Cruddy – A dark, ominous and hilarious tale about a 16-year-old’s cruddy trip through life

If you’re like me, you are always on the lookout for a novel that speaks to the homicidal teenage girl on acid inside of you. Well, today you are in luck, unless you’ve already read this 1999 masterpiece by artist/writer/teacher/goddess Lynda Barry.

Best known for her comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek, which ran in many weekly alternative papers in the 1980s and '90s, Barry creates characters that are simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious. In Cruddy, 16-year-old narrator Roberta Rohbeson lives in poverty, “on a cruddy street, on the side of a cruddy hill in the cruddiest part of a crudded-out town in a cruddy state, country, world, solar system, universe.” As the story begins, Roberta has been grounded for a year due to getting caught “tripping on drugs very badly.” In one long journal entry/suicide note, Roberta composes the “famous book” she plans to leave behind: the recounting of a road trip with her violent, alcoholic father, which leaves a trail of death and destruction and concludes with Roberta stranded on a desert highway, her trusty knife Little Debbie as her only companion.

Although Barry departed from her usual cartoon format, the ominous black and white drawings she includes throughout beautifully enhance this dark tale. Nice touches are the illustrated endsheets, which are maps detailing both Roberta’s cruddy hometown and the route of her and her father’s horrifying crime spree, er, family vacation.

Cruddy: An Illustrated Novel by Lynda Barry

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UK psyops created N. Irish Satanic Panic during the Troubles

During the 1970s, when Northern Ireland was gripped by near-civil-war, British military intelligence staged the evidence of "black masses" in order to create a Satanism panic among the "superstitious" Irish to discredit the paramilitaries.

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Scott McCloud's Best American Comics 2014

If there’s one thing Scott McCloud is better at than making comics, it’s explaining comics, which makes him the best possible editor for this year’s Best American Comics. McCloud’s volume is surprising, delightful, diverse, brave and endlessly wonderful.

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Last Unicorn heading to Broadway


Peter Beagle's beloved novel is in development as a touring musical with Josh Duhamel and Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas.

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Steven Brust's "Hawk" - a new Vlad Taltos book!

Hawk, the 14th book in Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, is a moving, funny and tantalizing end-game glimpse of the assassin, reluctant revolutionary and epic wisecracker. Cory Doctorow explains why he’s been reading this generation-spanning series of Hungarian mythology, revolutionary politics, and gastronomy for more than 30 years.

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Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything

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In 2009, Theodore Gray blew minds with his gorgeously photographed book, The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe, which sold over a million copies. Five years later, Gray has created this book, which describes what happens when elements are snapped together to make molecules, and the result is a masterpiece (thanks in no small part to Nick Mann’s drool-inducing photographs). Gray organizes the book by categories of molecules — inorganic, organic, acids, bases, soaps, solvents, oils, sweeteners, and other common substances — highlighting their similarities and differences. Suddenly, the physical world makes a lot more sense.

Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything
by Theodore Gray (Author), Nick Mann (Photographer)
2014, 240 pages, 10.25 x 9.5 x 1 inches, Hardcover

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Cory coming to NYC, LA, SF, SEA, AUS, MSP, ORD!


A reminder that I'm heading out on tour with In Real Life, the graphic novel I co-created with the wonderful Jen Wang, starting at New York Comic Con this coming weekend.

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Profile of Daniel Pinkwater, "Pynchon for kids"


Reading Daniel Pinkwater's novels as a kid changed my life for the better, and I've never looked back, so this beautifully written profile by Josh Nathan-Kazis was a pure delight to read, from Pinkwater's experiences as a cult member to the time that Terry Gilliam blamed him for killing Harvey Kurtzman's Help! magazine, putting R. Crumb out of a job.

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How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

Steven Johnson blends the history of science with keen social observation to tell the story of how our modern world came about—and where it’s headed. Cory Doctorow reviews How We Got to Now, also a six-part PBS/BBC series, which ties together a lifetime of work

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Great ideas that changed the world, and the people they rode in on

To inaugurate the publication of his brilliant new book How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World (also a PBS/BBC TV series), Steven Johnson has written about the difficult balance between reporting on the history of world-changing ideas and the inventors credited with their creation

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Directors' commentary for "In Real Life"


On the Forbidden Planet blog, Jen Wang and I discuss the origin-story of In Real Life, our graphic novel, which comes out on Oct 14.

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Visual Explanations - Tufte's best book

Edward Tufte has made his career teaching us how to create compelling factual illustrations. He follows his own advice in his four exquisitely designed books which he has self-published over the past decade. Each book develops his ideas of minimal decoration and maximum understanding for charts and diagrams. All his books are good, but I think his second, Visual Explanations, is his best. It is a short course in conveying critical information in a visual form. Whether you start with text, data, or ideas, he lays out some sound principles in how to convey these facts in pictures. His own pages are great examples of how readers benefit by these principles. Printed with love, including pages with pasted in cutouts, this timeless book will never go out of date, and is likely to be passed on to future generations.

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative, by Edward R. Tufte

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Tom Sawyer: the Big Read


Lucas writes, "Through Oct, the Lewis & Clark Library of Montana hosting a Big Read of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Running a vast series of events throughout the month, each will be tracked on a special adventure map to represent the experiences that shape us and our understanding of the classic novel."

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No Such Thing: spooky (not scary!) picture book

In the new Flying Eye picture book No Such Thing, a little girl named Georgia finds herself in a delightfully spooky situation: things in her home keep going astray — but Georgia knows that there’s no such thing as ghosts. Cory Doctorow field tested the book on his six year old, and comes back with a tale of mystery, delight, and fright, just in time for Hallowe’en.

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Thoughts on Design – Paul Rand’s iconic design manifesto back in print

Decades ago, when I was a budding graphic designer, I found a copy of iconic designer Paul Rand’s then out-of-print Thoughts on Design at the annual State Department book sale in DC (a mecca for bookworms). The modest little tome made a big impression on me. Rand’s insistence on the integrity of form and function, his immaculately modern designs, and his brilliant sense of humor (often with cleverly hidden visual puns in his designs) really helped wire my nervous system as a designer.

Sadly, this seminal book has been out of print since the 1970s. But no longer. For the centenary of Rand’s birth (Aug 15, 1914), Chronicle has re-released Thoughts on Design. The new edition remains faithful to the 1970s edition (the one I had), with the addition of a new foreword by designer Michael Bierut.

One impressive thing about Rand’s book to me was always how much he was able to say about the nature of good design in 96 short pages (with the majority of those pages reproductions of his work). He was a master at arriving at designs that boiled down the essence of the intended messages, be it an advertisement or a corporate identity, and he similarly renders out the heart of basic design philosophy in this book. Take passages like:

There are, however, instances when recognizable images are of sufficient plastic expressiveness to make the addition of geometric or “abstract” shapes superfluous.

So, with that principle in mind, he inverts wooden coat hangers to make a flock of birds for a spring apparel poster.

Looking through this book, you realize how many monumental logos he was responsible for: ABC, UPS, Westinghouse, IBM, Ikea, Adobe, the list goes on. As a designer, I always marveled at the Westinghouse logo. Something so absurdly simple, so potently suggestive of electronics and light bulbs, and something that was just so pleasing to look at (and easy to apply in branding/packaging). To me, that logo boiled down the essence of Paul Rand’s genius, and the wisdom and the portfolio of work found in this book.

Thoughts On Design, by Paul Rand ($12)

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