It's time to stock up on more bizarre books 2015.02.18


The snowstorm earlier this month left me with enough time to read several books I’ve had for a while, but never got around to finishing. I like to hang on to some of my favorites to peruse again in the future, but my supply of unread tomes is nearly exhausted.

Since I get almost weekly closeout catalogs from a Connecticut bookseller, it’s pretty easy to purchase more books. The only question is: How strange is too strange when selecting reading material?

For instance, do I want to spend $12.95 on “The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us About Evolution, Ecology and a Sustainable Society?” In it, the author supposedly “makes a compelling argument for a deeper understanding of human and animal waste.” What’s more, it takes him 198 pages to do it. I think I’ll pass.

Then there’s “Poets Ranked by Beard Weight.” In it, we learn “how Whitman’s beard stacks up against Browning’s, Longfellow’s and Tennyson’s in this classic of Edwardian esoterica.” I think  the best selling point is the fact that at a bargain-basement $1.95 for 211 pages, it’s less than a penny per page. That’s even a better deal than “How to Poo at Work,” which costs $3.95 for 144 pages of advice on “handling a range of potentially awkward situations in the office bathroom.”

Or I could buy two books by an author named Drew Friedman and corner the market on knowledge about old Jewish comedians. The pair of books are “More Old Jewish Comedians” and “Even More Old Jewish Comedians.” I have to wonder if Friedman has actually written three books on the subject, with the first in the trilogy titled simply “Old Jewish Comedians.” 

That would better explain the names of  Friedman’s two books in the closeout catalog. For those who want more books about funny Jews right now, the catalog also has “Old Jews Telling Jokes” by Sam Hoffman. Buy all three and kiss over $20 goodbye. 

On a more serious note, there’s “How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You.” It cost $9.95 and checks in at a rather thin 131 pages, but if you’re a cat owner, it might be the best ten bucks you ever spent. In my case, no cat, no need to spend the $9.95.

Actually, I think there’s a much better chance that I’d enjoy reading “The Dark Side of Apple Pie, Baby Food & Bunnies: 220 Scary Facts About the Things You Thought you Loved.” It’s described as “a fascinating look into the flippin’ flip side of life that is as humorous as it is horrifying.” It’s like getting two books for one price! Humor or horror, which half do I read first?

I’m also considering buying “The Worst Towns in the U.S.A.” Unlike the “countless coffee table books that display the seemingly endless virtues of each and every corner of our fifty states, this unflinching volume takes us on a humorous tour of fifty of America’s most repugnant, boring, dangerous and all-around unlivable towns.”

It could be even more fun to try to guess what towns might be included before ordering the book. Then after I received it, I could see how many I got right. I already have a small list of potential candidates, but perhaps I should keep them to myself for now.

I never had or played with any Lego bricks while I was growing up, but I’m still fascinated by “Assassination! The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve U.S. Presidents.” The book “re-creates the shootings and attempted shootings of Lincoln, Kennedy, Roosevelt, McKinley, and others,” all re-enacted with Lego bricks. Yes, Ford’s Theatre, the Grassy Knoll and the Presidents themselves, rendered in life-like plastic bricks. 

Or, if that sounds too morbid, there’s always “Brick Shakespeare,” which enacts four of Shakespeare’s plays, Lego style. Macbeth is probably spinning in his grave. Or maybe, he’s re-creating the Garfield assassination in bricks.

Finally, there’s “How to Predict the Weather with a Cup of Coffee.” This book  claims to teach you “how to screen phone calls using your microwave, how to light a fire with a soda can and a chocolate bar, how to cook the perfect fish with your dishwasher, and much more.” I don’t drink coffee or own a dishwasher so I guess I’ll just screen calls and light fires.

Those are my choices. Should I order a few books, or save the money and go in search of the world’s weirdest library?