Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘humor’

29 DECEMBER, 2010

A is for Armageddon: An Illustrated Guide to the Apocalypse


What rock-paper-scissors has to do with nuclear energy and the primordial soup.

We don’t have to listen too closely to the media to get their predominant message, loud and clear: The world as we know it is coming to an end. But rather than recoiling into paranoia at the all hopeless prospects out there, why not have some fun with it, all the while doing our best to prevent the apocalypse in an informed and intelligent way? That’s exactly what author and illustrator Richard Horne of 101 Things to Do Before You Die fame does in his latest gem, A Is for Armageddon: An Illustrated Catalogue of Disasters — a potent blend of serious science and serious snark exploring the most pessimistic possibilities for mankind’s impending demise.

From religious warfare to grey goo to deforestation, Horne combines science, superstition and sociology in a beautifully illustrated, delightfully dystopian guide to the apocalypse. Underlying the wickedly entertaining tone, however, is a grounded, non-preachy crusade for awareness that exudes the call of urgency none of us want to hear but all of us must.

Edifying and entertaining, A Is for Armageddon came out just after our selection of the best books of 2010, but would’ve absolutely made our list.

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27 DECEMBER, 2010

Amy Sedaris’s Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People


We love actor, comedian, author and all-around entertainer Amy Sedaris. (Who happens to be the sister of acclaimed author David Sedaris, hipsters’ favorite sardonic fiction-churner.) This month, she delivers another humorous yet delightfully pragmatic gem with Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People — a wonderfully quirky modern twist on the “good old days” of craft and entertaining. Part practical handbook to living in blah economic times, part hilarious cultural commentary, part beautifully art-directed photo book, Simple Times everything that makes Sedaris the eccentric and irreverent hipster version of Martha Stewart.

Simple Times is the follow-up to Sedaris’ excellent 2006 I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, the jaw-crampingly hilarious guide to homestyle entertaining, and is fully on par with our grand expectations.

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06 DECEMBER, 2010

The Snark Handbook, Insult Edition: Verbal Sparring Lessons from Literary Greats


A year ago, The Snark Handbook: A Reference Guide to Verbal Sparring became an instant favorite with its enlightening and entertaining compendium of history’s greatest masterpieces in the art of mockery, contextualizing today’s era of snark-humor and equipping us with the shiniest verbal armor to thrive as victor knights in it. This month, author Lawrence Dorfman is back with a necessary sequel, this time providing the sword: The Snark Handbook: Insult Edition: Comebacks, Taunts, and Effronteries, complete with 50 delightful black-and-white illustrations.

Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” ~ Mark Twain on Jane Austen

It’s a new low for actresses when you have to wonder what’s between her ears instead of her legs.” ~ Katherine Hepburn on Sharon Stone

From strategic instructions on how and when to throw your peers the jabs of well-timed snark to a well-curated collection of history’s most skilled literary insult-maestros, the book is the yellow brick road to what, deep down, you know you always knew you were: Better than everybody else.

I am reading Henry James… and feel myself as one entombed in a block of smooth amber.” ~ Virginia Woolf on Henry James

He was a great friend of mine. Well, as much as you could be a friend of his, unless you were a fourteen-year-old nymphet.” ~ Capote on Faulkner

Sure, The Snark Handbook is the anti-Zen approach to life’s confrontations. Still, it walks the fine line between potent wit and tongue-in-cheek lightheartedness in a way that makes it not just a toolkit but a treat as well. That, or at least a handy 200-pager with which to smack the next fool that crosses you.

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