Monday, December 15, 2014

Jory John's Five Favorite Books

When we say Jory John, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Is it his brand-new book Goodnight Already! that is getting tons of buzz and is totally hilarious? His irreverent sense of humor? His charm? His jois de vivre? All of the above? Yes, us too. 

Which is why we're tickled pink that Jory has shared his FIVE FAVORITE BOOKS with us. If you're looking for great gift ideas for the readers on your list, look no further. Jory's got you covered.

by Richard Brautigan 

The Tokyo-Montana Express is an amazing book that I've returned to at various stages in my life, a book that's written in short, beautiful bursts of prose, generally bouncing between Brautigan's days spent living in Japan and his life in rural Montana, with a few exceptions (a story set in the Old West, for instance) scattered throughout. A train icon sits above each chapter, meant to connect Brautigan's life stories, filtering his everyday experiences into meaningful, poetic essays about small things that always represent big things. Brautigan is so skilled at taking the most outwardly mundane event — the purchase and installation of a light-bulb in his home office, say — and infusing it with humor, energy, a narrative arc, and meaning. (P.S. While we're here, and if it's not against The Little Crooked Cottage rulebook — and maybe it is, but I like to live on the edge — I'd like to insert Brautigan's Revenge of the Lawn and also Trout Fishing in America into my favorites list as unnumbered bonus features. Everybody OK with that?)

by James Marshall

I love so many of James Marshall's picture books, but George and Martha — a series about two hapless hippo friends, written and illustrated by Marshall — are my all-time favorites. The hilarious narration, conversations, and deadpan expressions amongst the hippos make me laugh, every single time I open one of these books. They each consist of five or six chapters that circle back around by the end, chronicling a day or two in the lives of two best friends who are also occasionally dishonest or self-absorbed. Not much is ever completely resolved, but I like it that way. And it's not just about the  absurdist jokes — there's plenty of heart here, too. If I'm feeling low, I look for the nearest George and Martha book. And it helps.

by Amy Fusselman 

I rarely have a copy of The Pharmacist's Mate in my apartment because I'm always giving it out as a gift or, more specifically, I'm placing it in someone's hands as a litmus test to determine whether they're worth spending more time with. The Pharmacist's Mate is so beautifully written,   hilarious, honest and heartbreaking, and packs so much wallop into its endlessly quotable passages. It concerns Fusselman's recent loss of her father — who worked as a pharmacist's mate on a ship in WWII (he documented his time in a journal, which is occasionally excerpted) — along with her attempts to become pregnant. The author covers so much territory, in a relatively short amount of time, which includes life, death, love, marriage, and more, including this passage, which I bring up anytime a favorite quotation is needed: Call-and-response is my favorite song form on earth. It doesn't matter what the words are. It just has to be one voice calling, and then many voices responding, and then one voice calling again, and many voices responding again. I hear that and I almost always start crying immediately. I am not sure why, except that I feel like I have done the call part so many times, both literally and metaphorically, without hearing any reply, that call-and-response is like an aural fantasy for me, a place where no pleas go unanswered, where no questions go unheard. Call and response is what I wish prayer were. OK? Just read it. Thanks.

by Haruki Murakami 

This is a book about acceptance, time passing and memory. It's a book about the choices we make, and how everybody does something they regret, yet they need to move past it or they'll get stuck in that moment. It's also a book about reading, about books and libraries and solitude, about how a character's personal idea of purgatory is having nothing on hand to read. And then it's combined with a steady stream of pop culture references and unexplained metaphysical elements, a Murakami staple. Kafka On the Shore follows two protagonists, alternating their progress — although sometimes it's not completely apparent what they're progressing towards — seeming to build toward a meetup, then digressing completely. After I finished this book, I wrote to somebody important to me — who had actually recommended the book in the first place — and said, "Wouldn't you love to talk to Murakami for a while and try to figure out how he did that? Sheesh!" This book is like a dream you can sort of remember and you try to tell somebody about the next morning, inevitably failing.

by Charles M. Schulz 
I thoroughly adore this book, but I'm also including it as an excuse to talk about my love of Charles Schulz and his legendary comic-strip Peanuts. My first artistic love was cartooning and nobody did it better than Schulz, ever. His characters are so fully realized, his writing is so brilliant, his drawings are effortless; even to this day, nearly fifteen years after he died, he constantly wins the comic page. (And yes, he thought of it as a competition.) Somewhat relatedly: one of my favorite pastimes is heading up the Warm Puppy Cafe, which is located inside the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, which Schulz and his wife built in Santa Rosa, CA. It's a fantastic place to sit and drink a Peppermint Patty hot chocolate with whipped cream and — knowing that I'm sitting in the same place that Schulz sat every morning for years, eating his English muffins and drinking coffee — I love to pull out a pen and notepad and take some notes, write some comics, think about all things creative. Schulz has had as big an influence on me as anybody. Now to the matter at hand, Happiness Is a Warm Puppy was a new type of book that didn't really fit into a specific category in 1962. It was sort of meant for children, and kind of a book for adults, with curious dimensions, all rotating around a specific theme: happiness. It featured the Peanuts characters, although only as actors essentially (they never spoke), helping to present the lines on each page. Truly one of my comfort books.


Jory John is the co-author of The Terrible Two (a new middle-grade series, starting January 2015) and author of the picture books Goodnight Already! and the forthcoming I Will Chomp You! He is also co-author of the national bestseller All My Friends Are Dead and a sequel, among other humor books. Jory conceptualized and edited Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids' Letters to President Obama, which was published on inauguration day. He spent six years as programs director at 826 Valencia, a nonprofit educational center in San Francisco. He also co-created the webcomic Animals Got Problems. Find Jory at and/or and on Twitter @joryjohn.

Read Jory's books!

by Jory John

Illustrated by Benji Davies
HarperCollins, December 2014
ISBN 978-006228602

Meet Bear. He's exhausted. All he wants is to go to sleep. Meet Duck, Bear's persistent next-door neighbor. All he wants is to hang out . . . with Bear. A standout hilarious picture book that will make bedtime memorable.

"Both the repartee and the sight gags display excellent timing, making the most of the classic comic tension between a hulking grouch and a diminutive pest. . . . The one thing readers will not say about this book is 'Enough already!'” — Publishers Weekly

by Jory John and Mac Barnett

Illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Amulet Books, January 2015
ISBN: 978-1419714917

“A double helping of fun and mischief!”
—Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

—Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series

“This book is terrible! Terribly funny, terribly full of pranks, and terribly wonderful.”
—Jon Scieszka, author of The Stinky Cheese Man and the Frank Einstein series

by Avery Monsen and Jory John

Chronicle Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0811874557

Darkly comic. Funny." — Pop Candy, USA Today

"What a charming way to introduce wee ones to all the downers in life." —

"One of the most reblogged things of all time (of all time!) on Tumblr." —

"Laugh out loud funny, and a tiny bit disturbing. In other words, perfect." — The Huffington Post

"Hilariously morbid." — Laughing Squid


  1. What a great selection of books, and I loved the trailer for Goodnight Already. Thank you for sharing! :) ~ Jess

  2. Thank you for featuring many excellent books. My favorite is HAPPINESS IS A WARM PUPPY by Charles M. Schulz. Looking forward to your upcoming books in 2015. ~Suzy Leopold