By December 17, 2007 0 Comments Read More →

Philosophical Self-Help with Trivial Stocking Stuffers

We had the Booklist holiday party this afternoon, about which I will report only two things:

1) Bill Ott mixes a mean cup of nog

2) I was the recipient of the Don Chatham Spilled Drink Award

About #2, let me just say that it was nothing to do with the egg nog–it was a previous event. And, in my defense, I was not the spiller, but the spilled-upon. As you may surmise, there wasn’t much competition this year. (And, in answer to your question, yes, I will have my name engraved upon a plaque.)

(And yes, I have already alluded to a holiday party already, but that was the ALA party. This was the Booklist party. Later this week we will have the Publishing party. And you wonder why I earn the big bucks.)

Due to said party, there will be only one post today, but it is yuletide-themed. In the Guardian (“Every loo must have one“), Stuart Jeffries examines British (and French and American) taste in stocking-stuffer books and learns this:

“The Americans go for self-help books, the French buy unreadable philosophy books and the British buy books filled with trivia, which are often made up and generally aimed at being funny,” Nielsen adds. “Those are the stereotypes, and they’re not completely misleading.”

It’s a very funny read, as this paragraph demonstrates:

Oscar Wilde once lamented that “it is a very sad thing nowadays that there is so little useless information”. If only he were alive today, I would know how to fill his Christmas stocking: with books such as Why do Moths Drink Elephants’ Tears? And Other Zoological Curiosities; Skylarks and Scuttlebutts: A Treasure Trove of Nautical Knowledge; and This, That and the Other. Then there are The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed; Toujours Tingo: More Extraordinary Words to Change the Way We See the World; The Know-It-All Book; A to Z of almost Everything; Schott’s almanac 2008; and I might even include 211 Things a Bright Girl Can Do, a manual that instructs women – though one hopes not exclusively women – on how to strangle a man with one’s bare thighs and how to make Turkish Delight. I wouldn’t give him a copy of the Bible, because that would be presumptuous, but I would include Trinny and Susannah’s Body Shape Bible, which assigns all humanity 12 body shapes (Oscar would have been a skittle) and shows one how to dress accordingly, as well as Lose Weight! Get Laid! Find God!: The All-in-One Life Planner, both of which he might find obligingly useless.

(Bad language alert: readers will encounter the British spelling of the word “assholes.”)

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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