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Hyperbole and a Half, Life Beyond Earth, Bad Houses 

Short Stories

click to enlarge Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half

Allie Brosh

Touchstone, $17.99/paperback

Allie Brosh's blog, Hyperbole and a Half, was a hoot and a half even when it was terribly honest and sad (see: posts about depression), not to mention when the Alot, a grammar monster, was on the loose, or when her dog was being, well, a dog. Brosh has an odd way of looking at the world and an uncanny ability to write about her personal — and specific — circumstances so that those of us who are even more odd can identify. In Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, Brosh's unique voice comes through loud and clear as she writes about topics familiar to readers of her blog (a version of "Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving" is included), as well as new material. Think of Brosh as a visceral, brutally honest David Sedaris — with badly drawn images — and buy this book. — Kel Munger

click to enlarge Life Beyond Earth

Life Beyond Earth

Athena Coustenis and Thérèse Encrenaz

Cambridge University Press, $29.99/hardcover

With the recent announcement that scientists believe there are 35 billion to 40 billion possible habitable worlds out there, it's only reasonable to ask what those worlds might look like — and how we'd find them. In Life Beyond Earth: The Search for Habitable Worlds in the Universe by Athena Coustenis and Thérèse Encrenaz, two French astrophysicists have written a timely introduction to the quest for at least the possibility of life. It's a textbook, but an accessible and engaging one that covers the basic concepts of how we can know anything about places we'll never visit — and what it means for us. While it doesn't include the most recent results from current missions, it does describe them in such a way that the news reports become all the more fantastic; it's astrophysics in real time, with more to come. — Kel Munger

click to enlarge Bad Houses

Bad Houses

Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil

Dark Horse, $19.99/paperback

In the aptly named Failin, Ore., Lewis helps his mother clean out dead people's houses and dispose of their belongings in estate sales. Anne shows up at one and the sparks fly between the two young adults — but Anne's harboring a secret. She lives in one of those "bad houses," the kind where nothing ever gets thrown away and other people's trash is brought in by her mother, a hoarder. In Bad Houses, a graphic novel written by Sara Ryan, with art by Carla Speed McNeil, two young people struggle to find a reason to be optimistic in a depressed and depressing environment where parents have plenty of problems to go around. It's an honest, riveting look at the rough place so many young adults find themselves in — without opportunity for themselves if they stay, but unable to leave the small towns and families that raised them. — Kel Munger

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