unRequired Reading Blog

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.

Spider-Man: New Ways to Die by Dan Slott

Spider-Man: New Ways to Die by Dan Slott

The graphic novel Spider-Man: New Ways to Die begins like many Spider-Man stories before it. There is a brief explanation of Peter Parker’s dual life as a superhero and a photographer stuck in perpetual poverty, quickly followed up by a battle between Spidey and the newest “Goblin” character, Menace.

However, it quickly becomes clear to the reader that the status quo has been greatly changed for this latest adventure. Parker works for a different newspaper, his former nemesis Eddie Brock is dying of cancer, and Norman Osborn, previously the Green Goblin, is in charge of the Thunderbolts, a team of “hero hunters” out to capture Spider-Man.

Shadows by Robin McKinley

Shadows by Robin McKinley

Maggie’s new stepfather gives her the creeps. Not only is he short and hairy and definitely not her Dad, but he speaks with a strange accent and spends most of his time in a shed doing who-knows-what. True, it is not his fault that he cannot replace her dead father, and her mother seems to really, really love him, but somehow that only makes worse the Shadows that follow him everywhere—dozens of them that no one else seems to see.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Art by Maira Kalman

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Why We Broke Up is by Daniel Handler and features art by Maira Kalman, and both elements elevate it above your average high school romance novel.

Min has just left a box on Ed's doorstep. The box contains the pieces of evidence of their brief relationship, as well as letters explaining each piece's importance.

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by

Eel’s early morning spent scavenging on the Thames River as a “mud-lark” brought a few things to the surface. There was a nice piece of copper, but he had to give that over to one of the stronger mud-larkers, a kindly blacksmith turned to this low way of making a living. But he did come away with two valuable things—or at least valuable to him. One was a half-drowned cat, thrown into the river by a bully boy. The other was a word of warning from the old blacksmith. Fish-Eye Bill was looking for him again, he said. A year Eel had spent in an easier life, getting his schooling, working two jobs and staying away from places he might be seen by Bill’s crew. It sounded like the makings for serious danger. Though in Deborah Hopkinson’s The Great Trouble, Eel’s problems are only beginning.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Calamity came to Earth ten years ago in the book Steelheart, by Brian Sanderson. David was eight years old when the entire planet was changed by Calamity and the Epics were created. The Epics were ordinary folks who gained superpowers and were transformed into super villains.

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon doesn't have the slick visuals or bright colors that you would normally imagine a member of the Avengers getting. Nor does it offer a conventional superhero storyline. Clint Barton, a master archer, was created by Stan Lee in 1964. Writer Matt Fraction is breathing life into him by contrasting him with all of those other super-powered heroes.