The Boston Globe’s bestseller lists tend toward the highbrow: literary novels, serious histories, public policy tomes. So when a slim, not-terribly-serious book took up a slot on the paperback nonfiction list for a couple of weeks in late May, we wondered why.
“F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers” (Chronicle) is the latest in a series of books in which Richard Benson compiles humorously incorrect student answers to teachers’ tests. (To list but one example: “What was the main industry in Persia? Cats.”)
According to Dana Brigham of Brookline Booksmith, where another of Benson’s books, “F for Effort,” is a perennial top seller, these books are “very much a graduation gift.” This time of year, both Harvard Book Store and Brookline Booksmith set up tables of graduation gift ideas — in Brookline, these range from books for all ages to “atlases, globes, dictionaries — those are still gifts that people love to give,” says Brigham.
“We have a whole display of graduation books that have been selling quite well,” says Harvard Book Store’s Sira Dooley Fairchild, including “Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art,’ Paul Farmer’s ‘To Repair the World,’ ‘How to Be Interesting’ [by Jessica Hagy], and ‘10½ Things No Commencement Speaker Ever Said’ [by Charles Wheelan].”
Another popular grad gift is Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” appropriate for everyone from newly-minted pre-K alums to millennials leaving college for an economy scary enough to make them yearn nostalgically for a book their mothers once read after tucking them in.
“These answers may be wrong, but they’re wrong with panache, wrong in deliciously cheeky ways,” says the staff recommendation card accompanying the book at Harvard Book Store, making a case for the usefulness of good bad answers: “Rather than leave a forgettable blank, these inspired souls have chosen to creatively redefine the question in question, using a special brand of marvelously twisted logic.”
Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at email@example.com.