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Five Great Reads: tsunami survival, reading every Marvel comic, and a good dog show

Good morning, happy Friday, hope you’re holding up okay. You’ve found yourself on Five Great Reads, which today includes thrilling stories of action and adventure, collected by me, Alyx Gorman, Guardian Australia’s cloaks, croquettes and camping editor.

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If you want to read the news as it breaks, this is not the place for that. The place for that is our live blog. And if you’re dreading returning to work or school, read our advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith’s response to someone who feels the same way.

Now, on to the reads.

1. An astonishing story of tsunami survival

Tongan man Lisala Folau, a retired carpenter, was knocked off the tree he had climbed to escape an onrushing tsunami. He was swept out to sea and drifted and swam for more than 24 hours but survived, floating 13km to arrive at Tonga’s capital.

Lisala Folau, a Tongan man who drifted and swam for more than 24 hours after getting swept out to sea.
Lisala Folau, a Tongan man who drifted and swam for more than 24 hours after getting swept out to sea. Photograph: Marian Kupu/BROADCOM BROADCASTING/via REUTERS

Notable quote: “Bear in mind that I am disabled. I can’t walk properly,” Folau told Tongan radio station Broadcast FM. “And when I can, I believe a baby can walk faster than I.”

Incredible parenting: As Folau floated further out to sea, he could hear his son calling to him. “I kept my silence,” he said. “For if I answered him he would jump in and try to rescue me.”

How long will it take me to read? Three minutes.

2. Personality cult of ex-Kazakh leader crumbles

Nursultan Nazarbayev spent 30 years as the president of Kazakhstan. Now, in the wake of deadly protests, the new regime is trying to distance themselves from his crumbling cult of personality.

An artwork depicting Kazakhstan’s first president Nursultan Nazarbayev, which was smeared with mud during recent protests triggered by fuel price increase.
An artwork depicting Kazakhstan’s first president Nursultan Nazarbayev, which was smeared with mud during recent protests triggered by fuel price increase. Photograph: Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters

Background context: “The average monthly salary in Kazakhstan is less than £450,” Pjotr Sauer writes. “While according to a 2019 report by KPMG, 162 people in the country own more than 50% of its wealth. Much of the elite property is in the hands of Nazarbayev’s extended family.”

How long will it take me to read? Three minutes

3. There are 27,000 Marvel comics. Douglas Wolk read all of them.

What can one learn from climbing the entire mountain of Marvel content? For starters, Douglas Walk says, that “not even the people telling the story have read the whole thing”. And “that’s not how it was meant to be experienced”.

Most intriguing hero: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, who has the “proportional speed and strength of a squirrel”. “But her real power,” Wolk writes, “is a knack for creative nonviolent conflict resolution, a rare quality in a superhero.”

Least intriguing hero: The Punisher, “who has so far slaughtered upwards of 1,000 drug dealers, security guards and the like. (I counted.)”

4. From rugby slam life to van life

After a long and successful career as a professionally rugby player, Joe van Niekerk dropped off the grid, immersed himself in study and travel. Now he spends his days working as an organic farmer in Costa Rica.

Notable quote: “I needed to cleanse my body from the absolute carnage of 15 years of professional rugby,” van Niekerk tells Jonathan Drennan. “I needed to look within myself. There was a feeling of loss there, who the hell am I? You’ve been told you’re this and that. You’re Joe the rugby player. Then that’s gone and, in spite of that initial feeling of loss, eventually, I found such joy and peace.”

I don’t care about rugby. Same. This is still a great interview.

5. The greatest reality show

In the ABC’s new mini-series Muster Dogs, a litter of kelpies are placed with farmers and put through their paces. The aim? To go from puppies to full-blown working dogs in just 12 months (it usually takes three years).

Kelpie puppies from Muster Dogs.
Kelpie puppies from Muster Dogs. Photograph: ABC

Notable quote: “It’s all about bonding and giving them a pat so they learn what to do and what not to do,” Queensland farmer Frank Finger tells Alex McKinnon. “It’s very much the same as raising a family.”

When can I watch this? 7.40pm on Sunday 23 January on ABC TV.

I need more dog content now. Please enjoy this bonus read about Millie, a jack russell-whippet cross who got stranded on a treacherous mudflat and evaded the rescue efforts of UK police, firefighters and coast guards. Her saviour came in the unlikely form of a drone with a sausage dangling off it.

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