Sit down, re­lax and ab­sorb this read



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

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