By Justin Sanders

Maybe we need to start reading more literature and less paperbacks with Fabio on the cover, or maybe we're just unlucky, but whatever the case, once again, the Mercury's round up of recommended book titles for 2003 is just... well, pretty good. There's not an instant classic in the bunch, though if you're lucky, you could probably sell a few back to Powell's when you're done. Or, do what Katie Shimer did with Empire Falls, and use it as a wedge to keep your broken toilet from bumping against the wall. And now, the top 38 through 28 books of the year!

#38. Portajohnny, Johnny Ryan (Fantagraphics)--This collection of Angry Youth Comix and Blecky Yuckerella creator Ryan's disgustingly hilarious early works is perfect... for reading on the shitter.

#37. You Are Not A Stranger Here, Adam Haslett (Bantam)--Okay, so this one probably will make some Top 10 lists, but Haslett's debut collection of short stories about mental illness is so elegant and gorgeous, it would hurt not to mention it.

#36. Bench Press, Sven Lindqvist (Granta)--Lindqvist's short, sweet memoir on dreams and weightlifting is the strangest exercise book you'll ever read.

#35. And Now You Can Go, Vendela Vida (Knopf)--This story of a woman's coping after being held at gunpoint succeeds in a way few narrative-driven novels can.

#34. It's A Man's World, edited by Adam Parfry (Feral House)--A gorgeous coffee table book featuring full-color reprints of the bizarre art found in campy men's magazines during the '50s and '60s. Our favorite depicts an epic war between the U.S. military and a gang of ferocious polar bears.

#33. Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon, Chuck Palahniuk (Crown)--Palahniuk's quirky personalized tour of the Rose City points out landmarks like the downtown corner where he got the shit beat out of him one time.

#32. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, by Toby Young (DaCapo)--It just doesn't get any more entertainingly pointless than British journalist Young's snarky memoir of working for Vanity Fair.

#31. Reefer Madness, Eric Schlosser (Houghton Mifflin)--The Fast Food Nation author's second book investigates pot, migrant labor, and porn. A little scatterbrained, but never boring.

#30. Going the Other Way, Billy Bean (Marlowe & Co.)--An openly gay retired professional baseball player's brave and entertaining memoir of his career in the Big Leagues.

#29. Copia, Casey Kwang (Pinball)--The Asian-American Kwang's poems on drugs, love, and family compile the most passionate, vibrant anthology we read this year.

#28. Faster than the Speed of Light, Joao Magueijo (Perseus)--New theories of cosmology are rarely as thrillingly explained as in Magueijo's funny, irreverent memoir of his quest to prove one of Einstein's fundamental ideas... wrong.


By Erik Henriksen

Many decades from now, with wee grandchildren sitting atop your knees and flying cars zooming across the sky, you will be able to brag: "I witnessed one of the most okay years in cinema's history." Your grandkids won't care for your blathering nostalgia, but like all old folk, you'll still attempt to regale them with vague recollections. "Moving-pictures that year were resoundingly alright," you'll recall. "But then, they weren't even holographic, andÉ butÉ." Then you'll trail off, fall asleep, and those little assholes will drag you to the nearest suicide booth, just so they won't have to hear you reminisce about the 11 most okay films of 2003.

#38. The Medallion. Pre-Medallion, millions watched Jackie Chan run up walls, juggle ladders, and kick people in the face. Post-Medallion, he was never heard from again.

#37. The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions. You have to give the Wachowskis credit--somehow, they turned an amazing concept into a lethargic mess of self-indulgence and mediocre CGI. Astonishingly, they then followed it up with a film that was even worse.

#36. Brother Bear. Creatively bankrupt, Disney finally succumbed to the fact that they're Pixar Animation Studio's bitch. Unless this Haunted Mansion franchise really takes off, that is.

#35. Timeline. Didn't see it? Neither did I!

#34. Bulletproof Monk. Who the fuck brainstormed teaming up Seann William Scott with Chow Yun Fat?

#33. The Rundown. Was it the same dipshit who decided to cast him opposite The Rock?

#32. Freaky Friday. There's a rumor that Jamie Lee Curtis is secretly a hermaphrodite, which invokes a sense of lurid curiosity--and is the only explanation I have as to how she's still making movies. Also, the rumor exponentially improves this film's title.

#31. Bruce Almighty. Jim Carrey proved his shtick is no longer funny--except for The Majestic, when it's fucking hilarious!

#30. Underworld. Question: How rad would it have been to have a balls-out vampires vs. werewolves movie? Answer: TOTALLY AWESOME! Sidebar: This was not that movie.

#29. Radio. Do activists for the developmentally disabled know why people still use the term "retarded"? It's because of movies like this, which are retarded.

#28. Wrong Turn. Like Deliverance, except if Burt Reynolds wore a tank top and had a sweet rack. Please note that the preceding sentence is far scarier than Wrong Turn ever managed to be. And yetÉ that image is strangely arousing, yes?