E-/audiobooks: Non-fiction

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 November, 2014, 11:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 November, 2014, 11:23pm

I Only Read It for the Cartoons
by Richard Gehr
Amazon Publishing

“No, Thursday’s out. How about never – is never good for you?” That cartoon, depicting a businessman looking at his diary, phone to ear, is The New Yorker’s most widely reprinted cartoon. If you recognise the work, by Robert Mankoff, the magazine’s cartoon editor, you will probably also be familiar with the other cartoons that have made it past his desk onto that of magazine editor David Remnick, who has final say on the 40-50 works shortlisted from thousands submitted every week. Mankoff is among the 12 regular cartoonists Richard Gehr profiles in this book. Others (few of them household names) include Mankoff’s predecessor, Lee Lorenz, Roz Chast, Victoria Roberts, George Booth and Charles Barsotti, who died this year. Learn about the evolution of cartoons, discover the longest cartoon caption (205 words) ever published by the magazine, and more. Some readers may agree with Gehr that The New Yorker is the only general-interest magazine that still publishes single-panel cartoons on an ongoing basis. And the world is less charming for it.


Walk to Beautiful
by Jimmy Wayne
W Publishing Group

Jimmy Wayne's memoir would have benefited from the show-don't-tell-style of omission for impact. Instead, what comes across is a story so full of awfulness that, at times, you hope not all of it is true. The country-and-western singer and his sister lived with their mother, whose mental illness made her unable to care for her children. She careened from no-good husband to no-good husband, spent her time in and out of jail and institutions, and surrounded herself with people who were violent, abusive, on drugs or drunk. Not surprisingly, Wayne moved from home to home - because he was cared for by others or when money ran out - when he was not in detention or on the street. He also spent much of his early life hungry and scared. One stepfather tried to kill him, then he tried to kill himself. The book title refers to a walk that took Wayne from Nashville to Phoenix to raise awareness for foster youth. Wayne's music perfectly suits his life of sorrow. Whether you can sit through more than a song's worth of grief will determine whether you enjoy this book.


Beijing Bastard
by Val Wang
(read by Emily Woo Zeller)
Tantor Audio

Children rebelling against their parents is not a new subject but this memoir, by Chinese-American Val Wang, tackles the process of alienation, separation and growing up in a fresh and appealing way. Despite having developed a hatred of all things Chinese, Wang, who grew up in Washington, D.C., decides to move, in 1997, to the country her parents fled 50 years before: China. She wants to remove herself from family but finds herself living with relatives who cramp her style to a greater extent than did her folks. So she moves her leftist, feminist, vegetarian self away from their Beijing courtyard house to a flat in a seedy area. Her goal is to make a documentary about the "Sixth Generation" of underground filmmakers, including the director of Beijing Bastards, who becomes more than a friend. In her memoir, read by Emily Woo Zeller, Wang is distracted, however, by her writing job at a magazine, whose content must pass censors to be published. Readers are shown a city developing at full throttle and interesting characters who, like Wang, make life work in trying circumstances.