unRequired Reading Blog

Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker

Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker

Many novels with animal protagonists go to great lengths to anthropomorphize them, giving them names, extensive language, and culture that strongly resemble those of humans. Paleontologist Robert Bakker goes the opposite route with his novel Raptor Red. He creates a primeval world viewed through the eyes of dinosaurs and other creatures of the Early Cretaceous epoch.

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

Level Up's title is a video game reference, but it is also a metaphor for accepting responsibility and gaining maturity as one ages, which are qualities that Dennis Ouyang needs serious help with.

From the first time Dennis ever saw a Pac Man console as a child, he was mesmerized by the power that video games had. The idea of endless entertainment, based on skill and incredibly interactive, transfixes him.

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin by L. Jagi Lamplighter

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin by L. Jagi Lamplighter

At home in England, she’s Lady Rachel and waited on by servants whilst living at the ancient family manor. She loves nearly everything about Gryphon Park—except being alone. But all of that is about to change. As the youngest child in a family of powerful magicians, Rachel is about to embark on a great adventure as she enters Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts. Invisible to the Unwary, the campus holds glorious wonders, age-old treasures, and is a gateway to secrets beyond Rachel’s imagining.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

Troy Billings is about to kill himself. At 296 pounds, he's tired of being a joke. Every aspect of his life, the way he looks, moves, even the way he breathes, has become a punchline for his peers. If Troy had his way, Fat Kid Rules the World would be a pretty short read. Thank goodness Curt MacCrea enters the picture.

Star Wars Classic Comics: The Rebel Storm by Archie Goodwin

Star Wars Classic Comics: The Rebel Storm by Archie Goodwin

There was a considerable gap between the releases of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the early 1980s.  During that time, the expanding Star Wars fan base began to wonder what was happening to the characters in the meantime.  What worlds did Luke, Leia, and Han visit?  What schemes did Darth Vader plot to destroy the rebellion?  Did Chewie ever get a decent flea bath? Two of these three questions are answered in Archie Goodwin’s The Rebel Storm (Classic Star Wars Volume Two), an anthology of comics originally published between 1981 and 1984.  Although sometimes marred by a sense of discontinuity with Lucas’ universe, the best stories in this anthology deserve a place in Lucas’ galaxy far, far away.

King Dork by Frank Portman

King Dork by Frank Portman

If King Dork's cover seems vaguely familiar, that's because it looks like a defaced copy of The Catcher in the Rye. The title and its author Frank Portman are scrawled in ballpoint pen with a blatant disregard for the granddaddy of all coming-of-age novels.

This sums up how Tom Henderson feels about Salinger's classic novel. He notices a Catcher cult amongst most adults, who sing the praises of the book changing their lives. Tom thinks all of this is, to borrow a phrase from Holden Caulfield, "phony," but a particular copy of the book is about to turn his world upside down and inside out.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O'Malley

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

How They Croaked begins with a clear warning: "If you don't have the guts for gore, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK." They are not kidding.

American icon Billy Joel once sang, "Only the good die young," but before modern medicine, almost everyone died young. The only difference was whether it was quick or slow and gruesome. Infections, malaria, gout, and tuberculosis were pretty common ways to go. King Tut, Christopher Columbus, Pocahontas, and Edgar Allan Poe were victims of such illnesses.

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

Tales of the Madman Underground is not the feel-good read of this or any other year, and yet I am completely enchanted with its accuracy of teenage desperation. It fills me with hope to see how author John Barnes has so succinctly summed up the powerlessness and determination of youth.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

The Vera Dietz of Please Ignore Vera Dietz is smart, hard-working, and haunted by the ghost of her best friend. Well...ex-best friend if you want to know the truth.

The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia by Martin Olson

The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia by Martin Olson

The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia is an ancient and magical tome, or maybe it's just designed to look that way. The book explores the characters and situations that occupy the popular Cartoon Network series. There are few cartoons as imaginative or strange as Adventure Time, in which a boy and his dog fight evil in various forms, including an Ice King, monsters, demons, giants, and the hideous creature known as The Lich.