Brain Pickings

7 Brilliant Book Trailers

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How to connect haberdashery to Zach Galifianakis in under three minutes.

With a killer combination of animation, motion graphics and music, what’s not to love about book trailers? We couldn’t think of a thing, which is why we’ve rounded up seven of our favorites. As provocative, funny, and poignant as the books they represent, these videos prove that ideas are the ultimate teasers. And despite the publishing industry’s alarmist prophecies, these trailers bespeak the power of books to appeal to readers with their core, age-old value proposition: Compelling storytelling, creatively delivered.

GOING WEST

Gorgeous production values and jaw-dropping papercraft animation earned the trailer for Going West by the New Zealand Book Council our top spot. Created 15 years after the book’s publication in 1994, the BBDO-produced spot perfectly captures the haunting tone of Maurice Gee’s hybrid mystery-travelogue.

The pages of Going West literally rise up to depict the world of mid-20th-century Auckland. It’s a show-stopping feat that left us totally intrigued about the story inside its pages.

WISDOM

We’re longtime admirers of Andrew Zuckerman’s ambitious projects, like the beautiful Bird series. With Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give to Another, Zuckerman asked 50 of our time’s greatest thinkers and doers — writers, artists, philosophers, politicians, designers, activists, musicians, religious and business leaders — all over 65 years of age to impart some knowledge for posterity. (Zuckerman subsequently divided the great tome into four smaller, more digestible sub-volumes, each with its own thematic DVD: Wisdom: Life, Wisdom: Love, Wisdom: Peace, and Wisdom: Ideas.) Clips of the accompanying film comprise this trailer, which for its sheer star power is tough to beat.

Love something. I think we’ve got to learn to love something deeply. I think it’s love. It sounds sentimental as hell, but I really think it is.” ~ Andrew Wyeth, artist

LOWBOY

Speaking of stars, we love this LOL-worthy trailer for the novel Lowboy featuring funnyman Zach Galifianakis.

The actor trades identities with author John Wray, who plays an interviewer trying to find out about the book. The resulting improvised hijinks have the same slightly uncomfortable, dark comedy as Lowboy itself. Bonus points for the 9-to-5 movie reference and cutaways to Galifianakis using a binary typewriter.

13 WORDS

We expect no less than wonderful from a collaboration between Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman, and the trailer for their book 13 Words doesn’t disappoint.

It’s a clear winner in the cool-for-both-kids-and-parents genre, all in Kalman’s delightfully analog, decidedly non-Pixar style. Animated images from the book — which illustrates 13 essential English words — combined with Snicket’s narration results in a charming combination for all ages.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO POCKET GUIDES

The title alone is promising: Worst Case Scenario Pocket Guide: Breakups aims to satisfy the person looking for a little post-heartbreak humor.

Smart motion graphics augment the trailer’s tongue-in-cheek narration about how to trick out your online dating profile when it’s time to get back on the market.

How could you go wrong with such solid advice as the following:

Use euphemisms: avoid the word unemployed by saying that you are currently enjoying a sweat-free lifestyle while you search for new challenges.

SHOCK DOCTRINE

Naomi Klein’s 2008 book Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism enlisted the skills of Oscar-nominated director Alfonso Cuaron, and it shows. The trailer functions as both a teaser for the book and a mini-documentary for Klein’s argument: that economists and politicians take advantage of crises to push through social policy, often to the detriment of billions.

Whatever your view of Klein’s politics, the power of this trailer – as either advertising or propaganda – is undeniable.

IT’S A BOOK

The trailer for illustrator Lane Smith’s It’s A Book provides a rebuttal to the terminably app-addicted. A donkey asks his monkey pal whether the object he’s holding can scroll, text, or tweet, to which the latter invariably — and each time more exasperatedly — replies, “no, it’s a book.”

Smith provides a sweet reminder that the written word can still rock one’s world.

We hope these trailers have piqued your interest about the books they present. They suggest that, though a book’s main delivery mechanism may have moved online, readers themselves are still moved by curiosity.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA but still stubbornly identifies as a Brooklynite.

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David Clemesha’s Hand-Lettered Nursery Rhymes

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Little lambs, little reds, little pigs, and a little hand-lettered typography.

We love children’s books, especially clever remixes and twists to them — from finding philosophy for grown-ups in children’s classics to The Little Red Riding Hood reimagined as an animated infographic to modernist fairy-tales by today’s leading authors to quirky coloring books for grown-ups. So we love the work of San-Diego-based elementary-school-teacher-turned-artist David Clemesha, whose remarkable, vibrant hand-lettered nursery rhymes, fairy tales and fables are equal parts whimsical and artful.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

The Cat and the Fiddle

Where Are You Going, Little Red?

Jonah in the Belly of the Whale

Wee Wee Wee All the Way Home

Mary Had A Little Lamb

This Little Pig Went To Market

Three Blind Mice

Jack Be Nimble

Yankee Doodle Went to Town

Follow Clemesha’s latest work on his lovely Posterous.

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Human Planet: BBC Unravels Earth’s Secrets

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What rainforest tribes in the jungle have to do with reindeer swimmers in the Arctic.

What are the secrets of this amazing planet we call home, and what exactly is our place in it? This question has been tickling humanity’s curiosity in a profound way since time immemorial and, now, the BBC is making an unprecedented effort to answer it.

Human Planet — an ambitious, jaw-dropping, exquisitely cinematic series exploring mankind’s rich and complex relationship with nature across the globe, out this week on DVD, Blu-ray and video-on-demand.

Filmed on more than 80 locations across remote lands, underwater worlds and aerial heights, it covers everything from the first recorded footage of the world’s last uncontacted tribe in the Brazilian rainforest…

It’s important for humanity these people exist. They remind us it is possible… to live in a different way.” ~ Jose Carlos Meirelles

…to fox hunting with a golden eagle in Mongolia…

…to extreme fishing at Victoria Falls…

…to the magnificent swim of 3,000 reindeer across the icy Arctic waters.

At once exhilarating and profoundly humbling, Human Planet is the kind of journey you go on and never fully come back from, your worldview and self-conception forever changed by the intensity and richness of the experience.

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