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The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp through Civilization's Best Bits Hardcover – October 28, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 201 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

History is . . .
(a) more or less bunk.
(b) a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken.
(c) as thoroughly infected with lies as a street whore with syphilis.

Match your answers:
(1) Stephen Daedalus of James Joyce's Ulysses
(2) Henry Ford
(3) Arthur Schopenhauer

It turns out that answer need not be bunk, nightmarish, or diseased. In the hands of mental_floss, history's most interesting bits have been handpicked and roasted to perfection. Packed with little-known stories and outrageous—but accurate—facts, you'll laugh yourself smarter on this joyride through 60,000 years of human civilization. Remember: just because it's true, doesn't mean it's boring!

Exclusive: Amazonian Tips for Amazon.com

When you think of the word “Amazon,” we’re sure the first thing that comes to mind is the fantastic website where you can buy our book (buy our book!) or half-naked warrior women. But here are three tantalizing tidbits you might not know--and why you need to act now.

1. Find Gold
There’s something about long, tropical rivers that seems to drive people batty. But the Basque conquistador Lope de Aguirre was by all accounts a murderous sociopath long before he got to the Amazon. Take, for instance, the time a judge sentenced Aguirre to be flogged. The brutish Basque hunted the terrified magistrate across 4,000 miles of rough South American terrain, barefoot, to kill him! So, in 1560, it probably wasn’t the best idea to invite Aguirre along on the quest to find El Dorado, the legendary city of gold. After 900 miles of unbroken rain forest, Aguirre was fed up. He led a mutiny that killed more than half of his fellow conquistadors. Then, he declared himself prince of Peru, Tierra Firma, and Chile. Eventually he and his tiny army attacked Panama…where he was killed and dismembered so his body parts could be paraded around the colony.
The bright side: El Dorado is still out there, waiting for you to discover it! Just don’t bring a friend like Lope.

2. Invest a Dollar
When it’s not making people crazy, the Amazon seems to inspire bizarre, larger-than-life schemes. In 1967, American shipping magnate and billionaire Daniel Ludwig bought a larger-than-Connecticut sized chunk of the Amazon to create a gigantic industrial and agricultural complex called the Jari Project. It didn’t work out. All the construction led to massive soil erosion, screwing up the “agricultural” part of his plan. After sinking $1 billion into the project (back when $1 billion really meant something) Ludwig called it quits in 1982. It was eventually put up for sale for $1--a great deal, if you’re willing to assume $354 million in debt.
The bright side: For anyone with a dollar and a dream, it’s your lucky day: the Jari Project is still for sale!

3. Make New Friends
The pictures of spear-wielding tribesmen produced in May 2008 may have been a hoax, but it’s true that there are literally dozens of so-called “uncontacted” native tribes in the Amazon basin--Stone Age peoples who have never had any contact with the outside world! While this seems preposterous, it makes sense when you consider the Basin’s size, over 2.7 million square miles in area, half of which is covered by dense rain forest and divided by 15,000 rivers and tributaries. Altogether, there are believed to be about three dozen uncontacted tribes in Brazil and 15 in Peru.
The bright side: If you’re up for the adventure, you have more than 50 chances to claim fame and fortune. Just make sure you don’t accidentally give everyone smallpox.

… And so much more!
What you’ve just read isn’t available in our book, but don’t worry--roughly 82% of the rest of history is. Our twelve essential chapters tackle everything from civilization’s baby steps in the Fertile Crescent to the Pope’s first text message, the 6,000-pound super-wombats of early Australia to the Goose Crusade of 1096, the golden hemorrhoids of the Philistines to the most important assassinations of the 20th century, and everything else that’s wacky, entertaining, and completely, unbelievably true.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Sass and Wiegand do an admirable job of covering 60,000 years of human history in one volume. Along with the names of people and places, the dates and statistics, the wars, disasters, revelations, and accomplishments, there are fascinating stories, hilarious oddities, and plenty of fun. Nearly every page has a sidebar entry or two that fit well with the general narrative and also provide a chuckle or a Wow, I didnt know that! reaction. In 12 chapters with titles such as Athens, Alexander, and All That and The Not-Really-That-Dark (Unless You Lived in Europe) Ages, the authors cover our collective story from the earliest Homo sapiens on the grasslands of Africa to the current debate on global warming. Each chapter begins with a helpful In a Nutshell summary and a chronology of major events and ends with a well-selected list of comparative statistics. While some may bemoan the lack of bibliographic references and other academic fixtures, others will cheer this clever packaging of a wealth of information.–Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harper; First Edition (October 28, 2008)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 432 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0060784776
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0060784775
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.19 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 1.33 x 8.25 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 201 ratings

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