Monday, June 24, 2013

Super Pop! by Daniel Harmon: Review, Interview + Giveaway!

Super Pop Guy
I'm a cool superpop guy!

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Super Pop!: Pop Culture Top Ten Lists to Help You Win at Trivia, Survive in the Wild, and Make It Through the Holidays
Paperback / 288 Pages
June 4, 2013
Zest Books
Super Pop!: Pop Culture Top Ten Lists to Help You Win at Trivia, Survive in the Wild, and Make It Through the Holidays

About Super Pop!

As David Letterman demonstrates every night on the Late Show, top ten lists are really funny. And we know lists are a great way to get organized, get things done, and streamline life’s many tasks. But now, pop culture expert Daniel Harmon takes a totally new approach to list making in his new book Super Pop!: Pop Culture Lists to Help You Win at Trivia, Survive in the Wild, and Make It Through the Holidays and organizes 500 movies, songs, video games, and books into top ten lists that not only have the power to entertain, but also to help create a new and better you!

I loved the idea behind these lists. How did you come up with the concept?

With a very few exceptions (A.V. Club’s “Inventory” series, for instance, or the Criterion Collection’s top ten films feature), most lists and recommendations on the internet are pretty unsurprising. In December you get the Christmas movie lists, on Valentine’s Day you get the romantic movies lists, and on every other day of the year you see the same basic set of books, movies, games, and songs no matter where you read your news. Some of the titles may change, but it’s hard to find anything that’s really going to open your eyes.

For me, this phenomenon became most frustrating when I was looking for a few new movies to add to my annual Christmas movie marathon party (a twelve hour “party”  which, according to tradition, only I am able to enjoy). It was almost impossible to find any list that went much further than all the old standards and a few new staples. The fact that it was so hard to search for Christmas movies that went beyond the classics was, on the one hand, frustrating, but on the other hand kind of exciting. Because there are a lot of great movies about snow and dysfunctional families—so where was that list!? That is Christmas!

I wanted to write a book of lists that took recognizable occasions (like holidays) and phenomena (like pretentiousness, say, or survival books) and offered some new ideas.

That’s the long answer. The short answer is: I came up with this concept because I needed a way to tell people to drop everything and stream Tell No One, read Deliverance, download the “Hang up and Listen” podcast, and go watch Beyonce’s “Countdown” video again. 

What specific challenges while writing this book did you encounter because it was a book of lists?

The biggest challenge was the one you would probably expect: It’s hard to write 500-ish short entries on pop culture and not sound really repetitive after a while—especially if you follow the same formula all the time. My “solution”  to this problem was to try and find new ways of coming at things. In almost all of the entries I needed to give a sense of the item I was discussing, but I tried to use humor—and a pretty liberal sense of “relevance”—to keep things interesting. 

Do you have any writing quirks such as eating an entire apple before you write (I read that somewhere once, but I can't remember where)?

Ha. My main quirk was sitting in front of my computer screen for three to four hours each night and wondering how I was going to say something interesting and funny about something that a lot of smart and funny people had already thought and written about—sometimes ad proverbial nauseum.  Then, after those three to fours had expired, I would usually get to work. I never got over that quirk.

I also have a tendency to utter loud guttural noises while typing, and to bang my fingers on the keyboard like a furiously rabid/very excitable animal instead of working like a human. Both of those things are happening right now. Both of those things are drawing expressions of disapproval from those around me.

How do you expect your book to impact a reader?

I hope that people who buy the book will get something that they can read for fun and use as a real resource when they feel either short of inspiration in their own life or lacking in new ideas for their next night at home.

What sort of reader should read your book?

Zest is primarily a publisher of non-fiction books for teens and young adults, but in writing Super Pop! I also tried to produce something that I (at 32) would also want to pick up and read. Otherwise I just couldn't have finished the book. Pop culture is inescapable and it can often feel like a burden. There are always books that we feel we have to read and movies that other people are going to be talking about, and that kind of pressure can take the fun out of our entertainment. By organizing the lists in my book into five different self-improvement themes, I tried to show how our guilty pleasures really do have the power to make us better people. So if you’re looking for new recommendations or just want to find a way to feel better about the things you already love, then this book’s for you—no matter how old you are.

Name 10 thing someone should know about you.

    1. My name is Daniel Harmon and people call me Dan, but I am not, nor ever was, the show-runner on Community.
    2. My phone numbers still has a  203 area code. This is because, once upon a time, I felt like I was made for “small town living,” and I moved into a boarding house in southern Connecticut. As it turns out, I was not really made for small town living, and the town I was living in was not really a small town as much as it was a suburb of Manhattan.
    3. In “comfortable” clothes I am profoundly uncomfortable. As a result I own no pajamas and wear no leisure wear.
    4. When I was a kid I was terrified of moving pictures that were not animated. I ran out of Superman II at a friend’s birthday party. I also refused to go downstairs at another birthday party where I knew that Benji was on the TV. Benji is about a friendly dog that does friendly things. I was six years old.
    5. My feet are the hottest feet in the world, all the time. I have to sleep in socks because otherwise the bed gets too hot. (My feet are my enemy; they are winning the war.)
    6. I like everything that I eat to be very spicy, but, paradoxically, I think the relatively un-spicy Spanish padron pepper is the greatest pepper in the world.
    7. I have never finished a meal without dropping something on the floor. When the thing I drop is not a plate or a chair, I am happy.
    8. I like to sing karaoke but it makes people angry at me because I have a broken voice. (My heart, however, will always go on.)
    9. My favorite color is white, because it contains all colors within itself. (Just kidding my favorite color is really blorange—a San Francisco Giants-themed combination of black and orange.)
    10. I think it’s dumb that we’re not allowed to use “left index finger” as a utensil during meals. I find this tool to be the most efficient one in getting my food onto my fork.

If some unforeseen circumstances brought the death of pop culture, name one book you'd lock up to protect?

I think my number one book would be In Search of Lost Time. That or the Tintin omnibus—as soon as that comes out.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading Wolf Hall for my book club right now and I’m listening to Titus Groan during my commute. And I’m looking forward to reading Blankets as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

Why is that some of us are obsessed with lists? I have 1001 books to read, 1001 children's books to read, 1001 things to see, foods to eat, beers to drink, video games to play. I even have 2002 things to before I die. That's why I love this book:

1. Mixed pop culture. Drama, action, classic, romance, rock, pop, etc. Unlike lists that usually stick to one genre of culture. If they're daunting lists, that gets old fast. Also:

2. Short, sweet, lists. Easy to accomplish over a month. So, you feel a sense of accomplishment. 

3. Humor. Who doesn't need a good laugh? And Daniel Harmon is funny.

4. Different sorts of lists. For those of with attention problems. Or who just get bored easy.  

So, it sits on your coffee table - or your bathroom shelf - and you can grab it whenever. When you need a distraction, when you're bored, when you're energetic, etc

When it comes to Superpop?

Buy It | Read It | Borrow It | Toss It | Burn It 
Get Your Copy!: Amazon & The Book Depository

Free stuff time!

One (1) Signed paperback copy, Superpop! button, and swag!


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