Sit down, relax and absorb this read
UNCLE JOHN’S ABSOLUTELY ABSORBING BATHROOM READER Bookwise $19.95
D OING two things at once is an admirably economic use of one’s precious time, so it is easy to recommend any publication in the Bathroom Reader series. (‘Bathroom’ in this instance is used in the overly sensitive American manner, a habit that gives rise to a whole range of questions in itself. However, read ‘toilet’, lavatory’, ‘loo’ or ‘dunny’ for bathroom.)
And once you can get past any possible misconceptions arising from the cover design, the title Uncle John’sAbsolutely AbsorbingAustralianandNewZealand BathroomReaderbytheBathroomReaders Institute and the inevitable punning of the back-cover blurb — ‘you’ll be flushed with excitement’ etc — you will find you have what must be the latest in what must surely be the most worthwhile series of trivia books ever published.
The arrangement of the book raises a ‘chicken or the egg’ question. Each entry is usually one or two pages, some running to three, although some subjects are much longer in total but are spread throughout the book in self-contained episodes. This idea makes each subject easy to digest at a sitting, if you’ll accept a dubious metaphor. It is reasonable to suppose that the publishers/ authors first came up with a book of brief trivia and then used the ‘bathroom reader’ idea as a catchy marketing tool.
Well, it works for me.
There is also the bonus of a quirky fact in small print at the bottom of each and every one of the 500 pages — ‘Zorro is the Spanish for fox’, ‘the average car has 15,000 parts’, and ‘sheep snore’ and so on.
There are scores of unrelated subjects covered, ranging from strange newspaper headlines, weird deaths, unusual bar sports, the origin of familiar phrases and minibiographies of well known people to the origin of ice cream, classic hoaxes and (my
MAKE CAKES, NOT WAR By Judy Horacek Scribe $27.95
A CHARMING little book for Christmas, this best of Judy Horacek will keep you laughing all the way through. She says in her introduction that she became a cartoonist because of her desire to have a say about what is unjust or wrong about our world and she believes cartoon is an ideal medium to put messages and ideas across. This is indeed true and many of the cartoons make these sorts of points. All of them, however, are very funny and for some, the humour is the only point. Despite Horacek’s concerns about social justice, feminism and the environment, she never loses sight of the fact that her main function is to amuse and entertain.
In a word: Hilarious ❏ Following on from the success of There’sAlwaysMoretotheStory, John Laws and Christopher Stewart have put together a second collection of fascinating and compelling real-life Australian stories that reveal an intriguing unknown side of our history. Whether the subject concerns the first Muslim terrorist attack on Australian soil, 90 years ago, the exploits of a South Australian farm boy who made the first submarine voyage under the Arctic ice, or a Scandinavian king who came here as a convict, ItDoesn’tEnd There is full of surprises. These 60-plus stories are a treasure trove of fact and anecdote that will delight not only Laws’s fans but anyone who enjoys Aussie yarns.
In a word: Delightful favourite) the origin of punctuation signs like @, & and most startling of all, !
Being an antipodean edition (the Bathroom Reader series is of American origin) you can learn about the rat catchers of Sydney and New Zealand’s most famous thief. A mercy is that the book is relatively free of sporting trivia which can very quickly become boring, which would only be of use to the constipated.
The Q & A entries are endlessly fascinating for the trivia tragics. Do insects sleep? How does blowing on food cool it off? Why do migrating ducks and geese fly in a V
IT DOESN’T END THERE By John Laws and Christopher Stewart, Macmillan $32.95 WICKER By Kevin Guilfoile Penguin $19.95
❏ DAVIS Moore is a doctor who specialises in cloning — a process which is an extension of IVF in which DNA from a donor is implanted in an egg, and an exact replica of the donor is born. But Dr Davis Moore is a deeply disturbed man since his only daughter was raped and murdered 18 months before. In this unhinged state, Dr Moore decides to clone his daughter’s killer from the DNA left behind at the murder scene. What follows is a densely plotted, complicated thriller with many levels. The clone is born and Dr Moore keeps a close eye on him — he is the only person aware of the substitution he has made. The plot develops in a disturbing and tense progression until the completely unexpected climax.
In a word: Gripping formation? and How much is one horsepower? These are among the not exactly burning but perhaps smouldering questions covered.
In fact, with a sprinkling of pop star and celebrity facts and shenanigans, the bathroom reader would be an ideal gift for the precocious young reader who is yet to gain an attention span longer than the average video clip.
Having this book open is somewhat like eating peanuts,
In a word: Compulsive.
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS By Sara Gruen Allen & Unwin, $29.95
IF you ever wanted to run away with the circus, if you have ever been passionately in love with the wrong person, if you are scared by the idea of a lonely old age in a nursing home, if you know some animals are cleverer and nicer than most people, if you love largerthan-life characters, lost worlds, high adventure and fairytale endings — this book is for you. Set in the US in 1931, an era defined by Prohibition and the Depression, WaterforElephants follows Jacob Jankowski as he drops out of veterinary school and accidentally joins Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show On Earth travelling by train across the country. Circuses are failing just like other businesses and life on the road is tough. Uncle Al, the ringmaster who bought the Benzinis’ circus and their name, is a good showman, an unscrupulous businessman and a brutal boss. Roustabouts are ‘redlighted’ — thrown off the moving train — when they make trouble, and sick horses are fed to the lions when cash runs short. But Jacob and his unlikely collection of friends Camel, Kinko, Marlena, Rosie and Bobo (not all human but all worth knowing) are at the heart of the story, and it is a story with a big, warm heart. Gruen’s writing has the deceptive simplicity which makes its excellence invisible — no cleverness or sentimentality here, just a great story well told.
In a word: Wonderful.
DYMOCKS 1. Sylvia by Bryce Courtenay 2. My Story by General Peter Cosgrove 3. The Tesle Legacy by Robert G. Barrett 4. Next by Michael Crichton 5. Treasure of Khan by Clive Cussler ANGUS & ROBERTSON 1. Sylvia by Bryce Courtenay 2. Cook With Jamie by Jamie Oliver 3. Little Miss Christmas by Roger Hargreaves 4. Mr Christmas by Roger Hargreaves 5. The Valley by Di Morrissey BUMBLEBEE BOOKS 1. Eragon by Christopher Paolini 2. Sylvia by Bryce Courtenay 3. Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris 4. Steve Irwin by Trevor Baker 5. The Great War by Les Carlyon MARY WHO? BOOKSHOP 1. The Inheritence of Loss by Kiran Desai 2. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins 3. The Mission Song by John Le Carre 4. Underground by Andrew McGahan 5. Dalrymple by Gordon Smith PROGRESS BOOK WORLD 1. The Great War by Les Carlyon 2. Treasure of Khan by Clive Cussler 3. Sylvia by Bryce Courtenay 4. Cat O’ Nine Tales by Jeffrey Archer 5. Circle of Flight by John Marsden