Flipside after-holiday list

A selection of offbeat books for the weird people on your after-holiday list.

  • For the indie artist:

    Pim & Francie Pim & Francie
    By Al Columbia, Fantagraphics Books (2009)

    Don’t let the wholesome cover fool you, this is one wonderfully dark and disturbing little tome. The long-awaited collection by reclusive sequential artist and writer Al Columbia, whose black and white animation-influenced style of illustration is truly unlike anyone else’s. The narrative in this graphic novel/art book remains unfinished (as do some of the drawings), but this attractive hardcover by Fantagraphics spans several years of the mysterious artist’s inimitable work. Beautiful, and not for the faint of heart.

  • For the sardonic:

    Horseradish Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid
    By Lemony Snicket, HarperCollins (2007)

    “In an emergency, one often learns that one’s companions can be of even less help in extraordinary circumstances than they are during an average evening.”

    Most people are already familiar with Lemony Snicket’s completely fabulous Series Of Unfortunate Events books. But if you haven’t already, check out the author’s book of quotes about life, the universe and despondancy, titled Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid. The antidote to sacchrine, unhelpful platitiudes, Snicket’s humorous, witty, melancholy and sometimes moving quotes actually are inspirational in their tongue-in-cheek honesty and wry optimism.

  • For the animal lover:

    Mutts Mutts Shelter Stories: Love. Guaranteed.
    By Patrick McDonnell, Andrews McMeel Publishing (2008)

    Despite being a nerd, a writer and a weirdo, I will always be a huge animal sap. In this adorable, funny, touching book, Mutts newspaper-strip creator and companion-animal rights activist Patrick McDonnell intersperses Mutts-style strips with photos and stories of real shelter animals who surpassed the odds and made it to loving homes. Uplifting even when it’s tear-jerking, it’s a great marriage of cartoons and photos, and an enchanting labor of love by the artist.

  • For the sociological and/or the tattooed:

    Russian Prison Tattoos Russian Prison Tattoos: Codes of Authority, Domination, and Struggle
    By Alix Lambert, Schiffer Publishing (2003)

    Not a cheerful gift, but this heavy, sad book is an excellent photo-journalistic expose on a touchy and largely unseen phenomenon. Since before the 1920s, inmates in Russian prisons have worn tattoos—sometimes voluntarily and other times through force—whose images are coded to indicate their crimes and affiliations. Full of modern photos and stories from individual prisoners, Lambert reveals the tattoos’ many meanings and the hell that is Russian prison. An intense read.

  • For the John Waters fan who has everything:

    Ask Dr. Mueller Ask Dr. Mueller: The Writings of Cookie Mueller
    By Cookie Mueller, High Risk Books/Serpent’s Tail (1996) OUT OF PRINT

    Original “Dreamlander” from John Waters’ early underground films, Cookie Mueller was as much full of street-wise wisdom as she was bad-girl moxie. Before her tragic death from AIDS in 1989, the actress and sometimes-subject of photographer Nan Goldin wrote an advice column for The East Village Other. This book collects her column work as well as other fiction, prose, and autobiographical-ish essays, with an introduction by Waters. The now out-of-print book costs upwards of $30 on Amazon or Abebooks.com, but it’s a neat find for Waters fans or for fans of renegade, vagabond writers.

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