Field Guide to the English Clergy
A Compendium of Diverse Eccentrics, Pirates, Prelates and Adventurers; All Anglican, Some Even Practising
Celebrating England’s long tradition of tolerance towards unconventional men of the cloth, these short biographies describe how clergy have displayed their own unique forms of holiness by treading ‘the thin line between prophet and clown’. The peculiar parsons include a mermaid-impersonator, a collector of French pornography and the incumbent who surrounded his vicarage with barbed wire – not to mention the infamous Vicar of Stiffkey, whose performance as Daniel in a den of real lions brought predictably fatal results.
Wallace and Gromit
Cracking Contraptions Manual 2
From starting the day with the aid of his Bed Launcher & Auto Dresser, to taking a stroll in Hover Wellies – handy for overcoming large puddles – Wallace has ingenious gadgets to ease him through a range of tasks. With descriptions of how they work, diagrams and photographs, the workings of 20 of his inventions are revealed here, including the Garden Exit System and Pronto Print device (patent pending). Age 9+
A Journey Round Britain's Quizzes
Starting with quiz night in the Prince of Wales on Highgate Hill, Mark Mason sets off in search of the perfect quiz question. In venues as far-flung as a hotel bar in Edinburgh and a village pub in Suffolk, he meets the aficionados of the quiz world and a veritable deluge of facts, figures and trivia.
A Gentleman's Bedside Book
This compendium will surely provide ‘entertainment for the last 15 minutes of the day’ whatever your inclination: mathematicians can drift off to half a page of pi; motorists might mug up on the Luton, Croydon and Belgravia methods of washing a car; there’s a handy list of people you are not allowed to marry (CofE rules); and for literary types there are the rude bits from Samuel Pepys.
And Other Bizarre Experiments
In this sequel to Elephants on Acid Alex Boese delves once more into the world of mad scientists and weird experimentation, whether a 1950s project to nuke the moon or self-experimenters getting stung by 78 species of Hymenoptera for the sake of science.
Birds, Bees and Educated Fleas
An A–Z Guide to the Sexual Predilections of Animals from Aardvarks to Zebras
Intriguing questions such as ‘How do barnacles breed?’ led Bruce Montague to compile this layman’s A–Z guide to the sexual predilections of animals, full of information on the courtship and mating habits of creatures as various as sponges, stick insects and polar bears.
Around the World in Twenty Languages
More than 75 per cent of the world’s population can communicate in one of the 20 most-spoken languages, from Vietnamese and Korean (85 million speakers each) to Mandarin and English (1.3 and 1.5 billion respectively). As he profiles these successful lingua francas, Dorren discusses key features including their origins, scripts and pronunciation. He also analyses how linguistic oddities, such as the different ‘genderlects’ spoken by Japanese men and women, reflect aspects of cultural and political history.
How to be a Cyclist
An A–Z Guide for the M.A.M.I.L
With entries on topics including Gears, Kit, Etiquette and Socks, this celebration of cycling mixes tips and insights from experienced cyclists with observations about the sport aimed at the ever-growing number of enthusiastic, middle-aged men in lycra.
World's Worst Inventions
The Craziest Gadgets and Machines Ever Made
Along with the gadgets that went straight to landfill – the pneumatic attachment for trousers, illuminated ice cubes, glow-in-the-dark sunglasses or the ‘:Cuecat’ barcode scanner that failed to solve a problem that never existed – this compendium of wrong-headedness includes weird weapons of war, transport disasters and some inventions, such as the dreaded automated pay toilet, that are with us still.
Strange Journeys that Obliterated Convention
Remarkable for their creativity, the intrepid travellers in these tales include two prisoners of war whose escape from Turkey in 1917 was aided by a Ouija board, and Auguste Piccard, who explored the atmosphere via helium-filled balloon in 1931. Also featured are Grayson Perry’s pilgrimage to Bavaria with a teddy bear, and filmmaker Andrew Kötting’s tour of the world with a giant inflatable of his father.
Journey to the Edge of the World
Billy Connelly recounts with customary humour his ten-week journey through the North West Passage, piloting an aeroplane over Iceberg Valley, trekking through mountains and kayaking through ice floes. Although in awe of the landscape, illustrated here with hundreds of photographs, it was his encounters with ordinary people that made the greatest impression, introducing him to traditions that were essential for survival in this challenging environment.
The Encyclopedia of Misinformation
With entries covering nearly 300 examples of deception, delusion and fakery, this eclectic compendium for the age of Truthiness offers playful analysis of the many contexts in which beliefs and perceptions can be manipulated. These range from politics to video games and from the inscrutable paradoxes of ancient Greek philosophy to the Hitler Diaries, internet hoaxes and our puzzling enthusiasm for tribute bands.
Letters to the Lady Upstairs
Mme Marie Williams, the wife of an American dentist, lived in the apartment directly above Marcel Proust’s in 102 Boulevard Haussmann and, despite their proximity, Proust and Mme Williams wrote to one another. Proust’s were often about the noise, yet always exquisitely expressed and often accompanied by flowers; the 23 letters are presented here with a foreword by Jean-Yves Tadié. Translated, with an afterword, by Lydia Davis.
Histories of the Unexpected
How Everything has a History
‘History is like a maze’, write the authors as they embark on this journey through 30 topics, inspired by their podcast series that promotes non-linear historical thinking. They reveal how our everyday world connects with the past in surprising, thought-provoking ways, including the use of paper clips as an anti-Nazi symbol, cats’ significance for the French Revolution and the links between letters, marriage, the Royal Navy and eggs.
Thirty-Six Short Entertainments
Beginning with flatpack ‘Instructions for Assembling Your Pocket Playhouse’, Michael Frayn’s miniature sketches relish the absurdities of modern life. Here we find a telephone prayer answering service (‘Your prayer has been placed in a queue’); flirting academics in the Working Group on Gender Stereotyping in Indefinite Pronouns; and the nail-biting national semi-finals of the UK TV Watching Championship. Slightly off-mint.
F Is for France
A Curious Cabinet of French Wonders
This alphabetic celebration of France highlights interesting, famous and idiosyncratic aspects of its culture, history and people. From Absinthe to Zinedine Zidane, the miscellany reveals fascinating facts such as the most popular Champagne brand in France (Ruinart), and that 75 per cent of the population at the time of the revolution did not speak French as their first language.
Raise Your Game
How to Speak Fluent Sport
Specialist language is an intrinsic part of all sport, whether it is understanding an idiosyncratic scoring system or being able to correctly apply the terms peculiar to the technique or equipment of a game. Illustrated with more than 60 cartoons, this humorous look at the eccentricities of 50 popular sports explains how they are played and provides a lexicon of the terminology of each.
What I Learnt
What My Listeners Say – and Why We Should Take Notice
Jeremy Vine succeeded Jimmy Young as presenter of Radio 2's phone-in show in 2003 and since then has taken over 25,000 calls – including the joyous, the furious and the occasional joker. As well as his radio show, Vine is a familiar face on television, and his book describes working on everything from general election coverage to Strictly Come Dancing, but his emphasis is on his listeners ‘and all the surprises they spring’. Slightly off-mint.
How to Build a Universe
The numerous archival images, cartoons, quotes and programme excerpts in this companion book to the BBC Radio 4 series The Infinite Monkey Cage pay homage to the 1970s Look and Learn annuals, which thrilled children with their miscellany of science. Here, Cox and Ince inspire adult scientific wonder through jokes, jibes and nostalgic digressions, anchored by serious explorations of thermodynamics, particle physics, big bang theory, space travel, extra-terrestrial life and, of course, infinity.
Postcard From The Past
The postcard shows charming views of the Yorkshire Dales, but the sender writes, 'Huge hordes of wild sheep, cows and rabbits ready to attack at any time'; and on the back of four views of Weymouth, one word: 'Murder'. Tom Jackson describes this book of holiday postcards, with captions taken from their messages, as 'a collection of very short and cryptic stories set in that drowned Atlantis of the sixties and seventies'.
From Hopeless Hounds to Tyrannical Tortoises: Animal Letters to The Telegraph
Having mined the archives of readers’ letters ‘like a chaffinch in search of the juiciest worms’, Iain Hollingshead presents a hugely entertaining selection that illustrates the British love and respect for animals, whether tame or wild, mammal, bird or amphibian, and the occasional stick insect. Violent dislike is reserved for flying insects, and the Scottish midge in particular. Slightly off-mint.
Slap and Tickle
The Unusual History of Sex and the People Who Have It
This irreverent guide takes a peek at a perennially fascinating subject. A romp through the biological mechanics and history of human intercourse is spiced up with intimate true stories, public scandals, censorship, sex toys, fetishes, and a concise glossary of filthy language. Eclectic, entertaining and original, it reveals everything you always wanted to know about sex – and quite a few things you probably didn’t. Sexually explicit.
Edward Lear's Nonsense Birds
Coming to life in just a few, seemingly effortless lines and the occasional wash of colour, Edward Lear’s nonsense birds have personality, attitude and, quite often, very human traits. Drawing on the British Library collections, this book presents birds from several of Lear’s original nonsense books, and includes stories, limericks, birds for learning colours and birds for learning the alphabet.
How to Build a Universe
The numerous archival images, cartoons, quotes and programme excerpts in this companion book to the BBC Radio 4 series The Infinite Monkey Cage pay homage to the 1970s Look and Learn annuals, which thrilled children with their miscellany of science. Here, Cox and Ince inspire adult scientific wonder through jokes, jibes and nostalgic digressions, anchored by serious explorations of thermodynamics, particle physics, Big Bang theory, space travel, extra-terrestrial life and, of course, infinity.
Lost at Sea
The Jon Ronson Mysteries
Investigative journalist Jon Ronson is drawn to quirky and unusual stories and manages to write with humour while treating his subjects seriously. This collection of his writings from the Guardian, GQ and other publications covers a diverse range of topics from Church of England Alpha courses to psychics and alien investigators.
Funny Way To Be A Hero
TV producer John Fisher first published his exploration of the great 20th-century comedians in 1973, tracing the tradition from music-hall pioneers such as Dan Leno and Max Miller through to the radio comics and the last of the breed in Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper and Ken Dodd. This completely revised and expanded 40th anniversary edition profiles over 30 of the giants of British entertainment and contains over 350 illustrations.
An Anthology of Famous Last Words
Salvador Dalí's enigmatic parting question, ‘Where is my clock?’; Louis B Meyer’s gloomy conclusion, ‘It wasn’t worth it’; Hegel’s final, impenetrable comment, ‘Only one man ever understood me, and he didn’t understand me’... The last words of 200 famous men and women, together with notes on their deaths, are gathered here in five chapters on Hedonists, Optimists, Pragmatists, Visionaries and those who delivered a Parting Shot.
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, hitchhiking around the galaxy after the demise of Earth, are in trouble: the Improbability Drive fails in their host’s ship, Arthur has jammed the computer by asking it for a cup of tea and the restaurant is 576,000 million miles away. Part two of the five-part Hitchhiker trilogy.
A Very Courageous Decision
The Inside Story of Yes Minister
In 1980, when Britain had no 24-hour television news, internet, Twitter or demands for ‘transparency’, the cogs of government turned most mysteriously. Public enlightenment came with an intelligent, well-informed and hilarious TV series: Yes Minister and its sequel, Yes Prime Minister, which revealed and mercilessly lampooned what went on in Whitehall and Westminster. Graham McCann tells the story of the series and seeks out the real political fiascos that inspired it. Slightly off-mint.
Through It All I've Always Laughed
(An Autobiography of Myself)
Well known from the Radio 4 comedy, Steve Delaney's cult character, Count Arthur Strong, is an ageing entertainer from Doncaster with a deluded sense of his own importance and a talent for mangling words. This memoir, presented as a typewritten script with the great man's own handwritten annotations, is a satire of British show business autobiographies, with stories of childhood struggles, national service, early theatrical breaks and celebrity anecdotes accompanied by the author’s nonsensical thoughts and opinions. Off-mint.
Dancing with Cats
While researching their earlier, groundbreaking Why Cats Paint, Burton Silver and Heather Busch discovered another strange phenomenon – people dancing with their cats. Apparently, the ancient art of cat dancing is a method of channelling feline energy. Twenty-one owners and their cats have been interviewed and photographed as they skip the light fantastic... Foreword by Swami Shakya Bahrain and a bibliography (!), should you wish to learn more. Slightly off-mint.
A Likely Tale, Lad
Laughs & Larks Growing Up in the 1970s
In this memoir a former police officer who appeared in the 2005 BBC series Country Cops recalls his 1970s childhood in the North Yorkshire countryside. In retrospect, it seems to him like a perpetual summer: the family setting off on holiday in his dad's Morris Traveller, its roof-rack piled high; bicycle adventures and boyish pranks; fishing and football; jam sandwiches and pop – all set amid the idyllic landscape of God's Own County, and peopled with larger-than-life characters.
Finding the Plot
100 Graves to Visit Before You Die
From the splendour of Nelson's tomb in the crypt of St Paul's to the more commonplace gravestone of Eleanor Rigby in Liverpool, this guide selects the most interesting resting places to visit in Britain, telling the stories of the lives and deaths of the memorialized. Arranged geographically, the selection ranges from the much-visited shrine to Marc Bolan in Barnes to the Leicester car park where Richard III's remains were found.
The New Dictionary of Things There Should Be Words For
What should we call 'something that looks like minced beef but isn't'? Minsk, of course! 'Luxuriant nostril hairs'? Utrillas! Three decades after Douglas Adams and QI creator John Lloyd compiled The Meaning of Liff, here is a new collection of more than 900 familiar things that have hitherto remained unnamed, an oversight now corrected by recycling the appellations of places near and far.
Wallace & Gromit
The Complete Cracking Contraptions Manual
How do the Techno Trousers work? How did Wallace rebuild Preston the Cyber Dog? All is revealed in this two-volumes-in-one manual, with descriptions of how each of Wallace and Gromit's fantastic inventions works, cutaway diagrams and photographs of the machines in action. There are details of 40 contraptions, from the Bed Launcher to Wallace's A35 van, plus cutaways of his house and Invention cellar. Age 9+
Barry Cryer Comedy Scrapbook
Barry Cryer has been a stalwart of British comedy since the 1950s. Beginning his career at the famous Windmill Theatre in Soho, he has since written for, worked with and often become friends with most of the greats of the post-war era, among them Tommy Cooper and Eric Morecambe. This memoir is presented as a scrapbook of his personal photographs, illuminated by Cryer's observations about his life and the stars he has worked with, and by their comments about him.
'You're nearly old enough to be dead, aren't you, Grandma?' 'If teachers keep asking you questions, does that mean they don't know much?' Compiled by former school inspector Gervase Phinn, this collection of children's disarming observations and impossible-to-answer questions proves Phinn’s point that 'on the whole' children are an amazing source of amusement and wonder.
Do You Think You're Clever?
The Oxford and Cambridge Questions
How would you reduce crime through architecture? Why is there salt in the sea? Is feminism dead? Probably the stuff of nightmare if you are an Oxbridge candidate, but compulsive reading when your career doesn't depend on coming up with an answer, these are the questions asked at interviews for Oxford and Cambridge colleges. Ranging across disciplines from literature to physics, Farndon discusses 60 conundrums designed to separate the merely bright from the truly clever.
A Journey Round Britain by Postcode
Although assigned to major towns by the 1930s, postcodes were not in general use until towards the end of the 20th century. This humorous diary of a tour of Britain visits all 124 modern UK postcodes, making anecdotal observations about each area and identifying historical, geographical or cultural trivia, such as the fact that Strontian in PH (although not in Perth) is the only place in Britain to have a chemical element named after it.
The Secret Diaries of Almost Everyone
Since 2006 the 'My Week' column in The Times has parodied days in the lives of such luminaries as David Cameron, Prince Harry, Vladimir Putin – and Jeremy Clarkson ('Wednesday... brainstorming new ways to be mean about the Germans'). The author has personally selected this collection and given the entries new introductions to place them in their political or social context.
The Life and Times of the Penis
To possess a penis, Sophocles said, is to be 'chained to a madman'. This light-hearted but impressively researched book ranges across history, world cultures, literature, art, medicine and myth to examine man's relation to his characteristic member. It investigates the reasons why this unruly appendage all too often appears to have a mind of its own - and the joint relationship of man and his madman to the opposite sex.