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S***t! We've got a f*****g bestseller on our hands
Evening Standard (London),  Dec 5, 2005  by DAVID SEXTON

IT'S A pitiless fight for life at the tills now. Huge piles of tiny trashy books are waiting there to lure desperate gift-buyers.

Never before in the field of human conflict have there been so many, from so many different publishers, making such base appeal, as there are this Christmas.

To mention only a few ... Among the pro-grumps, we have The Dictionary of Bullshit by Nick Webb (Robson, Pounds 9.99), The Lexicon of Stupidity by Ross and Kathryn Patras (Workman, Pounds 5.99), The Pedant's Revolt: Why Most Things You Think Are Right Are Wrong by Andrea Barham (O'Mara, Pounds 9.99) and The Gripes of Wrath by Simon Carr (Portrait, Pounds 9.99), "guaranteed to make your blood boil".

Hard to choose, isn't it?

These books have in common the fact that they are wholly unnecessary to human life. They are small, futile, abject. It is the black misery of the dismayed and disoriented Christmas shopper that they hope to exploit. The only boon they offer the recipient is that there is no need even to pretend to read them. It is only a shame anybody has to write them, print them, bind them and distribute them.

From this seething anthill, one or two books crawl forth each Christmas to make a fortune for their authors and publishers. Latterly, it was Ben Schott and Lynne Truss.

This year, an early contender was Does Anything Eat Wasps? And 101 Other Questions from the New Scientist (Profile, Pounds 7.99), outstripping Why Girls Can't Throw ... and Other Questions You Always Wanted Answered by Mitchell Symons (Bantam, Pounds 9.99, they can, they can). The world is full of people who want to know why the millipede has so many legs and what would be the effect on the Earth if an alien spaceship dragged the moon away. The tides would disappear and owls would find it difficult to hunt. Obviously.

However, it is lovers of grammar and vocabulary that are best served this year, as the publishers scuttle artlessly after last Christmas's corker, Eats, Shoots Leaves by Lynne Truss (just out in paperback with "free punctuation repair kit", Profile, Pounds 6.99). This time around, you can regale yourself with March Hares and Monkey's Uncles: Origins of the Words and Phrases We Use Every Day by Harry Oliver (Metro, Pounds 9.99), The Usual Suspects and Other Cliches by Betty Kirkpatrick (AC Black, Pounds 9.99), The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese: Proverbs and Their Uses by Sir Colin Spedding, (Rothay House, Pounds 14.95) and How Not To Write: Simple Guidelines for the Grammatically Perplexed by Terence Denman (Piatkus, Pounds 9.99). In this vocab ghetto, there's even one raging masterpiece derived from Viz, Roger's Profanisaurus Rex (Dennis Publishing, Pounds 14.99, sadly unquotable).

Books without words And lastly, if you find even micro-portions of the written word wearisome, there are the picturebooks. The cartoons include Great Lies to Tell Small Kids by Andy Riley, the author of The Bunny Suicides (Hodder, Pounds 7.99) and The Da Vinci Cod and Other Illustrations to Unwritten Books by Chris Riddell (Walker, Pounds 5.99). And lastly, leastly, there are wacky photobooks, all distantly derived from the great boring books of Martin Parr.

Egg Bacon Chips Beans by Russell M Davies (HarperCollins, Pounds 9.99) escorts you to "50 great cafes and the stuff that makes them great". Hairbrained by Charles Glover (Bloomsbury, Pounds 7.99) presents wackily named hairdresser salons: Barber Blacksheep, Grateful Heads.

Roundabouts of Great Britain by Kevin Beresford (New Holland, Pounds 7.99) portrays ... oh, forget it. Please. And don't even mention the cat titles.

(c)2005. Associated Newspapers Ltd.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

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