The case of the 13 books

Maybe I didn't feel it was urgent to read the Sexy New Finds for Your Lips (November Cosmo, page 80), or the Beauty Cheat Sheet (ibid, p. 82) back when we were in the UK in October because I had a premonition that the cows and sheep of the West Pennine Moors would not be impressed.

Or maybe I was too enthralled by the boxes of books that had been delivered to our hosts, Jenny and Bob, by Amazon UK via the trusty Royal Mail and their intrepid drivers, aided by Jenny standing outside Rose Cottage and waving to them with a big flag.

Well, no sooner had we had a nice cuppa tea, than we pounced on those cardboard boxes and padded envelopes, tearing them open and pulling out the, yes, thirteen books we'd ordered. What's wrong with thirteen? It's a lucky number, isn't it? And we did bring an extra trolley to help haul them home.

In the interest of proper disclosure, only 5 of the 13 books were for me, of which one is purely a reference book I need for my work – the much-valued Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, (1025 p., 1.5 kg = 3.3 lb) compared to the 13th edition I had (737 p., 1.1 kg = 2.5 lb).

My other acquisitions, and the reasoning, if any, behind them, were:

Down and Out in Paris and London / George Orwell
Why? No idea. It seemed like a good idea at the time. At the moment it still seems like a good idea. As you will see from the link provided, you can read it online and decide for yourselves.

The Definitive Book of Body Language / Allan and Barbara Pease
Why? Because Tim Roth is cute and I'm hooked on Lie to Me. No, seriously: because, in the early '70s, I found the more pioneering work on body language, by Julius Fast, fascinating. And I was told that this newer book is more comprehensive and up-to-date. So far it's a bit of a drag. But it's not a book you have to read from cover to cover. You can dip into it, choosing the chapters that appeal to you.

Notes from a Small Island / Bill Bryson
Why? Well, I'd never even heard of Bill Bryson, until my friend Trish, complimenting me on my travel blog [Nina Makes Tracks], said something like, "Who knows, maybe you'll be the next Bill Bryson." So obviously I proceeded to Google, and became intrigued. Bryson has written a lot, but this one appealed to me. The one paragraph I read so far was so just like my own impressions! Here's an excerpt from the paragraph in question, from Chapter 1, p. 29:

"If you mention in the pub that you intend to drive from, say Surrey to Cornwall….your companions will….look knowingly at each other….and then they'll launch into a lively and protracted discussion of whether it's better to take the A30 to Stockbridge and then the A303 to Ilchester or the A361 to Glastonbury via Shepton Mallet. Within minutes the conversation will plunge into a level of detail that leaves you, as a foreigner, swiveling your head in quiet wonderment."
Can't tell you how many times I have experienced this exact type of conversation, upon embarking on a car ride in England, be it from one end of London to another of from London to, say, Barnsley, Yorks.

A Short History of Nearly Everything / Bill Bryson
Why? Because I like rough guides to science, which is what this 687 page baby is about. Bryson's easy style is, of course, a marked bonus.

Here endeth my part of the purchases.
We also ordered two fat omnibuses of humorous fantasy writer Tom Holt for our son Daniel; five fat fantasy novels for Hubby, a.k.a. Michael: a Robert Jordan, a David Gemmel, and three Raymond E. Feists. And last but très important, A pocket Calorie Counter, by Carolyn Humphries, to replace one that was falling apart from over-use. (Nah, we don't count calories. We keep track of carbs, for purely health reasons.)

* * *
… so, to make a long story short, what did I read in the UK?
- a bit of the body language book. Interesting, even useful, in small bites; gets tedious.
And what am I reading now?
- Tom Holt's Odds and Gods, one of his earlier stories. It is funny. If you like, l'll substantiate with a few choice quotations, even though they fail miserably – or hilariously – to provide the full picture.

Cosmo Ain't What It Used To Be

But then, nothing is, right?

How many of you read Cosmopolitan? If you do, do you read the American edition, The British, or perchance the Israeli one? There are plenty other editions, of course, in other languages and countries, but I assume they have much in common: What to wear [the skinny jeans or the ones you can actually breathe and sit in? The dark grey or the dark-dark grey burqa?]; which hair-mousse/lipstick/eyeshadow is fashionable [not the ones you already have and paid a pretty penny for, that's for sure;] how to ask your boss for a raise [refer to the Body Language book first;] and – most important of all, the perennial best-seller – sex, sex, sex.

See, I feel that I owe you a follow-up to my post of October 14th, where I went on and on about what-book-to-take-on-vacation. The upshot was, I didn't take any book. I bought a Cosmo at the airport. I do that occasionally, mostly on trips, to while away the time in airport lounges and the like. I wouldn't read it while sitting in a waiting room here in Israel: someone might think I'm a shallow person who doesn't appreciate Literature, god forbid! But everything goes in the anonymity of a large international airport. ["Hey, see that silvery-haired woman in blue over there? Isn't she the one who hands out the tickets to the Ptashka jazz concerts?.. Quick, I'll hide the Cosmo!"]

Don't remember when I first discovered Cosmo. Possibly on my first trip to the States in 1972. Sure, it had articles on sex in those bygone days, too. I Googled and found a pic of the October 1972 cover. Let's see now, how many articles about sex does that issue contain, and how are they worded?

  • The Bugaboo of Male Impotence [Great, I just learnt a new word. How come baby stroller manufacturers decided on a word meaning "irrational fear" for their product name?... Are new moms terrified of strollers?...]
  • The Undiscovered Joys of Having a Chinese Lover [is that even politically correct?]
  • Analyst's Couch: The Unfaithful Husband [that qualifies as being about sex, right?]
  • How to Get Your Husband to Love You Like a Mistress (and Keep you Sexy and Satisfied) [Sounds a rather indirect approach…]

Other topics mentioned on the cover are low blood sugar, yoga, weight reduction, an excerpt from a novel, a short story, and more. Out of the 11 front-cover topics, four deal with sex, in one way or another, in fairly tame, polite language.

Now let's consider the November 2010 issue (American edition):
Look at the slightly shy cleavage of Tuesday Weld (on the 1972 cover), half covered by the huge pendant, as opposed to the in-your-face cleavage of Katy Perry with the tiny, strategically placed pendant. Notice the coy placement of Weld's left hand, compared to Perry's forceful gesture. Then Look at the modest font used for the list of topics on the 1972 cover, as opposed to the screamingly huge titles on the 2010 cover. Then consider the wording of some of the topics:

  • First, Take Off His Pants. Next, Treat Him to the Sexy Strokes He's Been Craving All Along… but Won't Ask For [well, at least they used capitalization rules correctly…]
  • Wicked Things Other Women Do in Bed (Our Naughtiest Sex Poll)
  • What Your Turn-Ons Reveal
  • Uh, well… the other topics are more loosely related to sex…

But the articles inside more than make up for it, with absolute must-know, hot information, such as Should You Have a Sex Code, Keep Your Long-Distance Love Hot, Feel Closer After a Fight, Your Top Sex Fantasies Analyzed, Sex Q+A, etc.

And of course, an all-time favorite that has absolutely nothing to do with sex, we women do it for sheer fun and enjoyment – Get Killer Abs in 6 Minutes a Day.

Not that I'm complaining. I'm no prude. And though the magazine has been on our coffee table for three weeks now, I've read only a fraction of its glossy, enticing 240 pages. I'm a working woman, you know; can't sit around reading Cosmo all day, even if it means I am still ignorant of the Sexy New Finds for My Lips. (Page 80, if you're interested.)

As for what I read during my 2 weeks in the UK – the blog-post is in the making. Hint: We'd ordered 13 books from Amazon UK, and they were waiting for us in Heath Charnock when we got there. [Never heard of H. Charnock? See How to get lost on the West Pennine Moors.]