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Suggested Reading

This is a list of books you may find useful. We think they're great. Most of them can surely be purchased from Amazon.com (I haven't gone there to check, but it stands to reason). Willie works for Barnes & Noble, so whenever we want some books, he just orders them into the store and buys 'em there because he gets a nice employee discount. For some reason, people seem to think that he has a deep-rooted antipathy toward Amazon and Borders (who are now the same company, evidently) simply because he works for B&N, but this is not the case. He gets paid the same whether you buy your books at Barnes & Noble or not. Also, if you live in metro Detroit, we cannot overstate how much we love the independent bookstore Bookbeat, which specializes in a lot of the weird and semi-obscure stuff below. So in conclusion, read these books:

To prevent the need for lots of annoying scrolling, you can choose a book from this list to get to the review you want, if you don't want to read the whole page:

FICTION: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams | Cruddy by Lynda Barry | The Freddie Stories by Lynda Barry | David Boring by Dan Clowes | Microserfs by Douglas Coupland | The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd | Et Tu, Babe by Mark Leyner | Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins | Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson | Good-Bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson | Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware

NON-FICTION: Another Planet: A Year in the Life of a Suburban High School by Elinor Burkett | The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night by Bill Carter | Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music by Irwin Chusid | A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers | Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich | Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose | Secrets: The CIA's War at Home by Angus MacKenzie | The Perfectly Contented Meat-Eater's Guide to Vegetarianism by Mark Reinholdt | One Day in September by Simon Reeve | The Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock by Ira Robbins et al | A Diet for a New America by John Robbins | Them: Adventures in Extremism by Jon Ronson | The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant by Dan Savage | Hellfire by Nick Tosches

Fiction:

·All five books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by the late, great Douglas Adams. Most science fiction writing is either embarrassingly dorky or so convoluted that the authors have to include glossaries at the end of their novels. British genius Adams sidestepped both problems with this series, which is as hilariously quotable as Monty Python's best work and tells a truly imaginative story about hapless everyman Arthur Dent and his unwilling adventures with intergalactic travel writer Ford Prefect. -Willie

·Cruddy by Lynda Barry. The first "real" novel from comics artist Lynda Barry is shot through with the same wrenching humanity that makes her strip Ernie Pook's Comeek act as a surrogate friend to those in the know. It's a horribly tragic story- told mostly in flashback- about an adolescent girl who is shanghaied on a violent, cross-country crime spree by her father and her struggle to save herself in every way possible. As gruesome and bleak as things get, the first-person narration never deviates from the innocent, confused point of view of Cruddy's heroine, preventing the book from falling into cynicism or mean-spiritedness. It's often darkly funny, but it will ultimately make you cry for hours. I can't overemphasize how amazing this book is. -Willie

·The Freddie Stories by Lynda Barry. Like Cruddy, this sweet graphic novel about the emotionally muddled Freddie (a main character in Ernie Pook's Comeek) is more heartfelt and heartbreaking than just about anything else you'll ever read. Barry's expressive, occasionally surreal drawings are a perfect entry point into the horrific world of her protagonist. Despite the fact that Freddie's life keeps getting worse and worse at an impossibly sad velocity, he never loses his fascination with the pure, good things in life. If you read this book and then don't burst into tears every time you hear the phrase "Free dog," you're made of stronger stuff than me. -Willie

·David Boring by Dan Clowes. A genius film noir story presented in graphic novel form. The story is a complex amalgam of love triangles, murder (successful and attempted), women of questionable identity, obsession, and terrorism, with our unambitious hero making his way through it all. Like any good noir (think David Mamet or Billy Wilder), it's seedy, sexy, and amazing in its examination of a world where morality is dubious at best, irrelevant at worst. Best of all, Clowes's stark, expressive artwork is as effective as any cinematographer's. -Willie

·Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. Best novel of all time. This is the diary of one member of a group of fictional Microsoft workers who quit their jobs and start up a new software company. Not much plot to speak of, but the whole point of the novel is the characters' obsession with the minute absurdities of life in the '90s. (It's kind of like Seinfeld, if that show's dominant tone were one of wide-eyed amazement rather than smug coldheartedness.) Granted, Microserfs gets more dated with each passing day, but any book that references the Ramones, The Simpsons, and Kraftwerk is worth a look, no? -Willie

·The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd. One day during Jenny's first year at art college, I drove down to her dorm to visit her and found that she hadn't slept in four days because of her many simultaneous deadlines for various projects. Upon my arrival, Jen greeted me and then immediately began laughing uproariously at an ironing board one of her roommates had stashed in their foyer's closet. I asked why she was laughing, and she pointed to it and said, "You can only get one of those in a black-and-white house!" She then began bouncing her head in the direction of the television, because she insisted that the TV was jumping. It didn't take me long to figure out that my visit wouldn't be very productive that day, and Jen took a nap. This was not the only such bizarre encounter I had with a sleepless Jenny that year, so imagine my delight when the narrator of Kidd's first novel- an art student in the late '50s- proclaims, "After ninety-six hours [without sleep], it's not a pencil anymore, it's a yellow pointypointy that makes marks for you when you give it brain signals and frankly it's bored and wants a life of its own." Such is the insight and attention to detail contained in The Cheese Monkeys, in which the aforementioned art student attends college with no particular educational aspirations or direction, and has a series of epiphanies. These awakenings come in the form of two people, who he ambiguously falls in love with: a brilliant, bilious Art Girl and a brilliant, bilious graphic design professor. Those who knew who Chip Kidd is before this book was published (graphic design majors and people who fetishize things like Kidd's logo for Jurassic Park) will doubtlessly find this book of immeasurable use, but those who have not been thusly initiated will still get a kick out of Kidd's gift for language and the fast-paced, character-driven story. -Willie

·Et Tu, Babe by Mark Leyner. A hilarious satire of the culture of celebrity in Entertainment Tonight/People magazine America. Leyner imagines himself as a Hollywood superstar due to the success of his book My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist (which is an actual book, and a very funny one at that), only to go utterly mad with power. The appeal of Leyner's writing is his willingness to go off on inventive, stream-of-consciousness tangents at a moment's notice: a parenthetical note might last for four pages, or the book's action might stop to present a faux game show transcript that's only vaguely related to the book's paper-thin storyline. If you're a fan of the rapid-fire pop-cultural syntheses of prime Saturday Night Live, Sportscenter's Kenny Mayne, or The Onion, you'll be ecstatic about Et Tu, Babe. -Willie

·Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. Like a perpetually horny version of Douglas Adams, Robbins gets off on witty metaphors and linguistic gymnastics as much as he does on filling every scene of this novel with the sort of hedonistic, erotic vibe one gets from Greek mythology (which actually plays a big part in this story). There's no point in trying to summarize the strangely complicated- and fascinating- plot (it involves a genius waitress in Seattle, Pan the flute-playing god, a French perfume conglomerate, a guy from the Middle Ages who wants to be immortal, a creepy New Orleans woman who may or may not deal in hoodoo, and lots and lots of beets), but it's thoroughly gripping and hilarious throughout. The end does get a little top-heavy with Robbins's pseudo-Timothy Leary philosophizing, but at least it's more well thought-out than, say, The Celestine Prophecy, and you get to sift through perfect little phrases like, "The Seattle sky looked like cottage cheese dragged for nine miles behind a cement truck." -Willie

·Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson. I have to say, reading this book was a rather unsettling experience for me. Why? It's a graphic novel that stars a bespectacled college graduate who is stuck in a miserable job at a bookstore, has a proclivity for wearing They Might Be Giants T-shirts and listening to geek pop ("Another Satellite" by XTC and "Daves I Know" by Bruce McCulloch are among the tunes referenced), quotes frequently from Simpsons, is horribly fixated on a romantic breakup, and spends most of his time just hanging around with his similarly free-floating friends. If the character had, at any point, launched into a tirade about the MPAA ratings system, I would've started searching my house for hidden cameras. But even if you're not the doppelganger of one of the characters contained within, Box Office Poison is a comic-art masterpiece on par with Jimmy Corrigan. It's an ensemble piece that traces the romantic, occupational, and day-to-day lives of a number of characters (kind of like Microserfs, only set in New York City): an aspiring comic artist who has an apprenticeship with an old-school comic legend who got screwed out of a bunch of royalties, an academic couple whose love for one another straddles the line between charming and smug, the aforementioned bookstore dude, and his increasingly self-destructive new flame, to name a few. Like many books and films along these lines, plot takes a backseat here to character development, and Box Office Poison has enough enjoyable, leisurely diversions and tangents along the way to distract you from the slow way the characters are evolving and their lives are changing, until both reader and characters have sudden moments of realization as to how far they've come (or fallen). It's worth reading if only for the inspired two-page collage of insanely stupid questions that are posed to Sherman by bookstore customers ("Do you have any books on how to fill out money orders?" "Where are your books on how to hypmotize girls? [sic]"). -Willie

·Good-Bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson. Loneliness, regret, and smashed innocence are themes that seem to pop up quite regularly in the world of non-superhero-related graphic novels, and Thompson's lovable little book is no exception. An adorably drawn turtle named Chunky Rice gets antsy one day and decides to move away from his hometown and his loving girlfriend/best friend/squirrel-looking-thing for no reason other than his need to obey the inscrutable exhortations of his soul. From that point on, we get to experience the characters' heartbreak that comes from being torn from one another, and a small cast of other characters exposes their personal demons as well, in suitably affecting fashion. (The one that got to me was the dull-witted landlord who gets a chance to redeem himself for an unintentional childhood sin.) To say any more would be spoiling it- both because of the ineffable breadth of emotion Thompson conveys (these characters are remarkably expressive) and because the story doesn't move too far from the exposition to the conclusion. Suffice it to say that as a message of enduring friendship and love, Good-Bye, Chunky Rice succeeds where millions of other books (including dull, overreaching graphic novels like Hey, Wait by Jason) fail. If one of your loved ones ever moves away, this would make a great bon voyage gift. -Willie

·Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware. A gorgeously rendered graphic novel that traces the miserable legacy of the Corrigan family from the turn of the century to present day, where the titular Jimmy lives and works in total isolation, apart from an unrequited crush on the woman who works in the mailroom at his office, and incessant calls from his mother. Ware initially presents each of the three generations of Corrigan men as utterly pathetic, and then goes on to illustrate the sad way they've all become products of their respective environments. Dark humor and sympathy for these characters intermingle throughout, and Ware's characteristic fondness for deadpan absurdity is always on display, in such wonderful visual details as three strips of bacon arranged to spell "HI." Ware's somewhat curmudgeonly sensibility (and meticulous 1900s-era design methods) doesn't quite have the emotional impact of Lynda Barry's work, but what does? Jimmy Corrigan is still a brilliant work that most of us can relate to in some way or another. -Willie

Non-Fiction:

·Another Planet: A Year in the Life of a Suburban High School by Elinor Burkett. If you're anything like us, your memories of high school (those you haven't yet repressed, anyway) are a middle-class nightmare. Classmates that range from apathetic to nihilistic, teachers that range from arrogant and complacent to well-meaning but totally stifled by the administration, a school board more interested in the community's image of them than in taking any sort of useful action, and administrators so frustratingly status quo-minded that they practically spend their entire waking lives humming "Pictures of Matchstick Men." It was four years of boredom, pain, and suffocation, and for the few of us who saw that things didn't have to be the way they were, there were swift punitive measures taken to get us back in line. If that sounds familiar, it should; schools all across the nation are suffering from the same problems, chief of which is the fact that they're hopelessly ineffectual as far as the goal of education is concerned. And why is this? Well... it's hard to pinpoint. Thus, reporter Burkett spent an entire year in a high school in one of Minnesota's more affluent suburbs. She sat in on classes, school board meetings, and teachers' lunchtime bitch sessions. She talked to parents, administrators, teachers, and- in a remarkably candid fashion- students at the school. Sounds like the plot of Never Been Kissed, I know, but Burkett lays bare many of the obstacles to learning in our schools. As a sociological work, Another Planet swings from shake-your-head-in-astonishment hilarious (the community's parents are terrified by graffiti saying "4/20" all around the town, never considering that the anniversary of the Columbine shootings might have a different significance to their kids) to maddening (a "student forum" brings up numerous valid complaints about the school's operation, but their words fall on deaf ears). This book will scare the crap out of you, and it should be required reading for anyone who has any personal stake in a public school these days. -Willie

·The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night by Bill Carter. A fast-paced, thoroughly absorbing recounting of the behind-the-scenes machinations that went into the late-night variety show fracas of the early '90s. Piecing together the story from interviews with every major player in the story- including Letterman and Leno themselves, both of whom come across as victims of appallingly inept decisions from gutless network suits- Carter ultimately spins an enthralling cautionary tale about the way creativity suffers when it's subordinated to financial concerns in the entertainment industry. -Willie

·Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music by Irwin Chusid. If your collection of truly weird music goes no further than pop oddballs like Ween, experimental capital-A-Artists like Radiohead, or rock deconstructivists like the Thinking Fellers, Irwin Chusid has a fascinating musical niche to introduce to you. It's called "outsider music"- the naive, off-kilter music produced by loners, no-talents, and lunatics- and Chusid believes wholeheartedly in its value. His subjects range from cracked pop geniuses (Syd Barrett and Joe Meek) to happy wackos (Lucia Pamela and Shooby Taylor) to the truly demented (Jandek), and what's refreshing about Songs in the Key of Z is that its author refuses to view them as mere novelties. Even in the most unlistenable, inept recordings (the Shaggs, for example), there's a certain amount of innocent beauty, and Chusid expounds upon that glimmer of human emotion with an unironic love. Most of the songs featured in the book are readily available on AudioGalaxy, so it's not hard to bask in the artists' unique glory as you read about them. Trust me. Go along with Chusid on this Alice in Wonderland-worthy journey into the bizarre underbelly of pop. You'll be a better person for it. -Willie

·A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. The last word in postmodern writing (both because it's peerlessly executed and because it sets out to destroy the entire ironic-hip genre), Eggers's autobiography presents us with a huge, jumbled pile of the author's anecdotes, phobias, unhinged emotions, life story, indulgences, and opinions, and dares you to put it all together. The main narrative thread, which concerns how the youthful Eggers was given custody of his pre-teen brother after their parents' deaths, is shattering, but it's broken up by hilariously random diagrams and observations (such as a detailed map of how he and his brother would slide across the hardwood floor in their socks). When it comes down to it, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius isn't about Eggers himself as much it is about the paralysis that results from couching everything in so many layers of irony that you don't know what you're mocking anymore, and it's stunning. -Willie

·Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. We've all heard plenty of pundits on both sides of the poverty debate (i.e., discussions of welfare, homelessness, minimum wage, and other issues generally of concern to lower-class folks) pretending to talk knowledgeably about what it's like to live in cashless conditions while actually never having left their own comfortable, upper-class surroundings. Those who fall on the conservative side of the issue often romanticize the "American dream" of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps, working hard, and succeeding through sheer will, much like Abraham Lincoln did. (Lincoln is always used in these patriotic little speeches, probably because more recent examples of actual success through hard work are hard to come by.) So reporter Ehrenreich- a liberal, but a fairly well-to-do liberal- decided to see what the quality of life was actually like for people who work minimum wage jobs as their sole source of income. Thus, she embarked on a trek to actually take a few of these jobs, and live only off the money she earned working, variously, as a waitress, a cleaning woman, an assistant in a nursing home, and (in the most damning chapter) a Wal-Mart employee. Her findings shouldn't surprise anyone except the most sheltered of rich, trust-fund babies who still think a dozen eggs costs a dollar: basically, it boils down to the fact that minimum-wage jobs don't give you enough money to live off of unless you have several of them, and even then, your living conditions will probably be both squalid and still barely affordable. No surprises there. But Nickel and Dimed is written in a compulsively readable and compelling fashion, and Ehrenreich is less a strident liberal scold than she is a sarcastic social commentator (the book's mood is lightened by anecdotes about watching her friends' cockatiel and about the horrible brats that accompany their mothers into Wal-Mart: "Abortion is wasted on the unborn," she writes), which make this excellent reading for anyone with a desire to be informed about what life below the poverty line is really like. -Willie

·Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose. An impeccably researched document of the many cowboy hat-wearing skeletons in our current president's closet. Thankfully eschewing the draggy "early years" information that makes so many biographies such a dreadful bore, Ivins and Dubose instead divide their book into chapters showing Dubya's true colors in every stage of his adult life in Texas, from his dubious oil deals to his indefensibly bloodthirsty approach to capital punishment as governor. The authors are more balanced than you might expect (they give Bush a lot of credit for some of his education plans, even if they do often go too far out of their way to extol the virtues of his predecessor, Ann Richards), and their plentiful anecdotes about the corruption and cronyism in the Texas Legislature ("The Lege") are, like the rest of the book, as scary as they are hilarious. If you actually voted for this putz (for any reason other than a hatred of Gore, which is justifiable enough- though you really should have voted for Nader in that case), read the book and then go to your room and think about what you've done. -Willie

·Secrets: The CIA's War at Home by Angus MacKenzie. This is MacKenzie's posthumously published illustration of the way the CIA has, in the past fifty years, ballooned from a tenuously legal agency that resulted from a poorly-worded piece of legislation into the very illegal behemoth it is today, more concerned with covering up its own indiscretions from years past than in operating under the principles of the United States Constitution. Needless to say, Nixon and Reagan played big parts in the expansion of the Agency's systematic, domestic invasions of privacy, but when MacKenzie gets to the Clinton years, detailing all the secrets and lies of the past decade, you'll be packing your bags for Canada. -Willie

·The Perfectly Contented Meat-Eater's Guide to Vegetarianism by Mark Reinholdt. The subtitle of this book is "A book for people who really don't want to be hassled about their diet," and it makes good on its promise not to do so. Without ever becoming preachy or acting holier-than-thou, vegan author Reinholdt makes dozens of perfectly cogent arguments for the superiority of a vegetarian diet over a carnivorous one. Written in a way that's affable, often hilarious, and totally convincing, Reinholdt just asks the reader to question why he or she has eaten meat all these years (the answer probably has something to do with meat industry propaganda), and then to consider the alternatives. That's all. Just give it a try. Willie read this book before becoming a vegetarian, and he decided to become one by the book's end. (He's not yet a vegan, but he plans to be someday. One thing at a time.) -Willie

·One Day in September by Simon Reeve. This book is an extensively researched companion to the identically titled, Oscar-winning documentary film about the tragedy at the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which Palestinian terrorists killed a bunch of Israeli athletes. It not only explains why the incident in Munich came to such a terrible end (the incompetence of the German authorities seems to be as much a factor as the Palestinians themselves), but it painstakingly details the history of the Israel/Palestine conflicts and the equally horrifying retaliatory actions taken by the Israelis after the Munich tragedy. Whereas the film is mainly concerned with the events at Munich and the effect it had on the world's culture, Reeve's book paints a picture of two Middle Eastern cultures in which needless violence has reigned for decades, and notions of "right" and "wrong" bleed into one another in inseparable ways. This book is particularly invaluable in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks- much more so than the cheapy mass-markets that have been churned out recently. -Willie

·The Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock by Ira Robbins, et al. The only record guide you'll ever need (though we all could stand to own more than one, I think). Unspeakably brilliant music critic Ira Robbins and a number of others critique virtually every rock band you can think of that was active between 1990 and 1996, when the book was published. Best of all, the book includes many indie artists that most guides overlook, such as Barbara Manning, Dump, and the Jazz Butcher. Supposedly, the contents of all five volumes of the Trouser Press guides will soon be posted at trouserpress.com, but the site has been down for nearly two years now, so it's a bit more reliable to just pick up a copy of the book. -Willie

·A Diet for a New America by John Robbins. If Mark Reinholdt's book doesn't make you seriously consider becoming a vegetarian, John Robbins's book will. In fact, if the first section, in which Robbins graphically details the unconscionable horrors that are thrust upon the animals unlucky enough to be born into the meat industry, does not make you bawl uncontrollably, then you are emotionally hopeless. The book is not as accessibly written as Reinholdt's- Willie has yet to get all the way through it, though Jenny has read it from cover to cover several times. However, it's more thorough in its descriptions of vegetarianism's nutritional benefits, the detriments of a diet that includes meat, and the ways in which the meat and dairy industries employ Phillip Morris-worthy tactics of indoctrinating children- and adults- to consume products that they know to be fundamentally unhealthy. -Willie

·Them: Adventures in Extremism by Jon Ronson. One of the best jokes ever on King of the Hill came in the form of conspiracy theorist Dale talking to a disinterested G-man about the many evil political puppetmasters who hatch elaborate plots to control the lives of unsuspecting Americans, and what "they" are doing behind the scenes. Finally, fed up, the government agent turns to Dale and says, "Sir, we are They." Dale screams and flees. To those of us on the skeptical side of the conspiracy spectrum, however, the third-person plural pronoun them more likely refers to the proponents of such theories than to any shadowy team of secretive world rulers, and the pronoun generally refers to "extremists." That is, people who hold fervent beliefs about religion, government, or society that are divergent from mainstream beliefs to the point that they're seen as dangerous. Wry British journalist Ronson spent several years traversing the globe to spend time with all sorts of extremists, and to attempt to sort out and investigate their philosophies once and for all. To his credit, Ronson refrains from immediately passing judgement on his contacts, generally hearing them out first, and more-or-less presenting their beliefs directly as he hears them without overtly labeling them nuts. The survivors of the Ruby Ridge massacre, for example, come across as being somewhat misguided but not altogether unreasonable in their anti-government beliefs, while American History X director Tony Kaye emerges as endearingly eccentric, and new age author David Icke comes across as a total wacko (he believes that all the major events of the world are controlled by a small cadre of men who've descended from a species of extraterrestrial lizard). Things get really interesting when Ronson begins to notice similarities in the wildly divergent worldviews of some of these groups, and starts digging to see if there might be a kernel of truth at the bottom of it all, but ultimately it's up to the reader to make sense of it all. And that's to the good: Ronson is generous with both humor and devil's-advocate compassion throughout, and should raise an eyebrow or two along the way. -Willie

·The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant by Dan Savage. Those who are familiar with Savage's acerbic, hilarious sex advice column Savage Love might be surprised at the emotional warmth of this book, in which Dan recounts the trials and tribulations that he and his boyfriend Terry had to go through in order to adopt a child. Fear not, though; the book is no more Oprah-esque treacle than it is a "We're here, we're queer, we don't want any more bears" political rant. It's just a hysterically funny memoir that happens to makes an airtight case for gay couples' right to adopt along the way. And Savage loses none of his blisteringly funny style throughout the book, either (two pages in, he has already referred to Bjork as "Iceland's pixie lunatic"). To borrow a word from some particularly atrocious back cover copy I once read while shelving books, The Kid is unputdownable. -Willie

·Hellfire by Nick Tosches. Can't say I've ever cared for Jerry Lee Lewis's music, but luckily, being a fan is not a prerequisite for enjoying this piercing look into the life of this very disturbed musician. The book opens with a drunk, armed Lewis bothering Elvis Presley at his Graceland home, and doesn't let up from there (though it naturally backtracks a bit, chronologically, from that opening scene). Focusing largely on Lewis's lifelong struggle between the promised salvation of his fundamentalist upbringing and the irresistable allure of "the Devil's music" (i.e., the gestating genre of rock 'n' roll), Tosches painstakingly re-creates dozens of horrifying events in Lewis's life, from the time he attempted to kill his little sister by shoving her stroller down a hill to the forked-tongue sermons of his cousin Jimmy Swaggart. This isn't some cheapo celebrity muckraker, though; Tosches paints Lewis as a surprisingly sympathetic figure, and by the time the book rolls to a close (with a head-spinning juxtaposition of unpleasant events from Lewis's forties- lots of lawsuits and drunken public outbursts), you'll be futilely rooting for something to save the Killer's soul. -Willie


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