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Mainstream - The Mental Floss History of the World

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The Mental Floss History of the World
An Irreverent Romp Through Civilization's Best Bits
Harper Collins 2008
400 pages

I expected The Mental Floss History of the World to be the book equivalent to Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I or to a Monty Python movie. In fact this is an easy to read yet thorough and usually serious history of the world that manages to cover everything everywhere in some 400 pages. Historians –aka people who teach history only because they were there way back when—will have to respect the accuracy while readers will simply enjoy this book.

The Mental Floss History of the World is presented in 3 or 4 paragraph segments written in a tongue-in-cheek sometimes irreverent (“The Gandhi Man Can” or “Lenin and Trotsky and Stalin Walk Into a Bar”) but always serious style that makes history entertaining. While general history books tend to be Eurocentric, this Irreverent Romp Through Civilization’s Best Bits covers every continent and every major or minor civilization. There are also capsules here and there with an interesting factoid or two.

Pretty much everything is here from the first human settlements in 60000 BCE (aka Day 1 for religious nuts) to events in early 2008 (aka doomsday minus whatever your wackjob leader says).

Authors Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand and the people behind the Mental Floss magazine achieve the difficult task of making every easy to read and interesting at the same time so even if you are not much of a history buff, The Mental Floss History of the World makes you want to turn to the next page.

Most impressive and interesting for this reader is the four pages on the not so lightweights of the Enlightenment: Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Galilei, Descartes, Newton, Rousseau, Hobbes (of Calvin and Hobbes fame), so on, and Adam Smith (of motel registry fame).

Though more serious than its cover and title suggests, this general history book makes both a fun factoid night table or commode resident yet a good source book of history.

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