A biohazard that's good for you

It arrived in a clear plastic wrapper, as if the contents would contaminate my fingers. "WTF?" I wondered as I sorted through my mountain of health and medicine galleys. I've seen a lot of gimmicks in my day—whoopee cushions, cookies, and disgustingly racist figurines—but this biohazard gag was working for me. The cover, depicting the author behind an ostensibly locked door in a hospital setting, drew me in further. Then I did what every first-time writer wants a book review editor to do, though I rarely have the time or inclination, and started to read the book. That's right: I stopped dead in the middle of a mad-dash, slightly overdue assigning frenzy and read. At my desk. At three in the afternoon on a Tuesday. And here's the kicker—I didn't fall asleep. In My Pet Virus: The True Story of a Rebel Without a Cure (October, Tarcher), Shawn Decker doesn't display the heady language of a Nick Flynn (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City), but he's got an addictive voice nonetheless. His memoir of growing up a hemophiliac with HIV lacks all the self-pity and self-loathing many readers would expect. Humor is the glue that holds this too-brief twist on the coming-of-age story together. For more on Decker, don't miss LJ's annual Editors' Picks cover story in the September 1 issue, where you can also get the scoop on Roger Woolhouse's Locke: A Biography (Cambridge), Wangari Maathai's Unbowed: A Memoir (Knopf), J.M. Ledgard's Giraffe (Penguin Press), HélèneGrimaud's Wild Harmonies: A Life of Music and Wolves (Riverhead), and Marcus Samuelsson's The Soul of a New Cuisine (Wiley).—Heather McCormack