The New Yorker cartoonist picks five books you'd better hide from the kids.

Topics: Readers and Reading, Books,


These are five books that you might not want to leave lying around your house if you have small kids. They are guaranteed nightmare-makers, anxiety-creators and undesirable-question-raisers. When my son was about 7, I accidentally let it slip that, yes, it was possible for a person to be born with a third leg, that I had seen photographs of such a person. When he asked “Where?” I immediately changed the subject in a way that I’m sure will fester in his unconscious for years to come.

Very Special People: The Struggles, Loves, and Triumphs of Human Oddities by Frederick Drimmer (Amjon Publishers, 1973)

Text plus plenty of photographs of freaks — three-leggers; bearded ladies; 1,000-pound men; people with parasitic twins, i.e., with a little body, or just part of a little body, growing out of their torsos; the grotesquely fat or skeletal; distressingly bendable people; etc.

Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America by Stanley B. Burns, M.D. (Twelvetrees Press, 1990)

A collection of postmortem photographs from 1840 through 1930. Dead men, women and children. Plenty of children. Some have their eyes open. Some are in their beds. Some are just propped up in chairs. Some are only minutes dead. One is 9 days old.

Evidence by Luc Sante (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1992)

Evidentiary photographs taken by the police from 1914 through 1918. Creepy black-and-white pix of people murdered in tenement hallways, in their beds, at the kitchen table and so forth, plus Sante’s notes on each photo.

Special Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters by Rosamond Purcell (Chronicle Books, 1997)

Sample chapter title: “Too Much, Not Enough, and in the Wrong Place.” The cover is a nightmare image in itself — a photograph of the skeleton of an impossibly hydrocephalic child whose skull, to quote the author, “has opened up like a flower.”

Elmer Batters: The Caruska Sittings (Taschen, 1996)

Photos by a well-known foot-fetish photographer. Caruska is the goggle-eyed, overweight, eerily smiling German frau who posed, often topless (though that’s completely beside the point), for all of these foot- and spike-heel-shoe-oriented photographs. A bunch of them are set in cheesy ’70s offices or living rooms. If “somebody” found this book, there’d be just too much splainin’ to do.

Roz Chast is a cartoonist for the New Yorker and other magazines. Workman will publish her newest book, "The Mink Was Already Dead! And Other Rationalizations" (a collaboration with Henry Beard, Andy Borowitz and John Boswell) in March.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>