Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bathroom Reading

I don't read in the bathroom much, but certain books are ideal. Unlike novels, the following books can all be read a few pages at a time without losing their continuity.
  • Rock & Roll's Most Wanted by Stuart Shea - "Most Wanted" is a series of books that presents material in the format of "top ten" lists. The lists in this book are pretty good, and Shea provides ample background about each item. Sample lists include "new Bob Dylans," suicides, famous haircuts, bands with unusual instruments, and songs with controversial lyrics. Generally, the content is skewed toward "classic rock" and "top 40" from the 1960s and 1970s, but some more recent entries sneak in. Although several selections are rather arbitrary, I enjoyed reading this book and wished it was longer.
  • Rock and Pop Elevens by Simon Trewin, Tom Bromley and Michael Moran - Taking their cue from Spinal Tap, the authors go with lists of elevens instead of tens. This book is decidedly British, and as such is skewed toward UK music with much more 1980s and 1990s content than Rock & Roll's Most Wanted. I think I have fairly broad tastes and knowledge about music, but sometimes I only recognized one or two names on a list. Also, the book's tone was more smart-alecky and snarky rather than informational. It was a chore to finish. If I had read more of it in the store, I probably wouldn't have bought it. Note: My copy has a much better cover -- an artistic rendering of Elvis' sequined jumpsuit from behind -- than the one pictured below.
  • From Altoids to Zima: The Surprising Stories Behind 125 Famous Brand Names by Evan Morris - It's pretty much what the subtitle says. The brands are sorted into five chapters such as "Cars" and "Food and Drink." Some stories will be familiar to most American consumers, but many were new to me. This book is fun and easy to read, and you can make conversation at dinner parties with the trivia you learn.

  • Why Do Men Have Nipples? by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, M.D. - This book would have been pretty good had it stuck to its mission. The questions and answers are entertaining and educational. Unfortunately, the authors go astray in a misguided effort to amuse. To tie in with the book's subtitle, "Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini," a serial excerpt from a cocktail party opens each chapter. Even worse are the transcribed instant messaging conversations between the authors -- online correspondence is never as funny to the rest of the world as its participants think it is. I put this book down after 40 pages because I found the interludes boring and/or intrusive. Six months later, I finished the book, skimming those parts to get to the questions and answers. Also, the "hundreds" in the subtitle is misleading; I didn't count them, but a sampling suggests that there are fewer than 200 questions. The cynic in me cannot help but wonder whether the party and IM filler was used just to stretch the material enough to make this book's sequel (Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?) viable.

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