Why Can’t Elephants Jump?

This is another fun book from New Scientist’s Last Word column and I enjoyed it. A good read, and I actually learnt some stuff (some of it possibly true) along the way.

Why Can't Elephants Jump? Book Cover Why Can't Elephants Jump?
New Scientist
Profile Books
October 7, 2010

Well, why not? Is it because elephants are too large or heavy (after all, they say hippos and rhinos can play hopscotch)? Or is it because their knees face the wrong way? Or do they just wait until no one's looking? Read this brilliant new compilation to find out. This is popular science at its most absorbing and enjoyable. That is why the previous titles in the New Scientist series have been international bestsellers and sold over two million copies between them. Like Does Anything Eat Wasps? (2005), Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? (2006) and Do Polar Bears Get Lonely? (2008), this is another wonderful collection of wise, witty and often surprising answers to a staggering range of science questions, from 'why is frozen milk yellow?' to 'what's the storage capacity of the human brain in gigabytes?'.

Mars: A Survival Guide

This book, written in the style of a travel guide, was an impulse purchase the other day as a brand new book. That’s rare because I don’t tend to buy new, and certainly not in Australia (everything is so expensive!). However, this book isn’t available on Amazon because its from the ABC, and looked good, so I bit the bullet. The book’s first half is interesting and very readable. After that it tends to die down into an exhaustive treatment of issues you’d need to consider if moving to Mars, and feels like a list of lists. It picks up again towards the end. I know its hard to be interesting in non-fiction reference books, but I feel this book lost its way at the midpoint and could have tried harder to be interesting. However, it was still ok overall and I might be being overly harsh as I don’t read much non-fiction.

[isbn: 9780733324895]

I Know You Got Soul

This is a collection of relatively short Clarkson articles about machines he thinks are inspiring. I don’t agree with all his choices, and many of the articles are clearly biased against America. For example, he insists that everyone on an aircraft carrier is stupid. Why? Because they didn’t let him film a fighter with one engine on fire. However, the book is funny, and good light reading. I read most of it on a bus for example. If you’re into Clarkson, then its worth reading.

[isbn: 9781856130974]

The World According to Jeremy Clarkson

Like On Cars, this book is a collection of Clarkson’s newspaper articles. These articles are relatively recent though (post 2001), and cover a much smaller span. This book focuses on things other than cars, and Clarkson’s opinions range from sensible and thoughtful to outright weird. I read this book during a series of take offs and landings of flights when they wouldn’t let me use my e-book reader, and that worked well. I wouldn’t want to sit down to read this entire book front to back.

[isbn: 9781856132626]

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

This is the memoir of a Jewish girl from New York who ends up working in the Harem of a Prince of Brunei. Its not so much a story about Harem life, although that’s mentioned in places. Its more about Jillian’s psychological journey, her troubled childhood, and working out who she is in the world. Worryingly, that final issue isn’t really resolved in the book, which is frustrating. The book is surprisingly readable, and you genuinely start to care about Jillian along the way, even if a few of her decisions seem pretty suboptimal to me. A good read.

[isbn: 0452296315]

The Man in the Rubber Mask

I’d been looking for this book for ages, as it is quite rare, so it was exciting to find it at Gould’s the other day. This is the memoir of the dude inside the rubber mask that Kryten wears in Red Dwarf. The book is an easy read, and entertaining, although I wouldn’t call it funny. Most of the book focuses on how terribly horrible it is to be encased in rubber day after day while shooting a comedy in terrible locations. Oh, and Robert is slightly insecure which doesn’t help.

Overall I’m glad I found this book, and glad I read it again.

[isbn: 0140235752]

On Cars

Jeremy Clarkson isn’t one of those people you can read hundreds of pages of at once. That’s probably why he writes articles instead of books. This book is a collection of these articles, and it is an interesting and entertaining read. However, I couldn’t read it front to back. Instead I read it over a series of take offs and landings during a trip, and that worked well. Apart from Jeremy’s sense of humour, and the fact that he’s mostly right, the other interesting aspect of this book is that you get to see his writing style develop over time. It helps explain how we ended up with Top Gear.

[isbn: 9781856131001]

Why do men fall asleep after sex?

This is the second medical trivia book by The Leyner and Goldberg duo. The first was Why do men have nipples, which I read in June. This book suffers from the same flaws as the first — its light weight and doesn’t take itself very seriously. That means that often they avoid answering serious questions, and just make a twee joke instead. It also has those annoying IM transcripts, which appear to just be a way to fill up space.

Then again, I did finish the book, so it can’t have been the worst book I have ever read.

Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex? Book Cover Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?
Mark Leyner, Billy Goldberg,
Health & Fitness
Three Rivers Press (CA)

The authors of Why Do Men Have Nipples? continues their hilarious look at the world of health with an all-new compilation of zany questions about unmentionable body parts, bodily functions, embarrassing body oddities, and more. Original. 300,000 first printing.

The Book of General Ignorance

I seem to be on a bit of a trivia book kick, which is at least partially motivated by getting through all my Christmas presents so I can pack them into a box and move to a different country. This book was written as part of the production of the very excellent BBC quiz show Quite Interesting and is quite a contrast from the extremely average Why Do Men Have Nipples that I just finished reading. This book feels well researched, and is on par with Why Don’t Penguin’s Feet Freeze, although the style is quite different (the New Scientist book offers multiple answers for each question, and is written by real scientists in the fields discussed, this book flows as one manuscript). I suspect it helps here to have seen the quiz show, because many of the other reviews I have seen online complain about the style of the book, which reads in much the same manner as Stephen Fry’s commentary during the program. If you’re familiar with the format, then the book flows quite nicely (whereas if you haven’t, you might end up why the book jumps around so much). I really liked this book.

[isbn: 0307394913]