Ten years ago, the science comedian Robin Ince was known better for his interest in peculiar literature than his love of science. He has bought so many strange books from charity shops that he has realized that he will die before he has had time to read them all. If read in order as they appear on his shelf at home, he has calculated on which shelf he’ll die at. For a while he was reading just the first chapter of each book and donating any that didn’t grab his attention. Currently he co-hosts Book Shambles podcast with Josie Long where they give away a stack of books each episode.
Robin Ince is a comedian and science popularizer. He is the author of Robin Ince’s Bad Book Club and editor of the Dead Funny books. His standup DVDs are available from Go Faster Stripe. He co-presents The Infinite Monkey Cage, Book Shambles, and Vitriola Music podcasts. @robinince
But long before that, Ince hosted an alternative comedy night of experimental standup and Ince’s readings of these literature oddities. Book Club started as a regular show in 2005, went on tour in 2006, and had a comeback as Dirty Book Club in 2013. Jon Ronson has admitted that his monthly show in Brooklyn with Maeve Higgins is inspired by Robin Ince’s Book Club show (as well as Josie Long’s shows). Sometimes Ince’s readings of these bizarre tomes were backed by mime and interpretive dance, as well as Martin White or Isy Suttie on accordion. Strange but true.
In 2010, Little, Brown UK published Robin Ince’s Bad Book Club, a book celebrating his favorite “bad” books from the show. And by “bad,” he means different. His favorite is a self-published pamphlet called The Secrets of Picking Up Sexy Girls, which has since vanished out of existence. It began: Chapter One – What Is a Girl?
Other highlights include:
- How to Marry the Man of Your Choice, which suggests the best place to find the right man is at a boat repair shop
- Crabs on the Rampage, which explains why Robin autographed my copy of Dead Funny the way he did
- love letters to David Bowie written by people who think they are from other planets
- Major Major, the autobiography of Terry Major-Ball, whose life goal was to go to Heathrow Airport, but he never got around to it
- a book of celebrity interviews from beyond the grave, wherein interviews with Coleridge, Shakespeare, and Lincoln are interrupted by interjections from the author’s dead mother
- the Bible summarized in limericks
- Elvis: His Life and Times in Poetry and Lines
- Religious books like What Would Jesus Eat?, What God Does When Women Pray, and God Is for Real, Man
God is “a loney neighbor deliberately throwing dog excrement into your garden to force some sort of conversation. He is then happy to have been noticed when you go round and say, ‘Could you stop throwing your Great Dane excreta over our fence,’ even though you were red in the face with anger, so he stop chucking the poop over the fence. Until he wants you to notice him again.” –Robin Ince
To conclude, Ince discusses the future of charity shops in the digital age. In 2010, the future of any kind of bookstore was more uncertain than it is now in a time of indie bookstore revival, but the question of whether little secondhand stores will be able to stay in business forever remains.
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