A word in your ear

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The Independent Culture

The History of the World Cup (Naxos, 4hrs 23mins, tape £9.99; 4 CD set, £11.99) is a shining example of innovation in spoken-word publishing. All fans will love it, but the real measure of brilliance is that a football illiterate like me at last understands their obsession. Introduced by Bobby Charlton, whose memories and opinions ("keep it low and hit it sweetly") fill the whole of the fourth CD, it skilfully distils the epic story from Uruguay 1930 to France 1998. Brian Glanville's lively, knowledgeable narrative is delivered with the right pace and spirit by ITV presenter Bob Wilson. Everything is here: controversial goals, insane referee decisions, hooligan supporters, dirty politics. The heroes are deftly characterised – Maradona's Hand of God, Pele's twinkling boots, Bobby Moore's calm control – and the booklet lists play-offs in each of the 16 events.

Bill Bryson introduces WE Bowman's cult mountaineering spoof The Ascent of Rum Doodle (Isis, 4hrs 36mins, unabridged £16.99; mail order 0800 7315637) as the funniest book he has ever read. Published in 1956, it has been tucked into climbers' rucksacks ever since, but you don't need to be a climber to enjoy it. Written as a journal by the expedition's ever-optimistic leader, it tells of epic ascents the wrong way, muddled communications, boozing in base camp and the greatest challenge of all: the cooking of Sherpa Pong. Terry Wale reads with the right unshakeably unperceptive eagerness.

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