Humour: Feminism and economics...ho, ho, ho!
Christmas books of the year
Sunday 04 December 2011
From her first period to the porn monoculture of the web, the joy (and otherwise) of having children to her decision to have an abortion, Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman (Ebury, £11.99) is quite the most extraordinarily open, revealing memoir I have ever read.
And while it's not so much a case of how to be a woman as how to be Caitlin Moran (right), it's a well-argued thought piece with a terrifically light touch that should put paid to anyone shying away from calling themselves a feminist.
Also utterly true to himself is the broadcaster, "vigorous all-rounder" and TV Quick magazine's 1994 "man of the moment", Alan Partridge. I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan (HarperCollins, £20), is an acutely observed mock-memoir, touching on the great man's highs (receiving a Burton's Gold Card) and lows (Toblerone addiction) in equally self-regarding manner. The stories will be familiar to anyone who has followed Partridge's progress over the years, but they deserve a retread, and nary a paragraph goes by without an inappropriate laugh at his monstrous ego.
Not so inspiring is Rob Brydon's Small Man in a Book (Michael Joseph, £20). The first third, about his childhood years, is genial, much like the man himself, but also a snoozefest. It picks up a bit, especially when he comes to his voiceover years, but it stops short of the Gavin & Stacey/ The Trip era – which the majority of readers would be most interested in, and has thus, presumably, been saved for the next instalment. Which means this is not one for the completist.
Completists are themselves one of Grace Dent's bugbears in How to Leave Twitter (Faber, £7.99) – that is what she calls those mundane people who feel they must tweet about every little event in their lives. In her words, "Bitch – you ain't that interesting." Less about leaving Twitter than the joys and woes of being addicted to the site, it's a blackly caustic, ludicrously funny comment on the social network that has changed how we watch TV. And how some of us go about stalking.
Also very much of the moment is Michael Lewis's Boomerang (Allen Lane, £20), a breakdown of the economic crisis and how we got here. It sounds dry; it isn't. A Vanity Fair regular, Lewis has an entertaining way of making the complicated readable, and picks out the national traits (such as the Icelandic tendency to barge into others) that have led us to our present woes.
Work is a principal focus for Tina Fey's Bossypants (Sphere, £16.99) – more specifically, her rise from runner to head writer on Saturday Night Live, then to boss of her own show, 30 Rock. Yes, it's another comedian's memoir (and you do need an interest in the American scene), but the difference between Brydon and Fey? There's never a let-up with the funnies here. Unlike Frankie Boyle's Work! Consume! Die! (HarperCollins, £20). The follow-up to My Shit Life So Far, its mood is overwhelmingly misanthropic cynicism. It reads rather bittily, like his stand-up only written down, rather than a cogent book, while an intermittent novella tells the story of a rapist who targets celebrities, which is just odd.
Finally, three recommended books that happen to be Independent on Sunday-related. The Banned List (Elliott & Thompson, £8.99) from our chief political commentator John Rentoul, is perfect for pedants, as he delivers a droll argument for abolishing hackneyed phrases. The Limerickiad (Smokestack, £9.99) by Martin Rowson, whose "The Abuses of Literacy" cartoons grace our books pages each week, provides a delightfully dirty digest of literature from Gilgamesh to Shakespeare. And Mark Steel's in Town (Fourth Estate, £12.99), by our sister paper's regular columnist, is an amusing guide to modern Britain, offering history, statistics and wry comment upon the quirks of various towns around the nation. A lot more fun than your average tourist guide.
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