1. Birds of MN State Parks (2015)---written by famous MN birder Bob (Robert Janssen), who I work with at the Thrift Store!
"How are you?" I ask Bob.
"Fine," he says.
"How are the birds?" I ask.
"Not good. Things are not good for birds."
But this is a happy book about where you can see loons and bobolinks and warbling vireos and co.
2. Penelope Fitzgerald, Human Voices (1980)
The first Fitzgerald novel I've been able to get into--tales of the folks running the London radio during WWII, from the highly competent to the barely sane, or sometimes both, e.g. the Director of Recording:
"The only thing that's of interest to me at the moment, the only thing I can think about and talk about, that is whenever I'm lucky enough to find anyone in this place who has the slightest comprehension of what I'm saying, the thing that's so much more important to me than happiness or health or sanity, is the improvement I'm hoping to make to the standard microphone windshield. ...I'm not sending my units back into Europe without a better windshield than the one they've got."(Having done the tiniest bit of sound recording myself, I laughed in sympathy.)
3. I also laughed through many of the letters of recommendation by an embattled English prof that make up the novel Dear Committee Members (2014), by Julie Schumacher (another local author), really rants about the decline of the University, and of his life. Serious, but really funny.
4. Still not depressed enough by [all of the above], plus garbage research? Read about soldiers in Iraq! The hair of the dog, as it were.
And the first short story in Phil Klay's collection Redeployment (2014) is about a returning soldier who has to kill his dog.
5. And for light relief, The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), foreword by director George Miller.
This is what I wanted: big still color photos of the details of costumes and cars, which are fashioned from the detritus of civilization. I hadn't noticed, for instance, that Max's muzzle is fashioned from an old garden fork, but I had noticed the use of an old foot-measuring device found in shoe departments as a gas pedal. (A-ha--they are called "brannock devices.")
That's part of the fun of post-apocalyptic stories:
The world has ended, and you have a spoon, some Q-tips, and a box of matches. Go.