Big things come in small books

"Crap Cars." By Richard Porter. Bloomsbury. 111 Pages. $14.95.

The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, January 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 31, 2005 at 10:21 p.m.
For several years now, it has been a widely held belief that American-made cars are inferior to foreign brands, especially those from Japanese and German automakers.
The Ford Pinto (with its nasty habit of exploding) and Chevrolet Vega (which was prone to rust prematurely) of the 1970s were among the U.S. models that did their part to create the perception.
No surprise, then, that the Pinto and Vega are among the 50 models Richard Porter selected for his book, "Crap Cars." But what might surprise is that models bearing such prestigious (and high-priced) foreign badges as Porsche, Ferrari, Volvo and even Rolls-Royce are here, too, parked right alongside the Pintos, Vegas, Chrysler K-cars and AMC Gremlins.
In his owner's manual-size book, Porter shares his reasons - and doesn't spare the venom - accompanied by color photos of the vehicles he victimizes.
The cars are counted down from No. 50 to No. 1 - from the Porsche 924 (whose VW engine provided "all the get up and go of an octogenarian in lead shoes") to the 1974 Mustang, the sequel to a "full-fledged living legend" that was based on a horse of another color, the infamous Pinto.
Loyal owners - most notably, perhaps, some of the 20 million-plus who have owned a VW Beetle - will disagree with some choices, while others will wonder why the lemon in their driveway was spared Porter's wrath.
Nevertheless, this is a book that lovers of cars will love, and that loathers of certain cars will love even more.
"The Statue of Liberty." By Marie-Sophie Corcy, Lionel Dufaux and Nathalie Vuhong. Scala. 8 Pages. $9.95.
Inside the slender 5-by-7-inch "The Statue of Liberty" lurks a bigger book.
Marie-Sophie Corcy and collaborators tell the story of the design and construction of Lady Liberty in text and 35 illustrations that are cleverly contained in a book of only eight pages.
The trick? Four of those pages fold out or up, to expand to four times their original size.
The 150-foot-high statue was a notable technical achievement in its day. The work of French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, Liberty was commissioned as a gift from France to commemorate the centennial of U.S. independence in 1876.
One of the fold-outs shows the huge hand and torch on display at the Universal Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, while another has a painting depicting the gala inaugural of the statue's installation in New York Harbor on Oct. 28, 1886.
Other photos show Bartholdi in his studio, earlier works that inspired Liberty, the progress of the statue's construction and its arrival in the United States - after having been built in Paris and dismantled for shipping in 200 crates.
Most of the illustrations in this unusual and informative book are from the collection of the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris, which houses Bartholdi's papers.
"Baseball and the Meaning of Life." Edited by Josh Leventhal. Voyageur Press. 96 Pages. $12.95.
There is a gap of less than four months between the end of the World Series and the date on which pitchers and catchers report for spring training. But for fans who can't get enough of the national pastime, those four months might as well be four years.
To help antsy fans endure baseball's hibernation are books such as "Baseball and the Meaning of Life."
Editor Josh Leventhal has selected pithy baseball quotes by players, managers, umpires and others - Casey Stengel, Satchel Paige, Yogi Berra and Mike Schmidt among them - and teamed them with appropriate illustrations of game action, players and artifacts.
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente diving for a fly ball is a fitting image for his quote: "I believe we owe something to the people who watch us. When we don't try one hundred percent, we steal from them."
A young Johnny Bench amazes viewers by showing how he can grip seven baseballs in his mittlike bare hand, illustrating a quote by pitcher Jim Bouton: "You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time."
Humphrey Bogart weighs in with "A hot dog at the ball park is better than a steak at the Ritz." And anyone who doubts Bogie need only look at the accompanying photo of the cover of the 1967 Phillies yearbook showing the wide-eyed glee of the little boy who's about to eat a stadium frank big enough to hide half his face.
And there's even some baseball advice that applies to everyday life, too, including this one courtesy of Babe Ruth: "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from swinging."

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