My Ten Favorite Books – The Meme!

Lying, figuring things out

My friend ADD tagged me to participate in My Ten Favorite Books – The Meme! In this regard, I do what I’m told.

I’ve been talking to [his friend] Aaron a lot about reading lately. He’s been building an incredible collection and even created a delightful, beautiful, and comfy-looking reading nook in his home.

Part of the reason I may not be reading a lot is that I need a comfortable place to do so. I used to have this wonderful recliner in the living room. I could sleep in it when I broke my rib in 2009. But my wife tossed it because the cats clawed it to raggedness. There’s a chair in the attic, but it would take a crane to get to it downstairs.

All this got me thinking about my own personal library, which is maybe a tenth the size it once was, but I kept all the essentials and these are my ten favorites. The individual photos are roughly in order of how much I adore them, but on any given day they might swap places on the list.

Books in my office surround me, save for the window at 8 o’clock and the door at five o’clock. The books to my right are my wife’s. The rest of them are mine.

I chose these based on the following criteria: – Quality of writing – The intellectual and/or entertainment value – The joy reading them gave and gives me – Their significance over time – The despair I would feel if I didn’t have them I tagged 10 friends. If you like, play along, preferably with photos of your own personal copies.

Based on these criteria, here we go, in no particular order.


The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus by Fred Hembeck. Even before I met Fred, I enjoyed his illustrated musings in the Comics Buyer’s Guide (CBG). I met Fred in February 1980, when FantaCo, the comic book store I frequented in Albany, NY, had a signing of his second collection, Hembeck 1980.

Then I started working at FantaCo in May 1980, and I, as the mail order guy, shipped out the remaining five Hembeck magazines, plus the expanded first issue, initially published by Eclipse in the early 1980s.

Skip to 2008. Fred has compiled those seven issues, backup stories in Smilin’ Ed #1 and #4, plus a WHOLE lot more. I was in Saratoga Springs, helping Fred haul boxes of his tome to a comic book convention. It was then I received my signed copy.

Play The Game: The Book of Sports, edited by Mitchell V. Charney. It’s a 1931 book collection of stories from 1923 forward published in American Boy magazine, with articles by Red Grange, Grantland Rice, and writers I don’t know. I’ve had it since childhood, and I had a reason to pull it off the shelf as recently as September 2023.


Figuring Sh!t Out: Love, Laughter, Suicide, and Survival – Amy Biancolli (2015). Signed to me, my wife, and our daughter. About surviving the suicides in her life, including that of her husband, Christopher Ringwald. Chris had written A Day Apart: How Jews, Christians, and Muslims Find Faith, Freedom, and Joy on the Sabbath (2007); I have a copy signed to me. I got to hear him speak on the topic in my church, and I had some minor role in arranging that a few years before his tragic death.

The Sweeter the Juice: A Family Memoir in Black and White by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip. When I wrote a blog post making a passing reference in 2005 about it, I got an email from her! I wrote far more about the book in the 2008 follow-up post.

The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh. The Ninth Edition, which I believe is the last one, came out in 2007. It is a historical treasure trove of descriptions of shows I watched and others I had never heard of. Importantly, it had an index of performers, September schedules (back when fall season premieres mattered), and ratings. I have lots of reference books, notably for music, but this is the most readable.

I have quoted the birthday info from Here and Now: Living in the Spirit by Henri J.M. Nouwen several times. But there’s a whole lot more to the book.

Growing Up by Russell Baker. I read it several times in the 1990s. His essays in the New York Times I read regularly.

What is truth

 Lying by Sissela Bok. I’ve stolen this Amazon review because it captures the book so well: “Sissela Bok challenges the reader to consider the effects of lying on the individual, relationships, and society. The author systematically covers the spectrum of lies from ‘little white lies’ to avoid an unwanted dinner invitation to the arguably moral lies required to survive in a totalitarian state – taking the reader step by step through a journey of increasingly complex moral questions. The book argues that lying, as it is often conducted in society, often lacks the moral basis of those few cases where it can be justified.”


How To Be An Antiracist (2019) by Ibram X. Kendi. As I noted here, I was taken by his owning up to his tacit misogyny, homophobia, and classism before he finally figured it out.

This is despite some apparent mismanagement, as reported in the Boston Globe:

“The numbers were staggering: nearly $55 million raised in just three years. And the ambitions were no less lofty. The Center for Antiracist Research, launched by celebrity author and activist Dr. Ibram X. Kendi at the height of the 2020 racial justice movement, strove to “solve [the] intractable racial issues of our time.”

“But… that dream has come crashing down, with more than half the center’s staff laid off, a new and far less ambitious vision revealed, and an inquiry launched by Boston University, which houses the center, into its culture and ‘grant management practices.'”

Everything on this list might or might not be on another iteration. But the one item has been on since I first read it in late 2011. Life Itself by Roger Ebert. As I wrote here, “I decided that, if I were ever to write my own autobiography – not that I necessarily would – it should be modeled on this book.”


How terribly strange to be 70

Psalm 90:10

RogerGreenBirthdayCartoon490How terribly strange to be 70. I’ve used that title twice before in this blog, and you can probably guess when in 2011: on October 13 and November 5.

Now, I’M three score and ten, which is old. Or at least oldish.

Psalm 90:10 in the King James Version reads, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

In case you don’t recognize the artist, the work was created by my friend  Fred Hembeck in 2007. Fred gave me the original black and white piece, on which he indicated, “54 ROCKS!”  He’s a full five weeks older than I am.  I believe I’ll use this illustration every five years, just because.

The home church

Sister Leslie took the photo on her phone. It was when we visited Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church at the corner of Oak and Lydia Streets in Binghamton, NY, on October 9, 2022.

The room used to be the Sunday School room when I was a kid. My paternal grandmother, Agatha Helen (Walker) Green (1902-1964), taught me. Now, the room is used as a memorial to the Departed Loved Ones of the church.

On the wall, along with photos of Mrs. Armstrong (left of center), and Mr. Woodward, is my Grandma Green, more or less hovering over my head. I don’t THINK that was the photographer’s intent, but it’s a rather cool effect.

Not incidentally, the church – specifically, my father’s cousin Ruth – requested a picture of my parents for the wall. My sisters and I ought to work on that.

Anyway, it’s my birthday, divisible by five (and seven and two), no less, so that’s enough for today.

Fred Hembeck is 70

What the World Needs Now

Fred HembeckI first met Fred Hembeck at FantaCo, the comic book store at 21 Central Avenue in Albany, NY, in February 1980. That was about three months before I would work there.   The occasion was a signing for Hembeck 1980, published by FantaCo.

But I knew his work from the weekly strips that he did for the Buyer’s Guide to Comic Fandom.  Here’s a brief review by former Marvel editor Tom Brevoort, who nails what I liked about his work.

“Hembeck was great–he had an appealing style, he didn’t take the subject matter too seriously (and simultaneously took it very, very seriously, a dichotomy I could appreciate), and he was a like a comic book archaeologist, digging through old issues to find weird and forgotten stories to spotlight.”

Fred created seven Hembeck magazines with FantaCo, He also made some spot illos for other FantaCo pubs, including the three FantaCo Chronicles I edited. We also became friends. A few years later, he moved from Rensselaer County downstate, and we lost touch for a while.

Then in 2004 – and I’ve mentioned this before – our mutual friend Rocco asked if I had read Fred’s blog. I had never read ANYONE’S blog. But I devoured his writings going back to January 2003.

Eventually, I would send Fred blog ideas or questions, and my name started appearing in his columns, starting in January 2005.

Around the same time, we exchanged CD mixes. His were more eclectic than mine, featuring discs of Andy Williams, Robbie Williams, and Beatles covers. His discs of 1960s tunes were epic.

In time, I decided that I’d start my blog. Fred plugged it. Moreover, I visited his extensive blog roster, checked out some of those folks, and commented on their blogs. That’s how I “met” Lefty, Gordon, Eddie, and even Greg.


Then my family started being in his general neighborhood once each summer. So from 2006 to 2013, my wife, daughter, and I would visit his family, a grand time in which Fred and I would philosophically muse about media.

He tends to stay with television programs he started with to the end, whereas I will give up. We were both describing the same song but remembering different parts: What the World Needs Now/Abraham, Martin, and John by Tom Clay.

These days, I tend to see him at the Albany Comic Con when I can make it, which was impacted by COVID. I should note that Fred does NOT have squiggles where his elbows and knees should be, though his comic book persona does.

So now Fred is older than I am, for about five weeks. Happy birthday, effendi.

Happier Now Sunday Stealing

Hembeck, ADD, AmeriNZ, Forgotten Stars

happier nowThe Happier Now Sunday Stealing questions this week are all over the place.

What flavor Popsicle is the best?

I haven’t had Popsicles in years. But I remember that I favored grape, lime, cherry, and orange, in approximately that order.

Do you have a DVR feature with your cable?

Yes, and increasingly it’s the ONLY way I can watch television. It’s not only much faster – JEOPARDY! in 18 minutes – but I also get to avoid the plethora of advertisements for prescription drugs that are ubiquitous on American television. I’ve been told, and someone can correct me, that the ads are banned everywhere except in the US and New Zealand.

How many drawers does your dresser have?

Five. Or not nearly enough.

Is your closet a mess?

Actually, I have an armoire. After our daughter was born, the room with a large closet became her bedroom for a time. Now it’s my wife’s office. So no.

Have you ever solved a Rubik’s Cube?

No, but I haven’t tried in decades.

Describe your favorite pair of pajama pants:

They’re blue and have moose on them.

What color is your wallet?

The brown color of probably faux leather.

Do you find flea markets and thrift shops enjoyable?

Not really. The cost (of time)/benefit (the find) is too unbalanced. Sorry, Eddie.


Have you met amazing people online?

Yes. I could write a whole blog post on this topic. When I first started blogging in 2005, I followed my friend Fred Hembeck’s now-defunct but still extant blog. I met a slew of great folks there, including Lefty, Gordon, the aforementioned Eddie, and even Greg.

I discovered the late Dustbury, who died in 2019. So I know fillyjonk because I knew Charles Hill.

I stumbled upon Denise Nesbitt’s ABC Wednesday, which I participated in for about a decade. I met Leslie and many other fine folks.

The local newspaper, the Times Union, used to have a blog platform. I still follow folks such as Chuck Miller and J. Eric Smith, the latter of whom is no longer in the area.   

Then there are people for whom I have NO idea how I “met” them, such as  Arthur and Kelly.

This doesn’t count all of the people I’ve become reacquainted with, including Steve Bissette,  Alan David Doane, and a bunch of folks on Facebook.

Between the lines

Would you be happy if I colored a picture for you?

Only if it’s better than I would draw for myself, which is almost certainly going to be true.

What show do you think ‘made’ the 90’s?

Law and Order, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, NYPD Blue… I think I’m supposed to say Seinfeld or Friends.

Are you happier now than you were last year?

Yes, because 2021 was too COVIDy. An odd observation, I suppose, since I actually GOT COVID in August 2022. But I’ve gone to a few movies, attended plays, eaten at a few restaurants, and participated in the church choir in 2022.

What are you currently drinking?

Not alcohol, and that’s about calories, not any other consideration. Arnold Palmer.

Do you trust people easily?

Not especially. I don’t DISTRUST people out of hand, but when they’ve betrayed me, I always remember. I can forgive, but I seldom forget.

What are you looking forward to in the next three months?

My daughter will be home from her first semester of college.

What if the FantaCo Chronicles had continued?

We did magazines about the X-Men (Dave Cockrum cover, edited by me), Fantastic Four (John Byrne cover, mine), Daredevil (Frank Miller cover, edited by Mitch Cohn), the Avengers (George Perez cover, Mitch’s), and Spider-Man (Byrne cover, mine).

spider-man chroniclesAlan David Doane, who was a regular customer at FantaCo, the comic book store/publisher where I worked from 1980-1988 asked:

If you could have edited five more FantaCo Chronicles volumes, what comics/characters would you have chosen, who would be the main interview subject in each, and who would you have chosen to draw the covers?

First, a review: we did magazines about the X-Men (Dave Cockrum cover, edited by me), Fantastic Four (John Byrne cover, mine), Daredevil (Frank Miller cover, edited by Mitch Cohn), the Avengers (George Perez cover, Mitch’s), and Spider-Man (Byrne cover, mine).

I was happy to get almost anyone good to do the covers. Owner/publisher Tom Skulan didn’t want Cockrum to do the X-Men cover, not out of artistic taste. He believed Dave was also doing that Official Marvel Index cover for the X-Men. We tried getting several others, including Wendy Pini of Elfquest fame.

Byrne was great for the FF front cover, but Perez was late for the back, which is why the front and back were the same, and for no additional charge. Miller was supposed to do Spider-Man but he found that he could not, and Byrne did that cover extremely fast.

After getting chewed out by Marvel’s Jim Shooter, we were steering away from doing any more of their titles. In fact, a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Chronicles (and other “underground” titles) was even announced but never released; that would have certainly been edited by Mitch Cohn.

I was in early conversations with Denis Kitchen about doing something with Kitchen Sink Enterprises, which surely would have been driven by Will Eisner’s Spirit.

To your question about future Chronicles:

The Defenders, with an emphasis with Doctor Strange. Writer Steve Gerber, for sure. Cover by Sal Buscema.

Captain America and Iron Man, who of course, shared Tales of Suspense; this would make indexing easier. Cap writer Steve Englehart; I LOVED that run. Cover by John Buscema.

Characters related to the Fantastic Four: Silver Surfer, the Inhumans and Black Panther, for sure. She-Hulk? Luke Cage? Oh, what the heck – Stan Lee. Cover by Byrne.

The Hulk and Sub-Mariner, who were in Tales to Astonish for a time. Bill Bixby, because I was a big fan of My Favorite Martian. Cover by Herb Trimpe.

Thor plus any Avengers not covered – Ant-Man/Giant Man, et al. The underrated Marie Severin. Walt Simonson turned the Thunder God upside down.

Of course, I have no idea if I could GET any of those artists, save for Byrne. Maybe we would have asked Fred Hembeck, who was friends with a number of artists in the Mid-Hudson. And he could have done a great take on Tales to Astonish #100.

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