Monday, October 27, 2008

The Mental Floss History of the World

History never was my favorite subject. All those battles, dates, monarchs. Who can keep track?

My eight grade history teacher, Mr. Merich, used to have a way to keep us awake. He'd pace the room droning on about the Louisiana Purchase or something and then raising his voice several decibels would query, "Isn't that right, Stella?"

Fortunately, even if I wasn't interested, I was awake.

The guys over at Mental Floss have found a way to put the story in history but making the subject that used to make us snooze in school INTERESTING.

How about that?

The book covers about 60,000 years of history in less than 400 pages. According to co-writer Erik Sass:

"A natural question about any single-volume of history of the world should be: "Is everything here?" The straight answer is: no. Not that we didn't try. Sadl, HarperCollins rejected our original 500 million-page manuscript as "overenthusiastic" and "hard on the back." (Whether it would have been marketable as the first book visible from space is still up for debate.) And while this version does omit a few details, we think did alright."
That's the sort of wit and irreverence evident throughout the book. I've only made it through the first chapter so far, but I'm looking forward to zipping through the next couple thousand years.

The book is divided into twelve chapters:
  1. Africa and After (60,000 BCE-1500 BCE)
  2. Chaos and Control (1500 BCE-500 BCE)
  3. Athens, Alexander and All That ( 500 BCE-0 BCE)
  4. There's No Place Like Rome (Except China, Persia, India, Mexico, and Peru) (1 CE-500 CE)
  5. The Not-Really-That-Dark (Unless You Lived in Europe) Ages (500-1000 CE)
  6. The Fair-to-Middlin' Ages (Even If You Lived in Europe) (1000-1300 CE)
  7. Renaissance, Anyone? (And How About Genocide and Slavery?) (1300-1575 CE)
  8. War and Slavery (And, Uh, Enlightenment) (1575-1750)
  9. The Age of Liberation, Fragmentation, Stagnation and Plain Ol' Nations (1750-1900)
  10. The Empire Strikes Out (1900-1930)
  11. To the Brink of the Abyss (1931-1962)
  12. One World (1962-2007)
Appendix - Oh yea, Canada
Sass, along with co-author Steve Wiegand, promises action, sex and violence, psychopathic mass murders and orgies. What more could you ask for?

Like they say, truth is stranger than fiction. And history is apparently a lot more interesting than the stuff they make up in the movies. The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp Through Civilization’s Best Bits arrives on shelves October 28, 2008.

Now I've got to get going on chapters two through twelve. I am so gonna kick ass next time I watch Jeopardy!


  1. I love history, although my interest runs more toward 20th century U.S. history, especially the 1960s. I've always been fascinated by the decade because although I lived through it, I was too young to really enjoy it.

  2. Hi Stella!

    This book sounds very interesting. I might pick it up from my local library. If you like it, I recommend you try Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything," which applies a similar-sounding level of wit and irreverence to different fields of science and learning.

  3. sounds like a fun book! I'll second Mr Hulu's rec for "A Short History of Nearly Everything."

    How are you? I made baked brie with cranberries for a party Friday, ate at Traktir and guzzled vodka Saturday, then hung out with former DCer Sunday. Life is grand.

  4. I love Traktir! Sounds like you've been having fun...