Hardy annuals

From satirical stocking fillers to trouble on Glebe Street, this year’s batch of hardback picture books brings Matt Meade out in a nostalgic sweat

Annuals were once the sole preserve of the young. Boys had their Beano and girls got their Mandy. Scots hooted at the charmingly formulaic plotlines of The Broons, while the English, one imagines, marvelled at the asinine ‘adventures’ of Rupert the Bear and his chums. The range of adult titles available this season is huge. For many, the receiving of an annual has been a Christmas constant and not one they consider relinquishing into adulthood. Reading these hardback picture books recaptures a time when, sustained only by a selection box, you could happily devour The Dandy in a single sitting, while bigger, more expensive presents waited their turn for our attention. Here we recommend the pick of the bunch to enjoy in peace for when the in-laws finally depart and when the yuletide telly is, as Paw Broon might say, mince.

Viz: The Pearl Necklace (Dennis Publishing) presents a ‘luxurious string of uncultured gems’ from issues 142 to 151 of Britain’s best-selling bawdy comic. Forget the Fat Slags and head straight for Fru T Bunn, the Master Baker and his Gingerbread Sex Dolls, and also the indomitable alcoholic Eight Ace. The Top Tips section is consistently brilliant too. Not an edifying Christmas read, but with a title like that you don’t expect otherwise. The Private Eye Annual (Private Eye) may not be as clever as it thinks it is, but works great as an irreverent news review of 2007. Lampooning everything from Ulster to Islam, and rebuking figures of tabloid populism through well-placed speech-bubbles, it’s the obvious choice for any fan of the satirical stocking filler.

Exercise your cerebral mass with the QI Annual (Faber). This book of ‘general ignorance’ expands on Stephen Fry’s popular television show, with contributions from panellists Rob Brydon, Jo Brand and Bill Bailey. Weird facts, questions which will stump and a great layout make this a stand-out title in the annuals market. Fry exaggerates only a bit when he claims it will ‘cause nothing but rapture and enchantment of the highest, giddiest kind.’ Red-blooded male readers will certainly feel these sensations upon opening the WWE Divas Wrestling Annual (Pedigree), which has to be seen to be believed. The pictures of ‘action’ scenes from ‘fights’ between these buxom goddesses (and there’s plenty of them) leave little to the imagination. Sweating female limbs entwine, skirts ride up, and aggressively orgasmic faces pout in delightful ways.

Thirtysomething females will certainly enjoy the Best of Jackie (DC Thomson), though when it comes to content, The Broons Annual (DC Thomson) blows all the other titles away. Scotland’s happy family are up to their usual tricks that invariably lead to Maw Broon being black-affronted either by Paw Broon’s incorrigible behaviour (jings!), Daphne’s gluttony (crivvens!!), or Grandpaw’s and unseemly ways (help ma boab!!!). It’s all happening on Glebe Street. Also check out what could be Scotland’s bestselling title this Christmas, Maw Broon’s Cookbook (DC Thomson) which includes hearty Scottish recipes for stovies, Scotch pies, and – you guessed it – mince. Braw.

All annuals are out now.

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