Celebrations of Curious Characters Review & Thoughts on Book Design


I have been a fan of Ricky Jay’s work for a long time. He is the most talented close-up magician still performing, but he is also the preeminent collector of all things odd and unusual.

There are few authors who care about their work as much as Jay. Every word is carefully selected, each picture is one of a kind, and even the design of the book is top notch. It’s the type of book that you will want to display on a table rather than hide on a shelf. It’s the perfect size for the subject matter and, thankfully, this is the kind of book that is so well suited for a full color, hard cover, oversized book that it will never work as an ebook.


Each chapter consists of one page of text and one full page print. Each picture is both interesting and beautiful. In fact, you may want to get two copies just so you can frame a few of the pictures from the book. Some of my favorite chapters include:

Tossing The Broads – Jay’s thoughts on the 3 card monte

Twins – A Celebration of Siamese Twins (the print accompanying this chapter is one of the very best – twins sharing a mustache)

Coffee – A History of the first Coffee Shops/Museums of the Unusual

Taking It on The Chin – The Story of the best “musical face player”

Misconception – Women who have given birth to animals

Shot From A Cannon – The first woman to be shot from a cannon (one of my favorite prints)

Death By Misadventure – The story of Chung Ling Soo

There is not a clunker in the entire book. Each short essay and every picture are nearly perfect; in short, this is a collection not to be missed. Whether you are fascinated with the unusual, curious about the odd, or just a lover of books, this is a must.


Now more than ever, the style and design of a book can make or break it. For instance, I found a book today that is contained in a prescription bottle. Interesting . . . but I thought someone had accidentally left their prescription on a shelf. Bottom line is that I think it will hurt sales more than help them.


What books do you know of that are perfectly designed for the subject matter? Does it make a difference when reading those books? What books do you have that absolutely would not work as an ebook, and why?