The Onion Presents Our Front Pages: 21 Years of Greatness, Virtue, and Moral Rectitude from America's Finest News Source | Scribner | 304 pages | $28

From its mimeographed beginnings as a parody paper on the campus of UW-Madison in 1988, through to that momentous night last November — BLACK MAN GIVEN NATION'S WORST JOB — and onwards to today, the Onion has been a weekly journal perfectly in tune with these interesting times.

Back on the Reagan/Bush cusp, the paper's headlines weren't especially topical — nor, in truth, always that funny: MENDOTA MONSTER MAULS MADISON was the first, on a page whose real estate was taken up by coupons to college-area eateries and warnings about bike theft. It was the sort of insular campus in-joke typified by a later headline like SEXY LITTLE NUMBER TRANSFERS FROM IOWA STATE.

But it's hard not to long for those innocent years, when the humor skewed toward pop-culture inanities (AREA BOWL CASHED; CHRIST RETURNS TO NBA) and the most pointed political satire was a headline, as the Gulf War ramped up, proclaiming CANADA SIGNS NONAGRESSION PACT WITH THE UNITED STATES

Because soon it was laugh-to-keep-from-crying time: from the lurid stupidity of the late Clinton years (LEWINSKY SUBPOENAED TO REBLOW CLINTON ON SENATE FLOOR) to the nightmare of January 20, 2001 (BUSH: OUR LONG NATIONAL NIGHTMARE OF PEACE AND PROSPERITY IS FINALLY OVER was the eerily prescient headline that week) to the cautious dark humor of the post–9/11 world: AMERICAN LIFE TURNS INTO BAD JERRY BRUCKHEIMER MOVIE.

— Mike Miliard

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