Best books … chosen by John Hodgman
The “famous minor television personality,” as Hodgman calls himself, is now on tour for his fake-trivia guide, “More Information Than You Require.” Below, some good books he’s encountered on the way.
Bigfoot by John Napier (out of print). Often when I meet my readers during a tour, they will give me a book that they think I might like, and I am glad to say, THEY ARE ALMOST ALWAYS CORRECT. Ms. Joy Meads gave me this wonderfully ragged paperback sasquatch exposé from 1972—full title, “Startling Evidence of Another Form of Life on Earth Now: Bigfoot”—because she knows I like two things: the legend of Bigfoot, and very long titles. Notable for its remarkably detailed tables of, say, comparative sizes of Yeti footprints, it seems to have once belonged to the Bigfoot Mystery Museum of Seattle’s Pioneer Square. When I visit Seattle, I shall consider returning it. (Consideration over: I won’t).
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn by Hergé (Little, Brown, $11). I wrote about this book for the admirable First Book children’s literacy project (firstbook.org), and Ms. Mary Beth Fresh kindly gave me a copy when she attended my Washington, D.C., reading. “Unicorn,” like all the Tintin books, is very dear to my heart. Tintin not only taught me how to be a reporter and detective, he taught me how to be a man: Always be curious, live in a mansion, and never get flustered.
Frankenstein Takes the Cake by Adam Rex (Harcourt, $16). This book was left for me at a bookstore by the artist Adam Rex, who had been reading there before me. It is a book for children by a man who knows what children like: disgusting creatures and gentle monsters. Frankenstein is getting married, and Rex recounts the happy affair via a dizzying array of cartoon styles, from a Peanuts-style “Dracula, Jr.” cartoon to the “Official Blog of the Headless Horseman.” Rex also drew a “mole-man” on the title page, which makes this gift extra-humbling and delightful.
Watership Down by Richard Adams (Scribner, $16). At a reading in Oak Brook, Ill., a couple asked me to sign a book to them and their three rabbits. I asked if they had read Adams’ unbearably sad and thrilling novel of lapine exodus. They said no. So I made them buy a copy. How could I not? No book has ever described rabbits’ completely foreign way of thinking so convincingly. And how else were they going to explain their rabbits’ psychic visions?
Hack by Dmitry Samarov. Also in Chicago, I saw my old high school friend Dmitry Samarov. Dmitry is a painter and a cab driver and a lovely gentle giant. His self-published, hand-assembled "Hack" (available through Samarov.blogspot.com) combines his mordant stories of driving a cab in Chicago with evocative, beautiful illustrations.
Not all books can be hand-made, but books given as gifts always contain a hint of the intimate that no Best Buy gift card can ever convey. Though they tend to weigh down my suitcase as the tour weighs on, all these books are memories to me, and I will always carry them.