Listen, don’t tell anyone, but I’m not particularly well-read, especially not for a writer. I read a lot when I was small, but it’s something I’ve let slide as I have progressed into adulthood. Perhaps it is because of my own unwritten rule that I don’t read when I am working on my own writing – I have been doing quite a bit of that in the last few years. But when I do read, you can guarantee I find the very best of the weird and the wonderful, the very highest of brow, to tickle my literary taste buds. Here are some of my favourites.
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun – Neil Rushton
This is certainly not a book for the faint-hearted, nor the easily offended. It is the story of one man’s descent into madness – or possibly his return to sanity, depending on your point of view – through the controlled use of hallucinogenic and dissociative drugs. It is rather Joycean in its lack of linear narrative, but is surprisingly easy to follow, although the fruity language might be a bit off-putting for some. As might the occasional foray into very dark subject matter, although it is written with such explicit beauty and care that even some of the most unthinkable elements become pure poetry. It is weird, it is challenging and I have never read anything quite like it – and never enjoyed a book in quite the same way, either.
The Mullet – Hairstyle Of The Gods – Mark Larson & Barney Hoskyns
Once upon a time, I would only go out with chaps who had mullets. No, really. It was a dark time in my dating history, but it did at least introduce me to this fine tome, which really does contain everything you need to know about the most controversial and enduring haircuts of all time.
We learn the history of the mullet (it goes back to prehistoric times!) and its evolution, the various types of mullet and where they can be found – there’s even a handy guide to mullet wining and dining. If you have ever been curious about the ‘shorty-longback’, this book will tell you everything you never wanted to know.
Filthy Lucre – Simon Rose
A book about corporate corruption and insider dealing sounds neither interesting nor funny, but this unlikely book manages to be both. It was published in 1990, so bits of it come across as rather dated, but this only adds to the charm. It was, apparently, serialised as a cartoon in the Mail On Sunday at the time, which is fairly unusual. I would say this is a classic British farce, with plenty of good-humoured smut mixed with astute satire that could probably benefit from being modernised, but is hugely enjoyable as it is. There are quite a lot of rude bits in it, too.
Yes Minister – The Diaries Of A Cabinet Minister – Jonathan Lynn & Antony Jay
I saw this on a friend’s bookshelf and swiped it immediately to read on the train. This is volume two, so one assumes there is a volume one also, perhaps even a volume three. Anyway. This is presented as the collected diaries of the fictional Minister for Administrative Affairs James Hacker and is basically a direct adaptation of the utterly brilliant TV programme from the 80s. It stays true to the television series and is a brilliant light read for fans of the original. While Filthy Lucre demonstrates how business and technology have moved forward in leaps and bounds, Yes Minister shows us that Whitehall hasn’t changed at all. The debates around surveillance and personal privacy are as pertinent now as they were then, not to mention their views on what was the EEC (now, of course, the much-discussed EU). I could go as far as to peg Humphrey as a Remainer and Hacker as a Brexiteer. I shall certainly be doing my best to get my hands on volume one. Hopefully, my friend has it and I can steal that too.
Crap Taxidermy – Kat Su
Quite frankly, this is the best thing ever published. I mean, ever. It does exactly what it says on the tin and provides page after page of some the worst, the funniest and the most downright bizarre examples from the eclectic world of taxidermy.
This is the perfect book to bring out at dinner parties and hand around between courses – who couldn’t fail to love this earnest-looking bear or the dieting fox?
This is my personal favourite. He (it’s definitely a ‘he’, isn’t it) looks so pleased with himself, doesn’t he? There is even a section at the back of the book that talks you through your own home taxidermy projects, step by step. I haven’t tried this, however, so cannot say how helpful it really is. But the main point of this delightful publication is to enjoy the efforts of other (assumed) amateur taxidermists and enjoy them you will, let me tell you.
So there we have it. I hope I have introduced you to some hitherto little-known literary gems that would otherwise have passed you by. No need to thank me, it has been my pleasure.