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Nov 17, 2017

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Top Shelf Reads
by Kate Whitfield
Magazine Issue: AUS/NZ Issue Three
Finding a good read can be harder than a cat's head and it's never more crucial than now, when the great outdoors moves indoors and a good book becomes a great night in. Here Kate Whitfield dips into the archives and pulls out a couple of top picks. Being old just makes them classic.

Catch 22
Joseph Heller

Jonathan Cape/Corgi/Random House (1962)

It's on the bookshelf of every house in the world. It's time to face the unenticing cover and the pretty boring first page and read it.

Actually it's not just the first page - Heller spends about 150 introducing the multitudinous characters of his fictional WW2 Mediterranean air base before really getting down to it. But at some point you turn the page and realise why this book became famous enough for its title to become part of everyday English. It's very funny and very good.

The absurdity of war is illustrated mercilessly, mostly through the eyes of Yossarian, a bombardier whose sole purpose while serving his country is not to die. Fair enough I reckon. A unique gem is Aarfy the navigator, a character so impressively, luminously annoying you want to throw the book out a window to make him go away. Luckily, he is not in it very much.

The World According to Garp
John Irving

Corgi Books (1978)

T. S. Garp is the son of a famous feminist, trying to deal with an issue still tormenting half of today's post-feminist world - male guilt. As if by association with the pinnacle of feminist ideals, Garp, who joyously does the housework and raises the kids while his wife Helen works, nevertheless finds himself bearing all the shame brought on the male of the species by rapists and wife-beaters.

Inexpressibly funny, even when it makes you cringe at the neverending awkwardness sexuality brings, this book will make you more inclined to give your partner a break. After all, politics are not part of our closest relationships, and if we make the effort it is possible for all of us - men, women, transsexuals - to get along.

Shiny and New A selection of book reviews about cooks, drugs and women and wine.
Richard Sterling
Lonely Planet $19.80

Chef, writer and very funny man Richard Sterling hits Hong Kong for a taste and travel roadtrip that at the very least will entertain you, at best, take you right there. An informative and highly amusing wander through the streets of Hong Kong indulging in everything you can eat and drink along the way.

Robert Joseph and Margaret Rand
Penguin Books $29.95

These guys weren't lying when they released this under the Keep it Simple Series. Another reference book that teaches you all about wine, it covers the usual topics - wine making, wine tasting, wine storage etc, but presents them in a way that'd welcome even the most fearful of wine. A nice, friendly start to the inquisitive wine mind..

Explore Australia Series
Penguin Books $19.95

More informative than a brochure, lighter than a street directory and laden with better photos than you'll ever dream of taking, this guide to Tasmania is a top purchase for anyone even thinking about jumping across to Tassie. It makes you wanna go.

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