Sean Stoker | Editor-at-large | @theroyalthey
I found myself on several occasions getting lost in UVU’s expansive library, similar to the way I often get lost at Barnes & Noble. If I’m not careful, places with lots of books can easily put me into a trance, causing me to roam endlessly for several hours. I have been known to spend seven hours at a library, and I don’t even work in one.
On one such journey to UVU’s library, I found myself astounded by the sheer volume of books and the ridiculously specific subject matter, things like “Rice Production in China from 1456-1864”, which is admittedly, a fake title, but not much of a stretch from what I’ve seen.
I’m amazed that we have such a wide and deep reservoir of knowledge in one place, so much so that virtually any academic question could be answered if you knew where to look. Realizing this, I set out to comb the library and find out what screwball questions we could conceivably ask. Simply put, I shook the tree, and this peculiar fell out.
Women of the Klan by Kathleen M. Blee (1991)
From the title I assumed this might be a sort of swimsuit calendar for men with very particular taste, but no, this is the real history of the “Women of the Ku Klux Klan” or WKKK, which somehow functioned as a feminist group that championed all things woman, while at the same time was racist, xenophobic and generally intolerant—all without dying of cognitive dissonance.
Psychology of Dance by Jim Taylor and Ceci Taylor (1995)
This has to be the single greatest cover image I have ever seen on a book. Everything about this cover screams 1990’s—from the color scheme, to the style of the dancers’ leotards, their hairstyles and even the choice of font.
The ridiculousness of the pose is only improved by the apparent lack of self-awareness this picture conveys. These models, bless their hearts, seem oblivious to how outrageous this image is. The guy in front even has an expression that seems strangely smug, like, “Yeah, you wish you could reenact ‘The Human Centipede’ with your friends.”
Tupperware by Alison J. Clarke (1999)
Everything you never wanted to know about the history of plastic food containers—it’s here. If pyramid scheme parties or the life of inventor Earl Tupper interests you at all, this is the tome for you.
I Want to Tell You by O.J.Simpson (1995)
So this book was published while the most famous court case of the 1990s was still in progress, before we all realized how much we wanted Johnny Cochran on our side should we ever be brought up on murder charges. Written by the Juice himself, this book can basically be summed up in one sentence: “No, really, I didn’t do it!”
Even if you were against Simpson when this book came out, and just wanted to pick it up to see what he had to say, then you’d be surprised to find out that you just helped pay a rich “alleged” murderer’s legal fees. On the publication page it specifically says “All of Mr. Simpson’s proceeds from the sale of this book… will be used to benefit Mr. Simpson’s defense fund in the legal proceedings that are taking place in Los Angeles, California.”
The Miracles of Rebound Exercise by Albert E. Carter (1979)
In the late 70s and early 80s a fad gripped the nation that would forever change the way we think about exercise. It only lasted a few years in the public sphere, though its effects can still be seen today. I remember growing up and finding one of these mini tramps tucked deep in the bowels of the basement, along with the equally ridiculous Thighmaster. Too bad we never bought a Shake Weight or we could have combined all three for some truly interesting workouts.
I am not saying that rebound exercise doesn’t work, mind you, but just that this book—complete with photos that have the distinct 1970s flavor of overalls, polos, and Ron Jeremy mustaches—is an encapsulation of a very specific slice of American history; a slice with bell-bottoms, mood rings and Jane Fonda workout tapes.
The Independent Piano Technician by Don Boles (1968)
According to the checkout slip in the front cover, the last time this book was checked out, at least before we switched to a digital system, was in 1989. This incredibly thin manual—only 74 pages—chronicles how one can make it in the business of tuning pianos.
Aside from its incredibly specific target audience, much of this books charm comes from the actual text, which appears to have been hand-typed using a typewriter. Under close inspection, it’s easy to see that the letters are uneven and on some pages tilted to one side, while other letters have been double-typed or kerned insanely close together.
A Woman’s Guide to Self Defense by Vic Shayne (1993)
I am all for gender equality and I think that women should have every advantage that men do, including feeling safe while out and about on their own. That being said, as a man, this cover makes me cringe. Inside, there is even a diagram with arrows and labels showing the proper technique of kicking a man in the groin. Honestly, I don’t think it’s a move that requires that much finesse.
Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh (1966)
This could be a great novel for all I know, but I was deeply disappointed upon opening it and finding that it had nothing to do with murderous marine mammals, but rather focuses on a murder mystery at theatre called “The Dolphin”. As if that’s what someone wants to read about.