Feature

Also of interest ... in funny business

<em>Trick or Treatment</em> by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst;<em>Free-Range Chickens </em>by Simon Rich; <em>The Spy&rsquo;s Bedside Book </em>edited by Graham Greene and Hugh Greene; <em>Supreme Cour

Trick or Treatment by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst (Norton, $26) All but a handful of the remedies peddled by the $77 billion alternative medicine industry are essentially placebos, said Juliet Lapidos in The New York Observer. That’s the conclusion science writer Simon Singh and medical doctor Edzard Ernst came to after combing evidence from countless clinical trials. They probably should have explored more deeply “why so many people spend so much money on such transparent quackery,” but their takedowns of homeopathy, acupuncture, and herbal and chiropractic remedies are scrupulous and convincing.

Free-Range Chickens by Simon Rich (Random House, $17) Saturday Night Live writer Simon Rich is a “ridiculously entertaining” humorist, said Whitney Spotts in the Lansing, Mich., State Journal. In his second collection of brief musings, the young Harvard Lampoon alum considers what topics firehouse Dalmatians might discuss, how Dracula would come off in a Match.com profile, and the things that are most crucial when you’re 9. Expect to see at least a few choice bits making the rounds in viral e-mails.

The Spy’s Bedside Book edited by Graham Greene and Hugh Greene (Bantam, $12) The novelist Graham Greene understood that lies at times can be worth more than truth, said Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times. In this “charming curiosity from 1957,” just republished by Bantam, Greene and his journalist brother mixed snippets of spy fiction from Conrad, Kipling, and Auden with instructions on secreting messages inside boiled eggs and disguising maps inside diagrams of butterflies. Part of the fun for the reader is not knowing which bits are based in fact. Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley (Twelve, $25) No comic novel by Christopher Buckley “is ever a true bust,” said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. But the author of Thank You for Smoking has traded in his rapier wit for a blunter instrument in this sendup of Supreme Court politics. The idea of a sassy Texas TV judge winning a seat on the nation’s highest court is simply not very funny. And though Buckley remains “good company,” the author’s trademark verbal agility is “not much in evidence” this time out.

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