An Essay by Jenny Lawson
Books to make you feel smarter, easier
If you’re anything like me, you find yourself reading comics about zombies and trying to defend your intellect…which is hard to do because you’re reading comic books about zombies. Luckily I have three books for you that will make you feel smart and worldly while still giving you the chance to say “Oooh, pictures!”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, by E. D. Hirsch, Joseph F. Kett and James Trefil
Have you ever read an entire dictionary from start to finish? Me either. Until I found this book. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy is a enthralling look at “what every American should know” and it proved to me just how little I knew about…pretty much everything. Plus, it looks kick-ass on your shelf and makes robbers think you must be incredibly intelligent. Which you are…after reading this book.
MAUS, by Art Spiegelman
MAUS is actually two books so it feels like I’m cheating, but it also feels like cheating when you read this book. It’s a fascinating and terrifying holocaust story. It’s also a comic book with mice, cats, and pigs in the lead. And it’s just as fascinating and bizarre as you’d expect. Complicated, difficult, heart-breaking and amazing. That’s a lot for a comic book to deliver.
Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton
A comic that makes you glad you paid attention in History class, and one that teaches you a bit along the way. Not only is it fantastically funny and well-paced, but there’s something really satisfying about getting the silly jokes with smart background. Any author that can create twenty-two separate comics strips based on the designs of Edward Gorey covers without losing those of us with ADD deserves a high-five. And you know who else does? You do. Because you just read an original literary criticism on NPR instead of watching porn. That’s something a smart person would do.
High five, you.