Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Top 5 quirky nonfiction titles I have enjoyed

List by Tosca

"A good book has no ending."
- R.D. Cumming

And sometimes a really good book has a quirky title! Although, as I discovered recently, the idea of 'quirky' is entirely subjective. I've always thought my sense of humour was pretty much standard, only it just occurred to me last night to ask myself for the first time, 'Whose standards are you using?'

Last night a younger sibling and I were testing each other with movie trivia (yes, it was a hot ol' night on the town in our household) and everytime I made a funny she whispered, 'I don't get it.' That was my first clue that there was something wrong with my family. Then I tried to explain to another sibling why Barrows/Shaffer's book title is so named and I was laughing...apparently, to myself. She didn't get it. That was my second clue that there's something not quite right about my family. When I caught myself trying to explain why a particular Star Trek mashup was hilarious that's when I realised...I must be adopted. That can be the only explanation for the vastly differing senses of humour that abound in our whanau. To quasi-prove this I wrote out a list of nonfiction quirky titles I found hilarious. None of them elicited any reaction whatsoever from my siblings and yet I laughed uproariously *sigh*

So, here I sit, waiting for my biological parents - who, I'm sure, are a king and queen - to realise they have lost their only Maori princess and come find me. NOW :) Later this week I'm planning on unleashing my very funny (in my own mind) oddly named fiction books on my sisters and then upon the world. FTW! Or something like it. Enjoy my top 5 quirky nonfiction titles!

Honourable mention:
* Don't tell mum I work on the oil rigs: she thinks I'm a piano player in a whorehouse by Paul Carter
* Eats, shoots and leaves: why, commas really do make a difference! by Lynne Truss

Lies and the lying liars who tell them / Al Franken
Offers a whimsical critique of the Right, exposing their deceptive practices, challenging conceptions about the media's liberal bias, and identifying inconsistencies in the Bush administration.

Tosca's note: Al Franken is a hoot with politics. Were I an American I would so be a Democrat and Franken's funny bone is my funny bone. I'm sure of it. Also, how could you go wrong with calling liars lying liars if that's what they are?

Sh*t my dad says / Justin Halpern
Tuesdays with Morrie meets F My Life in this hilarious coming-of-age book about a son's relationship with his foul-mouthed father by the 29-year-old comedy writer who created the massively popular Twitter feed of the same name.

Tosca's note: Gut-bustingly funny (if you're not averse to a curse word or fifty) and the title is exactly how Halpern's dad is: rude and spot on.

Stiff: the curious lives of cadavers / Mary Roach
For 2000 years, cadavers, some willingly, some unwittingly, have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries to tell the story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

Tosca's note: Weirdly, this book worked for me. I'm not morbid, well, I didn't think I was, but Roach's brand of humour and science is very engaging (and easy to read) and that, coupled with the title (especially the subtitle) was a win/win for me. You should also try her books 'Bonk: the curious coupling of science and sex', 'Spook: science tackles the afterlife' and her new title 'Packing for Mars: the curious science of life in the void.'

My family & other animals / Gerald Durrell
"When the unconventional Durrell family can no longer endure the damp, gray English climate, they do what any sensible family would do: sell their house and relocate to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. "My Family and Other Animals" was intended to embrace the natural history of the island but ended up as a delightful account of Durrells familys experiences, from the many eccentric hangers-on to the ceaseless procession of puppies, toads, scorpions, geckoes, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, bats, and butterflies into their home" -- Global Books In Print.

Tosca's note: I admit upfront I'm biased about Durrell's work for one simple reason: I loves me some Durrell. Always have done. Always will do. The fact that he has quite quirkily named books ('Three singles to adventure' and 'Fillets of plaice' are a couple of examples) is a plus and this is forever ever ever on my top 5.

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee / Dee Brown
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is Dee Brown's eloquent, fully documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century. Using council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions, Brown allows the great chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes to tell us in their own words of the battles, massacres, and broken treaties that finally left them demoralized and defeated. A unique and disturbing narrative told with force and clarity, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee changed forever our vision of how the West was really won.

Tosca's note: Some might quibble about my inclusion of Brown's title in this list. To them I say 'Make your own list!' Enjoyable isn't quite the word I want for this book but I can honestly state that the title, and the deeper meaning of the book, stayed with me forever. This book will break your heart. Especially if you're interested in books about indigenous peoples. Have a box of tissues handy. Unless you're one of those stoic-stiff-upper-lip readers. I never was. I remember I was taking tertiary papers (angry, young radical student) and reading this on the train and being so emotionally overcome by it I was crying in public. There I sat with tears rolling down my face, grieving for lost Indian tribes and feeling like my heart was hurting, all the while trying to be silent. An elderly man sitting next to me said, 'Dear, you've just got to stop reading those romances!' Laughing while crying is not advised - I think I dribbled on him *shamefaced look*

There are, no doubt, books I should have added here that I did not. I can only say one thing in my defense: I probably forgot about that particular title at that particular time. So send me YOUR version of this list and I swear, hand on heart, I will add it as a separate post :)

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