Rachel Fershleiser is the co-editor of the New York Times Bestseller Not Quite What I Was Planning and three forthcoming books of Six-Word Memoirs. She has written for The Village Voice, New York Press, Print, Los Angeles Times, National Post, Salon.com, and several amazing print and online publications you’ve never heard of. She day jobs happily at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.
I don’t think there’s one best book I read this year, but looking back over my emails, facebook status updates, and oh-so-tolerant friends, there is clearly one I was most evangelical about.
Have you ever read King Dork?
I asked everyone who crossed my path – working on the sales floor of a bookstore, that’s an awful lot of readers – and no one had. When it was published in 2006, Time called it “Impossibly brilliant,” Entertainment Weekly gave it an A, and virtually every other review was a rave, but somehow, Frank Portman’s young adult geek-rock opus still needs some hyping.
It’s as funny and filthy and filled with the inhumanities of high school loserdom as everyone has said (“pitch-perfect… realistic, self-aware” – The Oregonian, “cutting satire… smartly skewers.” – The Plain Dealer). But for me, the true brilliance lies in the complex questions of our antihero’s dead father and the coded messages left behind in his library of classic books. King Dork is the only book I’ve ever read in which the mystery is never resolved, and I finished feeling completely satisfied anyway. For that near-impossible feat, this story is as sophisticated as it is scatological.
In 2008, I also reread the always-wonderful Wonder When You’ll Miss Me by Amanda Davis, fell in love with Elizabeth McCracken, sublimated my political obsession into Stephen Elliott’s Looking Forward to It (I tried to tell Stephen how much I liked it at parties on both coasts; each time he would not hear my praise, instead turning his prodigious rave-dancing abilities in my direction), and enjoyed beautiful minicomics by artists like Gabrielle Bell, Ken Dahl, Alec Longstreth, Liz Prince, and Jon Chad.