One of my goals, as I sift through these boxes, is to eventually find a truly GOOD book -- something to give me a reason to read again. I don't read books anymore, and I haven't in at least a decade.

When I was a small kid, I read books all the time. I would go to the library about every other day, come out with several juvenile fiction tomes, and read each one within an hour. I read a book about a kid who has to eat fifteen worms in fifteen days for $50. The writing was pure off-the-wall anarchy, and I loved it (read it again, it's even better when you're grown up). I read a book about a school that is thirty stories tall and full of weird kids, clever wordplay and living dead rats -- it's still my favorite book of all time. I read a book about a kid with unusual talents who united a racially divided town and spent a summer with a poor old illiterate man. It was better than chocolate.

But as I got older, books aimed at my age level started getting less imaginative, less humorous, and less fun. At age six I read a book about a fat kid who turns into a chimpanzee and swings off into the jungle (that was the ending, not the plot). Just try to find something like that for ages twelve and above -- it ain't happening. To make matters worse, my teachers forced me to read a lot of grim serious books I really didn't want to read. In over half the stories the main character was a Jew in a Nazi-occupied country, which is the most depressing historical situation you can use. I never felt the apparent obsession was out of tolerance or hatred of war, but because the author WANTED to depress people and the Holocaust was the equivalent of hitting the Staples Easy Button. As I sat in class, forced to share the misery of yet another mensch being tortured to death, I longed for a fat kid to show up, turn into a chimpanzee, pants Hitler and run off ooking. But no one wrote anything like that for a middle-schooler. Reading books became a chore, not an enjoyment. And when I finally graduated and had the free will to stop, I quit 'em cold turkey.

These days, I look at the rack of books for adults and feel massive boredom. They take themselves too seriously, are way way more wordy than they need to be, and are sorted by machine. If you want a crime drama, you go to the Crime Drama section and pick from 6,500 Crime Dramas with very similar covers and very similar plots. If you want a Murder Mystery Starring a Psychic Dwarf, you go to the Psychic Dwarf Murder Mysteries Section and choose from 7,352 of those. It feels so...cold. When I was a kid, and looked for books, I never knew what I was getting because everything was thrown into one section: "Children's Fiction." There was a sense of awe there. I found a book in a Powell's box that was stamped "A Time Travel Mystery" in the corner. This publisher had a whole division for nothing but mysteries that involved time travel. How boring is that?

"So let me get this straight," you say. "In summary, you won't start reading books again until, let's say, Nicholas Sparks writes a book about eating worms." Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Is that so hard to understand?

What follows is a textbook example of the literature genre "Muffin Horror," which is a term I just made up right now, based on this one book:

Muffin Horror is suspense fiction that isn't really as scary as it pretends to be, whether intentionally (because it's for kids) or because of bad writing. "THE MALL" is a vintage early 90's example. Teen thrillers are always about a murderous psychotic stalker coming after a hapless girl. The only difference between this one and all the others is...the muffins. The girl works at a place called "Muffin Madness" where the bad guy first meets her. Muffins are frequently mentioned, as if muffins are frightening on their own.

The horror! The muffin!

For an extra treat, it turns out somebody actually wrote in this one. Maybe it was him!

If you're having difficulties making it out, a full verbatim translation can be found here.

Speaking of's another thing with a mall in it.

Nifty cover, eh? I think it is good but not great but oh well.

My next throwaway pick comes from the King of Muffin Horror himself.

What's scarier than sewer clowns? Or a little boy that lives in your mouth? How about....OLD BUICKS? Eh? That do it for you?

It's not supposed to. The truth is, not everything Stephen writes is intended to be scary and this is one of his "others." It's just dressed up by the publisher to fool you into believing it's the next Shining, at least until you've paid for it. This cover exemplifies Muffin Horror, especially the tagline on the back....


In actuality, it'd be far more frightening to say "There are Toyotas manufactured between 2003 and 2009 everywhere."