"Dave Barry's Gift Guide to End All Gift Guides" is the perfect gift -- The author's latest book arrives just in time for the holidays


Of all the cheesy, sleazy, greedy ploys by publishers to shake the holiday shekels out of the public’s pockets, Dave Barry’s Gift Guide to End All Gift Guides is far and away our favorite. The most instantly identifiable prose stylist now working in American newspapers (he’s currently syndicated via the Miami Herald) is not making up any of the peerless nightmare mail-order gifts he has collected in this teensy book that provokes big laughs. Yes, you can actually buy the Can of Pork Brains in Milk Gravy, the Glow-in-the-Dark Squid, the Bull Scrotum Tote Bag, the Flame Jet Weeder, and the Preserved Reproductive Tract of Cow. And yes, you can even buy the Mister Dip Lip item, a medically accurate model of a chewing-tobacco-diseased human mouth.

As an analyst of sexual politics, we’ll take Barry over Deborah Tannen any day. ”As a rule,” he notes, ”women prefer romantic items, which technically can be defined as ‘items that are small but cost a lot and do not have plugs,’ such as jewelry. The ultimate romantic gift for a woman would be a single molecule of some extremely expensive substance in a tiny cherishable box.” Okay, this may be sexist and not strictly true, but the verbal music of that last sentence is Gershwin-esque. Barry is like Letterman: Legions may want to punch his nose, but nobody can touch him.

One warning to the consumer: Once you’ve read this book, you will want to inflict at least one of these presents on a soon-to-be-former friend.