From Sign of the Speculum to How to Marry the Man of your Choice, Robin Ince picks the best of the truly bad books he’s salvaged from jumble sales and skips up and down the country
Robin Ince is one of the UK’s most accomplished, versatile comedians with a string of awards and media appearances to his name. He was the Chortle award winner in 2009 and won the Time Out award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy for his show The Book Club, which was also nominated for a British Comedy award and hailed by the Observer as “the outstanding literary event of the Edinburgh Festival”.
“Life on the road has taken me the length and breadth of the country and has allowed me to spend many an afternoon scouring second-hand bookshops, turning the yellowed pages of classics such as What would Jesus Eat?, rummaging through jumble sales, and even the odd skip, constantly on the search for the best of the truly bad. Over the last five years, my love of misguided guides and peripheral poetry pamphlets has bordered on obsession, in fact my tattered collection of “killer crab” novels currently stands taller than my child. This is my top 10 today, tomorrow it might include Mills & Boon’s Rash Intruder or God is for Real, Man.”
1. Sign of the Speculum by Jessica Russell Gaver
First, this is one of the most enigmatic titles on my bookshelf, at first suggesting a sequel to David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers. Actually, it is a romantic fiction that is also an ethical guide. What should you do if you are a Christian in love with your gynaecologist? The gynaecologist love story is one of the smaller genres in the broad world of romantic fiction.
2. Temptation in a Private Zoo by Anthony Dekker
This goes in the top 10 predominantly for its fantastic title. It is a spy thriller with a little bit of bear-baiting and a brief critique on how to spoil a dinner party by offering after-dinner mints. It was found in the compendium Man’s Book – books especially compiled for “the rugged reading tastes of men”.
3. Major Major by Terry Major-Ball
This is the delightful autobiography of John Major’s older brother. It is an image of an England seen predominantly in Ealing films. Terry fears women and Butlins, though comes to like them both. He knows how to make a cooked breakfast in the microwave too and he’ll tell you how. Remember to prick the egg yolk before microwaving though, or it will explode.
4. The Twentieth Plane: A Psychic Revelation by Albert Durrant Watson
An early 20th-century psychic, with the help of his deceased mother, has some conversations with Edgar Allan Poe, Byron, Shelley and other dead notables. This is non-fiction.
5. Crabs on the Rampage (and the other five) by Guy N Smith
Guy N Smith has written many horror books, but he is best known for his crabs series, chronicling the pipe-smoking crustacean adventures of Cliff Davenport, on the Welsh coast. A lurid mix of gore, some sex and moral lessons.
Moral lesson number one, don’t go swimming with your mistress: your adultery will lead to death by claw.
6. The Book of the Netherland Dwarf by Denise Cumpsty
A petcare guide book which has the reputation of a mystical tome created by HP Lovecraft that may open a portal to hell, populated by very small rabbits. Contains the most idiosyncratic drawings of the human hand holding scared rabbits.
7. Elvis: His Life and Times in Poetry and Lines by Joan B West
Who couldn’t love a slim collection of poems about Elvis from one of his brethren? What it lacks in traditional poetic skill it more than makes up for in passion for its subject. A strange beauty, enhanced by the delightful painting of Elvis on the cover.
8. Godless by Ann Coulter
If you want to know just how misguided anti-evolutionists can be and how determined to be stupid they are, Ann is a good start as she mulls on why, if evolution does exist, a worm doesn’t evolve into a beagle and how there aren’t any transitional fossils (apart from the ever-increasing collection of them). A magnificent view of what happens to your mind if you never let facts get in the way of it.
9. The Secrets of Picking up Sexy Girls by ??
A guide for the frustrated man who just can’t seem to pick up a sexy girl. Find out the advantages and disadvantages of rutting in a railway siding, why lesbians and OAPs are the same thing, how to spot a wig and why bras are bad.
10. How to Marry the Man of your Choice by Margaret Kent
The other side of The Secrets of Picking up Sexy Girls, Margaret will help women find a man to marry by persuading them to work in shoe sales or boat repair and reminding us that long fingernails “do not appeal to men”. Long fingernails suggest to a man that the woman is “unwilling to do household chores and is unavailable for recreational activities”.