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The Naming of the Books 2022
Here it is! The post you’ve all been waiting for! Which books did I read in 2022? I read 24 of them. Here’s the list in order:

Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel
Once & Future, Vol. 1: The King Is Undead by Kieron Gillen
Once & Future, Vol. 2: Old English by Kieron Gillen
Once & Future, Vol. 3: The Parliament of Magpies by Kieron Gillen
Something Is Killing the Children, Vol. 4 by James Tynion IV
The Splendid City by Karen Heuler
Blood Standard by Laird Barron
Haunt of Fear, The, Vol. 1 by Al Feldstein, et al
Have I Got a Cartoon For You! by Bob Mankoff
Black Mountain by Laird Barron
Once & Future, Vol. 4: Monarchies in the U.K. by Kieron Gillen
Tales from the Crypt: Vol. 1 by Al Feldstein, et al
Worse Angels by Laird Barron
Doctor Strange Epic Collection: A Separate Reality by Roy Thomas
And Then I Woke Up by Malcolm Devlin
Tales from the Crypt: Vol. 2 by Al Feldstein, et al
My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
Sister, Maiden, Monster by Lucy A. Snyder
The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
Tune In Tomorrow by Randee Dawn
Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir by Matthew Perry
A Slice of the Dark and Other Stories by Karen Heuler
The World’s Worst Assistant by Sona Movsesian

Happy New Year to you all, and may 2023 be filled with books you love!
The World’s Worst Assistant

The World's Worst AssistantThe World’s Worst Assistant by Sona Movsesian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Written in the guise of a business how-to, THE WORLD’S WORST ASSISTANT is a very funny and surprisingly earnest memoir of Sona Movsesian’s ongoing career as Conan O’Brien’s assistant. Fans will know Sona well from filmed bits on Conan’s TBS show and as an important part of Conan’s podcast. She’s smart, she’s funny, she takes no shit, and her sharp comedic chemistry with Conan practically elevates her to celebrity status herself.

Don’t read it looking for a tell-all on Conan O’Brien. He and Sona are tight (even if they bicker constantly). There’s no dish here. But you should read it for a fun and sometimes embarrassing glimpse behind the scenes of Sona’s job and her life. Also, Conan comes off as a pretty great guy, which is refreshing to hear about a celebrity.

THE WORLD’S WORST ASSISTANT is fun, charming, and well written. Sona’s voice and sense of humor come through loud and clear. (Conan would say, “Emphasis on the loud.”) I really enjoyed it. It’s a fast, breezy read that will leave you smiling and, if you’re anything like me, racing to YouTube to watch Sona and Conan’s clips.

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A Slice of the Dark and Other Stories

A Slice of the Dark and Other StoriesA Slice of the Dark and Other Stories by Karen Heuler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another excellent story collection from Karen Heuler, an accomplished fantasist more people should be reading!

Among my favorites in this collection are the title story, in which a man gets a taste of the dark and craves more until things get out of control; “Bone Broth,” which gives a fascinating pre-history of New York City (and the world) through the eyes of a discontented waitress; “Unquiet Dreams,” one of Heuler’s few straightforward forays into horror, which tells of something stalking the patients in a sleep disorder clinic; “Teeth,” in which a woman literally becomes Death but enjoys it a bit too much; and “The Afterlife of Books,” which is a story that will speak to any writer or avid reader.

All the stories share Heuler’s surreal sensibilities and unique, playful writing style. (As a side note, I think the cover art is fantastic, one of the best and most evocative I’ve seen in a long time!) If you’ve read Heuler’s recent novel THE SPLENDID CITY and are interested in exploring her short fiction, or if you’ve just been curious about her work, A SLICE OF THE DARK AND OTHER STORIES is a fine place to start.

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Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing

Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible ThingFriends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an extremely candid memoir of alcohol and drug addiction, an unflinching warts and all look in the mirror by a popular and widely beloved actor.

Because Matthew Perry is a comedian, there are a lot of jokes peppered throughout the book. None of them land, because this isn’t the right place for them, but what comes through loud and clear is the immense pain — emotionally and at times physically — that lurks behind the jokes. Like many people, myself included, Perry uses humor to deflect real emotions and cover up pain. He’s more like his most famous role, FRIENDS’ Chandler Bing, than you ever knew.

Admittedly, two stories in the book did make me laugh. One is when a stoned-out-of-her-gourd Cameron Diaz tries to give Perry a friendly slug in the shoulder, misses, and punches him in the face. The other is when Perry, who was a Canadian tennis star in his youth, is playing tennis against Chevy Chase and serves the ball directly into Chase’s testicles. Both had me laughing out loud. I never claimed to have a mature sense of humor.

But this isn’t meant to be a funny memoir by a funny man. When I say it’s warts and all, I mean it. Perry doesn’t hold back in an effort to show himself in the best possible light. There are times when you’ll feel immense sympathy for him, and other times when you’ll want to shake him by the shoulders and yell, “Come on, man!” There are times when you will be shocked at his unbelievable egotism, and other times when you’ll see it for what it is: the coping mechanism of a scared child afraid of abandonment because he never thought he was enough. There are times when you might lose respect for him, but when you’re an addict telling your story as a cautionary tale, you can’t leave the bad stuff out, no matter how it makes you look. Any respect I lost for Perry along the way was quickly regained by the courage he showed in sharing even his most rock-bottom behavior.

My only complaint is that the memoir flips back and forth through time a lot, to the point where I sometimes got confused about where we were in his life, or which time in rehab he was talking about. A little more clarity or context might have helped alleviate that.

This is a powerful memoir, even more so if you were a fan of Perry’s in the ’90s, when he was at the height of his fame. Reading about how much drinking he was doing during FRIENDS, or how high on pills he was when David Letterman first had him on his show, is brutal. That Perry survived his ordeal is remarkable. I’m glad he lived to tell his story.

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