’s Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” the book of the same name is not anything you haven’t already seen or had your mouth water from.  But one of the best things about the book is that it gives us insight into Fieri the man and about the cast of characters that work on the show, delivered in Guy-speak – terms like “flavor town” and “off the hook” are among Fieri’s vocabulary, and you know it’s not an act.  In addition, the book describes each stop on the DDD tour so far, along with a recipe from each eatery and some behind the scenes photos.  And the owners and chefs at these restaurants add to the character of the show and the book – folks like Uncle Gus from the Marietta Diner, Joe Bristol Jr. from Joe’s Gizzard City, and Mama at Monte Carlo Steakhouse.  If you’re a Fieri fan (and what fan of the Food Network isn’t at this point?), you have to have this book. I mean, we all can’t travel to every stop Guy does, but now we can at least try some of the recipes. ~Mike Farley

By: Michael Grant (2008)
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Already late to the race to become the next “Harry Potter,” Michael Grant’s “Gone” may be the closest thing to J.K. Rowling’s mega-popular fantasy series, but it won’t win over any fans by unabashedly ripping off “Potter” – and several other pop culture phenomenons – along the way. The first novel in an already planned six-part series, “Gone” asks the question: what if everyone you love disappeared in a flash? That’s exactly what happens to everyone over the age of 14 in the quiet town of Perdido Beach, and with no adults to uphold the law, the remaining population is quickly divided. To make matters worse, the FAYZ (short for Fallout Alley Youth Zone, due to the nuclear plant in the middle of the city) is surrounded by an impenetrable wall, the animals are mutating, and even some of the kids have developed strange powers of their own. One such kid is Sam Temple, a reserved teenager who is not only tasked with stopping a renegade group of rich kids from taking over the FAYZ, but also must figure out the secret to everyone’s disappearing act before his 14th birthday (when he, too, will go “poof”). Staged like a season of “Heroes” if it were based in junior high, influenced by “Lord of the Flies,” and written by Stan Lee, “Gone” keeps the action moving along throughout all 558 pages – despite some silly subplots and a love story that no adolescent could ever identify with. It’s also a great read for pop culture enthusiasts no matter what your age, and though the book’s ending is so anticlimactic that many readers probably won’t return for the second installment, “Gone” is still one of the better “Potter” copycats available. ~Jason Zingale

I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics
By: Ritch Shydner and Mark Schiff (2006)
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This lightning-quick read is a must-have for fans of standup comedy. Onetime road dogs Ritch Shydner and Mark Schiff conducted hundreds of interviews with comedians of all ages (three fourths of the Blue Collar group is here, though Dane Cook is conspicuously absent…), and compiled a hilarious set of short stories about squirrelly club owners, frisky waitresses, practical jokes, mobsters, hookers, freaky fans, and gigs from hell. Whether it’s Jay Leno leaving a girl tied to her bed so he could move his car, only to forget her name and apartment number, Bob Hope pulling a prank on a comic moonlighting as a bellhop, or Chris Rock getting scammed in Chicago, this book is an oral history of the life of a comedian, from the ‘60s to the present. Our personal favorite comes from Vic Henley, who was chastised by a “little person” for telling a midget joke. Since it was the man’s birthday, Vic led the crowd into a big version of “Happy Birthday,” which ended with 450 people singing, “Happy birthday dear MIDGET, happy birthday to you.!” That’s funny, right there, I don’t care who ya are. ~David Medsker

Never Enough: The Story of the Cure
By: Jeff Apter (2006)
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Perhaps the oddest thing about the release of “Never Enough,” Jeff Apter’s 300-plus page biography of the Cure, is that, well, there’s not any particular reason for it to come out right now. There’s no new Cure album, the band isn’t really touring (a charity show on April 1 hardly constitutes a tour), and the news page on their official website gives no indication that new material is en route anytime soon. Well, if nothing else, this means the book will remain up to date for a few months or so. Apter’s certainly done his research, having amassed endless quotes from the various band members, including new interviews with drummer/band co-founder Lol Tolhurst done exclusively for the book. Frontman Robert Smith, however, did not participate, so all of his quotes come from magazine and TV interviews, as well as from the band’s official biography, “Ten Imaginary Years,” released back in 1988. “Never Enough” is certainly the most in-depth tome out there, easily trumping the official volume and providing the reader with all the information about the band you could ever want. Unfortunately, however, it isn’t always the most enthralling read. It’s not entirely Apter’s fault; the album-breakup-album cycle was set into motion by Smith years ago, and it’s to blame for things getting a bit samey toward the end. Still, sometimes there’s just too much information to absorb and, unless you’re an obsessive fan, you may struggle to reach the closing pages. ~Will Harris

Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips
By: Jim DeRogatis (2006)
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There’s a quote offered toward the beginning of “Staring At Sound,” Jim DeRogatis’s for-all-practical-purposes authorized biography of the Flaming Lips (they were agreeable to it; they just kinda said, “Well, it’s your version of our story”), that does the seemingly impossible job of putting everything Wayne Coyne has ever written into context. “There was a Mount Rushmore to us, and that was the Beatles,” says Coyne. “We all collectively embraced the idea of rock as our religion: That was the way we lived, and that is all we ever did. We’d listen to things like the first John Lennon and Yoko Ono record, and I didn’t know that this was supposed to be weird, and then there was this other stuff called pop music.” If you think about that statement (and, to be fair, it helps if you know that the first Lennon/Ono album is virtually unlistenable), it really does help you wrap your head around how the Lips have come up with the unique mixture of pop, psychedelia, and just completely bizarre shit they’ve recorded over the years. DeRogatis’s proximity to the band – he speaks proudly of having fixed Coyne an Italian dinner in the past – allows him access to virtually everyone in the band’s camp, and the result is a quick, highly in-depth read which provides an illuminating peek into the history of the Lips. His descriptions of the songwriting and recording of the band’s albums will have you running for your CD player to provide the proper soundtrack. ~Will Harris

The Terrible, Horrible Term-to-Perm Debacle
By: Bob Powers (2009)
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It would have been very easy to take the choose-your-own-adventure format and snark the bejeezus out of it, but thankfully, Bob Powers makes nothing easy. "The Terrible, Horrible Term-to-Perm Debacle," the second installment in his Just Make a Choice! series, places the reader in a crazy setup (the story's protagonist, an aimless, alcoholic temp, wakes up from a bender-induced blackout to find himself in bed with a dead girl) that only gets crazier. Powers likes to tease the reader into using common sense and good judgment, only to lure them into traps where murder, amputation, and pharmacy school are the order of the day. Even the so-called happy endings are a mixed bag at best (one word: porn). Getting through every choice can be a bit tricky – we had six bookmarks set to various forks in the road at one point, and eventually read the book out of order from start to finish just to see all of the paths Powers had created – but is absolutely worth re-reading the occasional chapter two or three times. We eagerly await Book Three. ~David Medsker

What Would Bill Hicks Say?
By: Ben Mack and Kristin Pulkkinen (2006)
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While the title of this book is indeed a curious question, this collection of short essays, assembled from the contributions of Hicks’ faithful to Ben Mack’s web site, does not properly do Hicks justice. The essays, which were limited to 250 words or less, cover the familiar topics ad nauseum – Bush is the devil, the Iraq war is a farce – and while Hicks would probably be killing Republicans onstage as part of his routine were he alive today, his followers do not possess the wit, the timing or the restraint that made Hicks the brilliant comedian that he was. In fact, the one truly Hicksian moment comes from Shawn Macomber when he says, speaking as Hicks, “I used to make fun of these What Would Jesus Do bracelets, and now I’ve got What Would Bill Hicks Say? Remind me to buy Jesus a beer, ‘cause now I know what it’s like to be misinterpreted.” The exploration of independent thought: now, that is something that Hicks would say. ~David Medsker