Boing Boing's 28 favorite books in 2019

Photo: Glen Noble on Unsplash

Here's 28 of our favorites from the last year – not all of them published in the last year, mind you – from fairy-tales to furious politics and everything in between, including the furious fairy-tale politics getting between everything. The links here include Amazon Affiliate codes; this helps us make ends meet at Boing Boing, the world's greatest neurozine.

1: Arcade Game Typography

Toshi Omagari and Leo Field's book offers a definitive view in print of the clean, colorful pixelated fonts of arcade games from the 1970s to the 1990s. It's full of gorgeous-looking full-color spreads (with grids!) -- both a beautiful item and a formal tour of a distinctive artform. Hit games (such as Super Sprint, Pac-Man, After Burner, Marble Madness and Shinobi) are represented, but the best part is the technology of pixel type, whose colorful details make sure this is unlike any other typography book. — Rob

Arcade Game Typography [Read Only Memory]

Arcade Game Typography [Amazon]


2: The Testaments

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results. "A story of hope, resistance, complicity and rage, it's been worth the wait." — Cory

The Testaments [Amazon]


3: Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms

John Hodgman's book-length memoir of his dwindling privilege after his TV career petered out is both hilarious and deadly serious, as much an indictment of elitism as it is a frank hymn to the pleasures of it — Cory

Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms [Amazon]


4: The Comic Book Story of Video Games goes deep

an entertaining full-color book about the roots of video games. It starts with the discovery of electricity and the birth of electronic digital computers in in World War II and ends with augmented reality games like Pokemon Go. In between we learn about the origins of Pong, Doom, Nintendo, Sega, and more. I feel like I learned as much as I ever want to know about video game history in one pleasant afternoon. This would make an excellent gift for kids who want to learn about the pioneers of video games. — Mark

The Comic Book Story of Video Games goes deep [Amazon]


5: It Feels Good to Be Yourself

A sweet, simple book for little kids about gender identity, self-acceptance, and self-definition — complex subjects handled with grace and wit, accompanied by lovely illustrations — Cory

It Feels Good to Be Yourself [Amazon]


6: For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World by Sasha Sagan

A lovely, inspiring memoir exploring the intersection of science, wonder, and spirituality in a secular home. The title is from a quote found in the pages of Contact, a novel written by Sasha's parents Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan: "For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love." Like her parents, Sasha has the passion, brilliance, and ability to spark curiosity, skepticism, and hope, through the written word. Open mind required. No faith necessary. — David

For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World by Sasha Sagan [Amazon]


7: Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood

J Michael Straczynski's harrowing memoir of being raised by a literal Nazi war criminal in the direst of poverty is an incredible tale of perserverence and commitment to artistic integrity. Straczynski's wit, ferocious honor, and serious commitment to science fiction shine through and provide insight and inspiration for anyone struggling with difficult circumstances — Cory

Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood [Amazon]


8: The Family Acid: California

For more than 50 years, Roger Steffens has traveled the electric arteries of the counterculture. Driven by his own insatiable curiosity and passion, he was on a perpetual quest for the eccentric, the outlandish, the transcendent. Just as often, it found him, smiling, a camera in one hand and a joint in the other. This book is a collection of snapshots taken between 1968 and 2015 during Roger and his family's freewheeling adventures across the visionary state they call home. Think of it as a family album belonging to a very unconventional family. A lavish clothbound hardcover book with a tipped-on cover photo and silver foil stamping, The Family Acid: California contains hundreds of full-color images, most never seen before, with detailed captions and original essays. Complementing the book is a limited-edition Family Acid photo print on perforated LSD blotter paper (undipped), 6.25" x 10", and signed on the verso by Roger Steffens. — David

The Family Acid: California [Amazon]


9: The Babysitter's Coven

"Buffy meets the Babysitter's Club in Kate M Williams's debut novel, a supernatural YA romp that is the "OK Boomer" of contemporary fantasy, a close-to-the-bone story of modern girlhood blended with a smashing adventure story about the secret, occult war raging just out of our sight" — Cory

The Babysitter's Coven [Amazon]


10: Permanent Record

What does it take for a gung-ho scion of a multigenerational military family to risk his own life to bring the truth of mass surveillance to the American people? Edward Snowden's memoir is a revelatory, smart, analytical tale of one man's journey from jingoism to exile, as he uncovers the dark truth about spy agencies run amok and decides that it's worth risking his freedom and even his life to take that truth public. — Cory

Permanent Record [Amazon]


11: Radicalized

My latest book of four original, timely novellas includes health-care terrorists, preppers dying of cholera, disobedient toasters, brave jailbreakers, inadequate superheroes and popular uprisings against police violence. — Cory

Radicalized [Amazon]


12: Nancy

Olivia Jaimes's reboot of Ernie Bushmiller's beloved Nancy is astoundingly, improbably great — guffaw-inducting, utterly contemporary, and still completey true to the spirit of the original. Fall in love with Nancy all over again — or introduce a young person in your life to her for the first time — Cory

Nancy [Amazon]


13: The Crap Hound Big Book of Unhappiness

The Crap Hound Big Book of Unhappiness is a 544-page compendium of vintage ads and archival ephemera selected and arranged by designer Sean Tejaratchi, publisher of the Crap Hound zine. I've been a huge fan of Sean's work for many years, and have every issue of Crap Hound. I made the video above to give you a taste of just how astounding this book is - it will provide a lifetime of browsing enjoyment. — Mark

The Crap Hound Big Book of Unhappiness [Amazon]


14: Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything

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. — Mark

Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything [Amazon]


15: Making Comics

Beloved, Macarthur-Genius-winning cartoonist Lynda Barry's latest is one of the best books on unlocking creativity I've ever read: humane, interdisciplinary, fun, and in touch with something deep and mysterious. — Cory

Making Comics [Amazon]


16: Octavia Butler's Parables

Afrofuturist pioneer Octavia Butler died far too young, and left behind a legacy of brilliant, exciting science fiction novels; Seven Stories' slipcased edition of her brilliant Parable novels includes an introduction by Gloria Steinem — Cory

Octavia Butler's Parables [Amazon]


17: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

More essential than ever, Robert Cialdini's absolute classic book outlining six principles that you can use to convince people to do things and/or defend yourself against coercion. The science in this book is solid, the experiments and examples are unforgettable, and the writing is crisp and compelling. Learn how it's done so you can defend yourself against coercive advertising, car salespeople, and, er, politicians. But don't be seduced by the dark side. — David

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini [Amazon]


18: Supersonic: The Design and Lifestyle of Concorde by Lawrence Azerrad

During its 1970s heyday, the Concorde, the commercial supersonic plane that did NYC to London in under three hours, wasn't just a revolution in aerospace engineering; it was an icon of industrial design, set the bar in luxury travel, and, quite literally, embodied the jet-set lifestyle. Now, hyper-talented designer Lawrence Azerrad, who previously wrote about the Concorde for Boing Boing, has created a glorious art book about the plane and its scene in the sky. The book overflows with historical and technical information and stunning photos of the plane, its marketing materials, and amenities designed by the likes of Raymond Loewy who designed the plane's flatware that Andy Warhol famously swiped every time he flew. — David

Supersonic: The Design and Lifestyle of Concorde by Lawrence Azerrad [Amazon]


19: How to Change Your Mind

This is a look at the history and uses of psychoactive compounds from someone who avoided such drugs until their personal potential became clear, the chance to get out of a rut formed "when the grooves of mental habit have been etched so deep as to seem inescapable." Pollan’s natural skepticism and wry humor is a good match for the detailed accounts he includes of mind-blowing, trip-induced revelations. As the blurb puts it: "Ultimately, whether such experiences lead to genuine insight into, say, the origins of the universe or what we can expect after death seems less interesting to Pollan than the hope psychedelics offer people suffering from depression, addiction, and acute illness." — Boing Boing

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence [Amazon]

20: Complete Elfquest vol. 6

This sixth volume of the New York Times best-selling series weighs in at over 500 pages. This new treasury of the classic fantasy series by Wendy and Richard Pini collects deeper cuts of canonical backstories and Wolfrider essentials. Discover how humans, looking to escape their own barren lands, invade Bearclaw's forest and cause unseen disaster for the elves. Also collected are stories showcasing the deep bond of brotherhood between Cutter and Skywise. Catch up first with the Complete Elfquest. — Rob

Complete Elfquest vol. 6 [Amazon]


21: "Who Said That?" is a fun quote quiz book

Who Said That? is a chunky 340-page book that tests your trivia knowledge on the origin of famous quotes. The quotes are arranged by topic (Love and Marriage, Work and Money, Politics and War, Aging, etc.) and are presented in different ways to keep things lively. — Mark

"Who Said That?" is a fun quote quiz book [Amazon]


22: Rocket Science for Babies

Quantum Physics for Babies and Rocket Science for Babies are the kind of board books you'd find on a toddler's shelf. They have stiff, tear-proof cardboard pages, simple illustrations, and minimal text. But they actually explain the subjects on a (very) high level. The author, Chris Ferrie, is a physicist and Senior Lecturer for Quantum Software and Information at the University of Technology Sydney. — Mark

Rocket Science for Babies [Amazon]


23: Artist's Letters: Leonardo da Vinci to David Hockney

"A treasure trove of carefully selected letters written by great artists, providing the reader with a unique insight into their characters and a glimpse into their lives. Arranged thematically, it includes writings and musings on love, work, daily life, money, travel and the creative process." — Rob

Artist's Letters: Leonardo da Vinci to David Hockney [Amazon]


24: No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference

Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist who has become the voice of a generation, has already made an unusual and outsize impact on world politics. Here are her speeches, including a historic address to the United Nations. — Rob

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference [Amazon]


25: You Died

This deluxe hardcover edition of the successful paperback won't be delivered by Christmas, but there will be no better art-book exploration of the grimmest of grim epic fantasies. "The definitive version of the definitive Dark Souls book" -- Edge Magazine. — Rob

You Died [Kickstarter]


26: Tales of the Dying Earth

Comprising all four novels from Jack Vance's Dying Earth series, this collection is timelier than ever. As G.R.R. Martin put it: "Vance is the greatest living SF writer. His work continues to exhibit imagination, originality, and style, three things sadly lacking in 95% of the SF being published nowadays." — Boing Boing

Tales of the Dying Earth [Amazon]


27: Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

Facebook's algorithms shape the news and Twitter's shape the people who make it. But the people who create the code that rules our world are regularly portrayed in hackneyed, simplified terms, as ciphers in hoodies. Clive Thompson goes far deeper, dramatizing the psychology of the invisible architects of the culture, exploring their passions and their values, as well as their messy history—abd thoughtfully ponders the morality and politics of code. — Boing Boing

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World [Amazon]


28: How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Jenny Odell's meditation on the nature of attention and how online services distort our natural rhythms of attentiveness and daydreaming is an important philosophical read, and a manifesto for a better future — Cory

How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy [Amazon]