1) Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten Troost - sequel to the Sex Lives of Cannibals. Not as funny because Fiji and Vanuatu are far less bleak than Kiribati, but still worth a read. Recommend: yes.
2) Weird U.S.: Your Travel Guide to America's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman. a HUGE disappointment. Too focused on ghostly/ haunted stuff, and unsubstantiated tales like "there's supposed to be a town settled by dwarves around such-and-such remote town" and not enough "guy builds house out of bottles" stories. Also way too focused on areas around New Jersey, which isn't surprising considering their first project was a zine called "weird New Jersey". Recommend: only if you believe in hauntings.
3) Spy: The Funny Years by Graydon Carter, George Kalogerakis, and Kurt Andersen- Another disappointment. About 1/3 "best of Spy" and 2/3 history/hagiography of how awesome it was to work there. And the Best of material they chose in 2006 has not aged well and is way too NYC focused. Though they did include the infamous Bohemian Grove story, so that's something. Recommend: Get from library, skim best of, skip the history.
4) Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon (audio)
Now THIS has aged well. first published in 1982, a middle-aged college professor decides to travel the US through the backroads after losing his job and his wife (separation, not death) in the same month. Funny and interesting look at smaller town life. Bill is an engaging storyteller and was about my age when he took this trip, so I could related to it better than the comparatively juvenile voice of "On The Road". Very good on audio. Recommend: yes.
5) I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert - fine for reading on an airplane, but in the long run, forgettable. A week later you won't remember any of the jokes that amused you at the moment. Get the Daily Show's "America: the Book" instead. Recommend: eh.
6) Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh - by the guy who wrote the "why drug dealers live with their mothers" chapter of Freakonomics. PhD student does fieldwork in awful Chicago housing project, learns how poverty really works. Interesting look at poverty and crime. If you enjoy The Wire, you'll like this, and there are way fewer murders in this one. Recommend: yes.
7) Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul by Karen Abbott (audio) -A history of Chicago's red light district at the turn of the century and the story of 2 sisters who ran an infamous high-class brothel there. Similar in feel to "Devil in the White City" but again, way fewer murders. Neither too salacious nor too academic. Recommend: yes.
1) Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons- graphic novel, re-read for first time in over 10 years. Holds up well, but of course the first time I read it 9-11 hadn't happened, and there's something in it that evokes that kind of massive tragedy. Soon to be a movie, or so I hear. Recommend: yes, but anyone who follows my recommendations ever has likely already read this years ago.
2) An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke - dark comic novel about young man who accidentally burns down Emily Dickinson's house and then finds himself a scapegoat when he gets out of prison and other historic literary houses begin going up in flames. Parts of the novel are really bleak but overall I liked it. Recommend: yes.
Incomplete/ dishonorable mention:
This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes (audio)
More like "This book will piss you off". Usually, I can tell in the first dozen pages if I'm going to finish a book, and I have no problem putting down books that don't grab me. I was reading this on audiobook, and got through the first 2 of 10 CDs waiting for something to happen or at least, to get a general idea of where the story was GOING. The first CD was all about a yuppie having pain and deciding to go to the hospital, where the diagnosis is inconclusive. If this plot point is supposed to stir him to change his life or set up the rest of the book, it needed to happen before 1/5 of the book was done. Even after putting it away in disgust, I STILL had no idea what the story would be about, and there's too much I enjoy reading to slog through an unpleasant book.
So, since I was curious to know how the book was supposed to be about without actually finishing it, I checked amazon. Read the Washington Post's review here : http://tinyurl.com/58oce3 ; their critic found it as banal as I did.