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Summer reading: Quirky and unusual

May 22, 2011

Agonizing Love

The Golden Era of Romance Comics

Michael Barson

Harper Design: $29.99

Forget Spider-Man or the X-Men. Instead, with "Agonizing Love," dip into the adventures of a young lady confronted with the horrible creature known as "Mother's Boy"! Or listen to the inner probings of an anguished woman, at her husband's hospital bedside, asking the burning question, "Was I a wicked wife?" Michael Barson has selected excerpts from the love comics genre that thrived from the late 1940s to the late 1970s. It was a wildly successful genre, although, as Barson points out, it declined after "publishers sowed the seeds of their own undoing, glutting the market to the point where even the assembled legions of female comic-book readers couldn't keep all of these love publications afloat." Barson's book offers a rich, overlooked angle on the comics industry. Here you'll find stories that usually (but not always) reach for that best of all romantic endings: "No words were necessary in that wonderful, breathless moment …our kiss said more than a thousand words!"

The Art of Roughhousing

Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It

Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen

Quirk Books: $14.95

50 Dangerous Things

(You Should Let Your Children Do)

Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler

New American Library: $18

The idea behind these two books — that a good childhood involves some healthy, sometimes reckless play — isn't what's quirky: The diagrams are! Want to know the proper position for launching your son like a human cannonball? This falls under the "hard" category in the levels of difficulty and requires a crucial item, as illustrated by a diagram: a mattress. The last thing you want is for your 6-year-old to do a face-plant on the family room floor. These two books are fun, worthy successors to the bestsellers "The Dangerous Book for Boys" and "The Daring Book for Girls."

The Good Book

A Humanist Bible

A.C. Grayling

Walker & Co.: $35

If you're seeking reading of the more meditative sort, British philosopher A.C. Grayling has drawn on a variety of world traditions to create the prose of "The Good Book." The book is formatted to resemble the traditional categories in the Bible — sections are titled, for instance, "Genesis," "Parables," "Songs," "Epistles." The similarity, however, ends there. In a section titled "Histories," "offered to preserve remembrance of what mankind has experienced," Grayling draws mostly on ancient Greek and Roman chroniclers; the section "Songs" (passages are drawn from Chinese and Persian poetry) celebrates divinity as we find it in each other: "Do I love you for the fine soft waves of hair/That fall about your neck when you undress?"

Go the F… to Sleep

Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Ricardo Cortés

Akashic Books: $14.95

No matter how many lullabies you sing to them, no matter how much warm milk you pour down their throats, toddlers don't always drift off to sleep like you want. Adam Mansbach's funny, profane sendup to all those cutesy bedtime books that make it all look so easy is perfect for any frustrated parents who have had that 10- or 15-minute bedtime routine go horribly wrong and turn into an insomniac marathon. Inspired by his own experiences with his daughter, Mansbach writes nursery rhyme-style lyrics—with illustrations by Ricardo Cortes—that start out about snoring bear cubs, eagles and lions and suddenly collapse into the sarcastic, overheated plea of the title. It's definitely not a book to read to your kids. Read it with your spouse instead and share a few laughs, but don't laugh too loud—you know, you might accidentally wake up your little one.

The Hunting of the Snark

An Agony in Eight Fits

Lewis Carroll

British Library/University of Chicago Press: $19.95

Lewis Carroll's epic nonsense poem was first published in 1876. With the release of this gorgeous facsimile edition, readers today can experience the poem just as Victorian readers did. This story of a chaotic quest is a delight in any format, but here, bound in a vivid red-and-gold cover, the poem isn't the only work of art, the book is too.

The Meowmorphosis

A Novel

Franz Kafka and Coleridge Cook

Quirk Books: $12.95

"One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten." The publisher continues its crusade, which started with "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," to digest classic novels and then regurgitate them with unexpected, often bizarre perspectives. What if the poor character at the center of Kafka's tale had found that he was a feline, not a cockroach? You'll have to decide for yourself if the execution of this conceit, in which Kafka's plot is helped by Coleridge Cook (we're told this is the pseudonym of a fantasy writer), is purrrfect.

There, I Fixed It

No, You Didn't

Cheezburger Network

Andrews McMeel: $14.99

Of Course You're Still Cool, Honey

Dan Consiglio

FW Media: $12.95

A Cookbook for a Knucklehead

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