QUICKGASM >> 12.11.07

quickgasmBecause time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste!

new york times essential reviewBring the research power of the paper of record to your home with the back-breaking, hernia-busting THE NEW YORK TIMES GUIDE TO ESSENTIAL KNOWLEDGE, 2ND EDITION. Clocking in at more than 1,200 pages, the book is so dense and fully packed that I was only half-joking when I told my 10-year-old if he read it all, he’d be the smartest kid on earth. Although the Internet has taken a bite out of reference guides like these, this one stays relevant with value-added material, like Will Shortz’s advice on solving the Times crossword and sudoku puzzles, or the wine primer. On the book side of things, there’s a great article on popular literature that discusses Nick Carter and hard-boiled pulps, and capsule summaries of the “great books.” It may tip your house askew, but this GUIDE is worth having.

most notorious crimes reviewTrue-crime aficionados will want to put THE MOST NOTORIOUS CRIMES IN AMERICAN HISTORY: FIFTY FASCINATING CASES FROM THE FILES – IN PICTURES on their Christmas list. From Life magazine, the oversized volume profiles all the biggies, from presidential assassinations (Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy) and serial killers (Son of Sam, The Boston Strangler and Charles Manson) to headline-busting events (the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, Jimmy Hoffa’s vanishing act) and outright national tragedies (the Oklahoma City bombing). Articles are taut and tightly written, allowing the photos to tell most of the story. Warning: Some are awfully grim, hammering home the horrific nature of the crimes. Kudos to the design team for delivering one slick-looking package.

heroes vol 1 reviewFalling somewhere between the brilliant first season of TV’s HEROES and the current underwhelming one is HEROES: VOLUME ONE, a DC Comics collection of short, related pieces that NBC ran online each week as webcomics. Whether they be focused on the self-regenerating cheerleader, the Asian time-jumper or the drug-addled prophetic painter, the pieces largely splinter off the plot of the series, filling in backstories or bringing minor characters to the forefront. For something that was meant to be quick and online, the art is expectedly spotty, depending on whoever was working on it. For fans, however, it’s near-essential. And I do mean for fans, because if you’ve never watched the show, you’ll be lost.

christmas around world reviewNo better time than, like, right now to dive into CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD, a pop-up book by Chuck Fischer. The volume is pretty thick, which should give you an idea how elaborate the 3-D pop-ups actually are. The scenes depict settings of seasonal celebration via die-cut pieces with the requisite pull tabs for interaction. Flaps on the spreads fold out to reveal mini-booklets adorned with authentic Victorian illustrations, and delving into related historical topics like Charles Dickens, advent calendars and the real Saint Nicholas.

things that might kill you reviewIt’s not recommend that Woody Allen get a hold of THE COMPLETE MANUAL OF THINGS OF THINGS THAT MIGHT KILL YOU: A GUIDE TO SELF-DIAGNOSIS FOR HYPOCHONDRIACS. While the excellent title suggest poking fun, this irreverent guide actually contains solid medical information as well. For example, have a headache? It could be a brain tumor, encephalitis or even HIV/AIDS. Or if you have “overwhelming body odor,” perhaps hyperthyroidism is to blame. Each entry ranks the maladies in terms of pain, contagion, suffering and fatality. Sidebars abound on STDs, hemorrhoids, bedbugs and the dangers of shaking hands with others (I knew it!), all cleanly and clinically illustrated.

dc universe christmas reviewOne of the first comics I ever bought was 1980’s DC SUPER-STAR HOLIDAY SPECIAL, so it was with sheer nostalgia that I purchased DC UNIVERSE CHRISTMAS, a compilation of 17 holiday-themed stories, including some – but not all, disappointingly – of that comic from my past. Among the highlights are The Flash nervously jumping from time zone to time zone to try and find his girlfriend the right gift, a brief HOUSE OF MYSTERY tale surrounding a winter intruder and Captain Marvel buying his alter ego Billy Batson a present, and vice versa. A Wonder Woman story from 1943 has her tied up and spread-eagle a lot. Others in this enjoyable collection include Enemy Ace, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Superman, Batman, Teen Titans and The Sandman. –Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

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