Some books are the best. Others are awfully pretty. And some just come at a hefty discount for UnBeige readers. But there’s another category of books out there, one that has more trouble getting attention. In fact, that’s kind of the point. These are the obscure books, the bizarre titles long out of print that can’t help but get your creative juices flowing. There was a time when a survey of such books would require days in the library–or, as Roger Angell once noted, a trip to the apartment of the late Gardner Botsford, where Septic Tank Practices was shelved alongside the likes of Modern Volleyball and All About Guppies. Now a single book assembles the wackiness of hundreds. Russell Ash and Brian Lake‘s Bizarre Books, out this month from Harper Perennial, is “a compendium of classic oddities.”
Between the covers, you’ll learn of such titles as Fish Who Answer the Telephone (published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner in 1937), written by a colleague of Pavlov, and such indispensable instructional tomes as How to Pick Up Girls on Public Beaches (Todd & Honeywell, 1982), Levitation for Terrestrials (Ascent, 1977), and How to Avoid Huge Ships (Cornell Maritime Press, 1993). Sometimes a snippet or summary of the book is included. Other times, the authors have reproduced the jacket (From the Stump to the Limb, an amputee’s narrative circa 1890, makes excellent use of evocative typography). Some of our other favorite bizarre books? We All Killed Grandma (T.V. Boardman, 1954), Ducks & How to Make Them Pay (St. Mary Cray & London, 1890), and The Little I Saw of Cuba (F. Tennyson Neely, 1899).
We think that Bizarre Books makes a perfect gift for any designer in need of some brainstorming fodder. Now if only we could locate a copy of The Toothbrush: Its Use and Abuse (Dental Items of Interest Publishing Co., 1939) to put under the tree for Christoph Niemann.