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June Staff Picks!

Check out this month’s staff picks from the Betty’s Books crew!


Alex’s Pick


Self Esteem and the End of the World book cover

Self Esteem and the End of the World by Luke Healy

Going into this book, I thought I was heading for a reflective, autobiographical meditation of the self. What I got was, well, that, but so much more! Self Esteem and the End of the World is my first true foray into the world of autofiction, and I couldn’t have chosen a better candidate. The nuance with which Healy marries his true self and experiences to scenes of future ecological disasters, imagined film deals, and family death, is notable! I never felt a transition from autobiography to fiction, because the two were seamlessly strung together in a way that had me dying to know what happened next. I read this in one sitting, laughing the whole way through.

Healy’s humor amidst some fairly dark topics brings this book back up from what could have been a deep hole of lamenting on the tragedy of the state of the world. Instead of luxuriating in depression, we wade together into the ecologically grim future on a boat made of clever jokes and sincere character interactions. Those two things – the humor and the sincerity – combined, resulted in a balanced and enjoyable reading experience.

A particular joke, if you can call it that, which had me laughing out loud, was the spoof on James Clear’s Atomic Habits. In the book, Luke reads several semi-fictionalized self-help books, one of which being titled Mega Habits by an author named Orin Paque. Do you get it? James Clear… O. Paque… That one gave me a good chuckle. Another shoutout-worthy gag that also highlights Healy’s ability to twist technology into devices of absurdism happens early on when Luke overhears his twin brother telling their mother why he didn’t choose Luke to be his best man. Luke catches this via a livestream that was accidentally left on, complete with bunny filters attached to each person’s head. When Luke’s devastated face is captured on the livestream, first unfiltered, then in the next panel bunny-ified as the filter catches up, I (again) laughed out loud. Despite that, the scene also felt so sad. Those feelings often swirled together as I read this book.

I’ve already rambled on and on, and haven’t even gotten to several noteworthy aspects of the book, like the unique use of color (the meaning of which I’d love to dig into more–why do some panels suddenly shift color? What does it indicate?), the fun motif of utilizing a duo of semi-narrating partners in each chapter, and more! I barely touched on the deft way Healy handles the climate crisis, something that’s hard to do well. He never overdoes it (which happens often in media, resulting in a ham-fisted and sometimes preachy-feeling product). The way that this crisis is a backdrop to our protagonist’s personal suffering and growth, coming to the forefront only when necessary, is so refreshing. You can feel the urgency around how quickly things are devolving, and yet the story remains focused on Luke’s internal machinations. Of course, those two things are intertwined, but subtly so. 

This is the first of Healy’s works I’ve read, and it’s full of so many easter eggs and references to his past books, that I’m tempted to plow through them all only to come back and see what new things I notice. If you like philosophical pondering, existentialism, and dry humor, this is definitely the pick for you.


Betty’s Pick


House of X / Powers of X book cover

House of X / Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman; art by Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva

Did you like X-Men ‘97? Or maybe you’ve enjoyed the X-Men movies or are looking forward to Deadpool & Wolverine this summer? Or maybe you don’t like any of that, but just want to dabble in some really cool worldbuilding alongside some grade A soapy drama alongside some super fun futuristic action. House of X / Powers of X is a great place to hop into the contemporary world of X-Men. 

House of X / Powers of X reboots the X-Men franchise with the establishment of Krakoa–an all mutant island nation. FYI: Krakoa itself is a mutant. Charles Xavier also offers miraculous medicines grown on Krakoa–curing cancer and dementia, extending life spans by 5 years– to human nations if they recognize Krakoan sovereignty and play nice. Of course, many humans are not keen on this power play, and seek to undermine the new world order. With the help of his fellow mutants, Charles hopes to manipulate the past and the future in order to secure the dream of Krakoa in the present. Stories intertwine, beloved characters die and are reborn (so classic), and the political and economic realities of an all mutant nation simmer under it all. Eeeeeee! It’s fun.

To me, this was a writing centered collection rather than being super art forward (not so in subsequent trades). Jonathan Hickman is working it. There are even lots of interspersed text only pages that flesh out details of Krakoa: the mutant medicines, political intrigue, MAPS, etc. However, the art by Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva is enjoyable, and I especially appreciated the updated character designs and the detailed rendering of future settings (no spoilers) and the Krakoan landscape. 

Actually it became a bit of a problem that I had so much fun reading House of X/ Powers of X because I have only been reading X-Men all month (Dawn of X 1 through 12). And since I usually try to read a lot of different things to recommend to customers, this was a pretty self-indulgent thing to do. 

It is perfect timing to dive in too because the final issue of the Krakoan Saga, X-Men #35, which marks the 700th (!!) issue of Uncanny X-Men comes out on June 5th, so you won’t even have to wait as you careen through the many many trades  in between House of X / Powers of X and the final Fall of the House of X / Rise of the Powers of X, which releases on August 24th. 

If you are an X-Men fan old or new, I would love to hear your thoughts on your favorite X-Men characters! Email me at betty@bettysbooksstl.com. Alex and I are plotting a podcast, and I am going to strongly advocate for an X-Men episode.


Katie’s Pick


Two Wheels by David Gibb and Brizida MagroTwo Wheels book cover

A heartwarming story about  a family of bike enthusiasts who encourage and help the littlest of the bunch to ride a bike. Flip through the pages to watch as he outgrows a baby bike seat, a balance bike, training wheels, and finally conquers a two wheeler.As a toddler mom, this book hit me in the feels.  I’m teary nearly everyday watching my kiddo acquire new skills and words at a feverish pace. The combo of pride and wistfulness is well captured in this picture book.


Lottie’s Pick


Mech Cadet YuMech Cadet Yu book cover by Greg Pak

Mech Cadet Yu is an amazing western comic for mecha and 90s anime lovers! The cast, starring Yu himself, partner up with sentient gargantuan robots. As they go through a specialized academy to learn how to operate them, the pilots begin to grow deep bonds with their respective robots; bonds that will hopefully help them when piloting the robots to fend off an alien invasion and protect humanity! It’s wonderful, and feels so nostalgic even if you didn’t have a childhood of 90s anime and mechs. I would describe it best as Iron Giant meets Neon Genesis Evangelion, with a tiny touch of Ash Ketchum.