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The Month Ahead: Books

What to read, watch and listen to in December




Anyone familiar with Ralph Steadman knows his Book of Cats won’t be a cuddly affair. The British artist’s ink-spattered, frenziedly surreal work is closely associated with the late Hunter S. Thompson (for whose Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Steadman famously provided the illustrations), and there’s a similarly gonzo sensibility here: the fat cat with the expression of an introspective hedge fund manager, the black blot smirking as it toys with a mouse, the scrawny, bat-eared creature that’s barely visible behind Steadman’s manic splotches. “I am trying to figure out if I like cats,” he writes in the foreword, “not whether I adore them … but whether I can tolerate them at all.” DEC. 4

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In playfully debunking time-honored parental advice in his new book, Because I Said So!, “Jeopardy!” champion and trivia czar Ken Jennings draws on the chestnuts he and his friends heard growing up in the U.S. But American moms and dads aren’t the only ones imparting dodgy wisdom to their kids, as Jennings reveals for us here:

Don’t sleep with an electric fan on—you’ll suffocate! (Korea) “Fans may circulate air, but they don’t change the breathability of its oxygen in any way.”

Sitting on cold concrete will make you sterile! (Russia) “In fact, the only result of sitting on cold concrete is the temporary medical condition ‘cold butt.'”

You’ll get a bellyache if you drink water after eating cherries! (Germany and the Czech Republic) “Some say this is due to the yeast on the fruit skin being activated. Nope! Even ‘watered-down’ stomach acid is way too acidic for yeast to start bubbling.”

Don’t wear red in stormy weather, or else you’ll get hit by lightning! (The Philippines) “This is true—if the item of clothing is a red hat with a tall metal pole mounted on it.” DEC. 4

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“I had seen those blobs of adolescent protoplasm grow into the manic dusk of their teenage years, scorched, undone and broken apart by privilege, free money, alienation, disorders of the mind and congenital enfeeblement.” —From Me and the Devil, a sulfurous pseudo-memoir from American novelist, biographer and critic Nick Tosches. DEC. 4

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