Recommended Holiday Reading

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From the satirical to the sadistic, a stack of books to keep you entertained and informed over the summer season.

Totally Mad: 60 Years Of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity

(Time Home Entertainment)

If you’ve ever picked up a copy of Mad magazine and relished in the inanity and insanity of it all – be it to spot where Spy vs. Spy both went wrong or to marvel at the cheekiness of those fold-in picture pages, you’ll enjoy this ‘best-of’ collection of sorts. It chronicles six decades of the Mad perspective on politics and pop culture. Highlights include a full colour reproduction of Da Vinci’s Last Supper with all of Jesus’ men busy texting and IM-ing, the extensive gallery of Mad covers from 1953 to now, and the bonus 12 prints, most of which feature gap-toothed icon Alfred E. Neuman.

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Guinness World Records 2013

(Guinness World Records)

It took this volume to make us realise they’ve finally dropped the ‘Book’ from the title, obviously due to digital publishing set to make that ‘bit’ redundant. This year’s Guinness is as bold a tome as any, packed with not only thousands of mind-boggling world records, but also factoids about everything from money and war, to sex and outer-space. Did you know, for example, that if you stacked every Oreo ever made, the cookie stack would reach the moon and back more than six times. Now that’s a lot of dough.

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Danny Lewis: David Bowie Style

(Bloomsbury)

The publisher of a picture biog on gender-bending rock’n’roller David Bowie would never be short of resources. The icon single-handedly invented ambiguity in the music industry. What’s refreshing about this picture book is just that – a picture book only, save for a few short pages of text for an introduction (if you want to read more about the man, we strongly suggest the biography Starman by Paul Trynka). See where half of the modern fashion world gets its ideas from. Pinups, indeed.

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Noel Brown: The Hollywood Family Film

(I.B. Tauris & Co)

Don’t judge a book by its cover. While this one is emblazoned with a still from The Wizard Of Oz and has the words ‘family film’ in its title, its far more than just a trip down memory lane of feel-good movies. Author Brown actually delves deeper into the dirty secrets of Hollywood than most film critics, and frowns upon the idea that any other genre of cinema – arthouse, feminist, homosexual – deserves more credence than the family film. Why, he asks, has there never been a text that studies a genre populated with such iconic titles, from Disney features to the Harry Potter franchise. Indeed the fact these films have been blockbusters deems them worthy of that extra analysis.

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Jonnie Hughes: On The Origin Of Tepees

(One World)

Subtitled ‘Why Some Ideas Spread While Others Go Extinct’, this book is a handy one for budding entrepreneurs and followers of fads alike. Picking up where Darwin left off, Hughes heads off to – of all places – America’s Midwest, to observe a host of ideas from the invention of the cowboy hat to the modern popularity of paninis (them fancy sandwiches weren’t around in the days of Daniel Boone but they’re everywhere now). A clever little book that’ll have you pondering if half the things in your life right now will be here – or even missed – a decade on.

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David McRaney: You Are Not So Smart

(One World)

What a clever concept: insulting the reader’s intelligence in the very title of a book but simultaneously stirring the desire to read more about why they mightn’t be so clever. Indeed McRaney does a good job in using a variety of areas in our lives where we aren’t always on the ball – from our habit of making the same mistakes again, to our addiction to smartphones and Facebook (how many friends do you think you really know?). Where McRaney falters is in his referencing of countless psychological studies from bygone eras. In fact, half the studies he refers to, I recall reading about back in the early Nineties – and those were decades-old then! Still, out-of-date references aside, there’s enough postmodern pinpointing to make this a quality read.

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Kyle Sandilands: Scandalands

(McMillan)

He’s the bad boy of commercial radio, upsetting everyone from victims of rape to plus-sized women. So why does he think anyone is going to go out and buy and read his autobio? Because controversy sells in this country, and that’s precisely why a smart-mouth like Sandilands is still at the top of the radio perch. Indeed, after reading this (and having seen him profiled on 60 Minutes recently) I’ve come to actually admire the guy. Sure, he goes on and on about a (relatively) short period of his being homeless, but for the most part in this memoir, he comes across as genuinely humble, slipping now and again into his cursing misogynist self…

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Masterpiece: Iconic Houses by Great Contemporary Architects

(The Images Publishing Group)

Like every second home in my neighbourhood you probably know of someone whose thinking of renovating, if not considering it yourself – an alfresco in the back, Federation-style garden in the front, or adding more bricks and mortar in between. Kudos to those who can afford it. But even those dreaming of a new home who don’t have the budget right away, we can at least fantasise. This hefty tome is packed with pictures that’ll inspire and keep you admiring. It’s an up-to-the-minute collection of residential work from the world’s best practitioners – from Frank Gehry to Steven Ehrlich, who prove that architecture can always be re-imagined.

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