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Mencken Chrestomathy

Mencken Chrestomathy [Kindle Edition]

H.L. Mencken
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Edited and annotated by H.L.M., this is a selection from his out-of-print writings. They come mostly from books—the six of the PREJUDICES series, A BOOK OF BURLESQUES, IN DEFENSE OF WOMEN, NOTES ON DEMOCRACY, MAKING A PRESIDENT, A BOOK OF CALUMNY, TREATISE ON RIGHT AND WRONG—but there are also magazine and newspaper pieces that never got between covers (from the American Mercury, the Smart Set, and the Baltimore Evening Sun) and some notes that were never previously published at all.
Readers will find edification and amusement in his estimates of a variety of Americans—Woodrow Wilson, Aimee Semple McPherson, Roosevelt I and Roosevelt II, James Gibbons Huneker, Rudolph Valentino, Calvin Coolidge, Ring Lardner, Theodore Dreiser, and Walt Whitman. Those musically inclined will enjoy his pieces on Beethoven, Schubert, and Wagner, and there is material for a hundred controversies in his selections on Joseph Conrad, Thorstein Veblen, Nietzsche, and Madame Blavatsky.


The famous American journalist's selections from his writings reflect his witty interpretations of humanity, government, and a variety of other topics.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1628 KB
  • Print Length: 647 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B000UFH5QM
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (7 Mar 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #103,812 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars top Mencken 5 Dec 2000
Mencken on anything from Americans to Zoos. Here is a compendium that gives the broadest introduction to Menchen I can imagine. It contains some of his greatest, most acerbic and witty writings, some of his most nerve-wracking, opinionated, all-embracing insights, from the fabulous "The Husbandman" (in the chapter on Quackery, of all places), to the "Types of men", the protrait of Sister Aimee and pages of aphorisms. This is reading that is always good, stuff that can be read and re-read for the supple language, a book for bed, the toilet, the bus, the subway, the train, the vacation, or cosy evenings by the fire.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Part of My Library 5 July 1999
By A Customer
If I were stranded on an island and could have only one book to read, this would be it. Mencken's insight and erudition are unsurpassed, and seldom matched. He is, I'm sure, the greatest American ever to live.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mencken knows best 31 Jan 2009
One of the towering literary journalists of the 20th Century. I doubt everyone will agree with his words but doubtless few will not like reading them. A favourite author of Christopher Hitchens and rarely do we not see his name mentioned in his essays. Indeed, he's in his most recent book. A talent to be re-read is H.L Mencken. I warmly commend you buy a copy of this book.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good and varied brainfood. 22 Mar 2010
By Jason Mills VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mencken uses the word Chrestomathy to mean a selection of an author's writings chosen by the author. This is thus a diverse anthology of what HLM presumably regards as his best writing; and certainly it is nothing if not interesting. He skates with merry and cynical insouciance over an impressive range of subjects: politics, history, literature, religion, women, statesmen, etc. Often he is funny; always, acerbic.

Sometimes his opinions go beyond any evidence he presents (indeed, evidence is something he rarely troubles us with), so we have to take on trust that he knows what he's talking about. I fear that he had sometimes too much confidence in his own powers of pure reasoning, leading, for instance, to views on the South presented at length that flirt disturbingly close to racism, spuriously ascribing cultural phenomena to genetic lineage: "As a result of this preference of the Southern gentry for mulatto mistresses there was created a series of mixed strains containing the best white blood of the South..." "It is highly probable that some of the worst blood of western Europe flows in the veins of the Southern poor whites... The original strains, according to every honest historian, were extremely corrupt." What could that even mean?

I find him similarly close-minded in his snobberies: jazz is an "infernal din" for idiots and barbarians; all culture aside from classical music is pigeon-holed under "The Lesser Arts"; and he has a peculiar longing for society to be enriched by an intellectual elite, with the kind of freedoms and invention, but also the kind of feudalistic powers, of European aristocracy. (I may be caricaturing him there, but not much.) And if his 'insights' about Women take the form of back-handed compliments, they are scarcely the less patronising.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  44 reviews
71 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read 14 Aug 2002
By A Customer - Published on
I really like this book. Mencken's prose and unflinching attitude is like no other author I have read. I don't know if they used the middle finger in the early 1900s but if so, then HLM was its personification. If you were to tally his word usage in the book I believe "idiot", "imbecile", "buffoon", "moron" and "mountebank" would be near the top.
This book contains one of my favorite essay and the single biggest reason to own this book, his piece on the critical process. It's only a 10 page essay but it's probably the most eloquent. For whatever reason he put it around page 450, but I would recommend reading it first. It puts a reader in the right frame of mind for reading Mencken's essays. He explains a worthwhile critic is not so much concerned with truth or detail. Instead a truly great critic takes the target of the criticism and uses it to develop his own original ideas. It separates those who would just be archivists with those who would be artists. Clearly, Mencken was not concerned with the former, he was concerned with art and he was an artist.
88 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Baltimore Bad Boy" at his best. 8 July 2000
By M. A. Treu - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
H.L. Mencken worked for newspapers for 50 years, living and working in Baltimore the entire time. His niche was criticism and commentary, at which he excelled. There is no one to match his wit and style. H.L.M. was not a reporter, he was a stylist: it's the way he said what he said that is important.
This book is a collection of Mencken's writings, mostly from previous books he wrote: the "Prejudices" series, "In Defense of Women", "A Book of Burlesques", et al. Some of the offerings are from the magazines he edited: "American Mercury" and "Smart Set", with a few newspaper articles for good measure. The copyright listings go back as far as 1917.
Mencken discusses everything from men and women, government, morals, religion, music and history, to odd fish, quackery, pedagogy, psychology and buffooneries.
Listed under the latter rubric, one will find a work entitled "A Neglected Anniversary", which started the famous bathtub hoax, explained by the author in his notes, for those unfamiliar with the Great Man and his life and times.
A second of Mencken's commentaries, which seems to have gained more fame than some of the others, is "The Sahara of the Bozart", page 184. The American South is H.L.M.'s subject here, thus: "Down there a poet is now almost as rare as an oboe-player, a dry-point etcher or a metaphysician. It is, indeed, amazing to contemplate so vast a vacuity...that stupendous region of worn-out farms, shoddy cities and paralyzed is almost as sterile, artistically, intellectually, culturally, as the Sahara Desert. There are single acres in Europe that house more first-rate men than all the states south of the Potomic...." Ouch!
One may not agree with his opinions, but one must acknowledge that he expresses them very well, and that reading his writings is great entertainment.
H.L. Mencken is probably the greatest American writer of the 20th Century, if not of all time. Enjoy.
112 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book ever written 12 May 2000
By James Versluys - Published on
Perhaps I am biased. Mayhap I am gushing. I don't mind- I have read a good couple thousand books in my lifetime, and I have reviewed a few dozen for Yet this is the one I keep coming back to read, year after year. As time goes by I find myself revising the scale of Mencken's achievement upwards and upwards, especially knowing that the only comparison is to other mere mortal writers.
What makes this book brilliant is its terse structure- it is fragmented and in short pieces, and this produces his intense compact wit in wave after wave of the finest observations and thoughts to come out of mortal man since Tom Sawyer. A Mencken Chrestomathy utterly fails to do badly at every turn.
If you have glanced at this book, and have even a tiny thought at not buying at least two copies, shoot yourself in the foot for punishment, then go buy a dozen copies and pass them out to your superior friends as rewards for their sagacity and charm and as a reward for their loyalty. But if you have little humanity and wish to punish a friend or make their lives more miserable, do not tell them of this book, and leave it right where it is.
I give no book this high a regard. But I give this one my complete, unconditional support. If you have the means, I suggest buying a thousand copies and distributing it among the hungry of mind for the wonderful elixer of an effect Mencken has upon the mind.
The only thing bad about this book is the covers are too close together.
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scathingly brilliant 24 Jan 1999
By John Hopkins - Published on
This book, like all of Mencken's writings, is a lesson in delivering devastating criticism in the form of highly literate and beautifully flowing prose. It helps, of course, to be able to side with the author on his opinions, but is no impediment to enjoyment if you can't -- unless, I presume, you're one of his targets. Basically, no one writes like this anymore. Many believe that if you're going to insult people, crass and vulgar expression is the way to go. Mencken not only shows a better way, but demonstrates the level of intelligence necessary for harsh criticism to have an impact -- it's very difficult to fault someone with such obvious gifts. It also helps to have a dictionary to hand while you're reading, preferably a large and perhaps old one. Mine doesn't have "buncombe" in it, although the way it's used leaves little doubt as to what's meant. Also, the sheer variety of subject matter both here and in the Second Mencken Chrestomathy allows you to jump around freely. I couldn't find a duff article in either book, whether I agreed with his opinions or not, and I couldn't possibly recommend it any higher.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Once More With Feeling 16 Feb 2001
By A Consumer - Published on
Can you imagine life without Henry Louis Mencken? I, for one, cannot and shudder to think of even one single day deprived of the Sage's coruscating wit, side-splitting humor, and vituperative angst. The joy and satisfaction gleaned from reading Mencken's essays can be likened to the appreciation expressed by an ailing patient, being adminstered a generous dose of morphine, to an understanding and avuncular physician. Mencken's serrated prose soothes the itching scalp brought on by an excess of sentimentality; assuages the burning ulcer brought on by a surfeit of political correctness; lances the boil exacerbated by the stupefying rhetoric gushing from the mouths of disingenuous and media-savvy politicians. In short, this volume of essays will act as a restorative agent on your enervated soul and bolster your mental stamina tenfold. However, please remember to use the Chrestomathy responsibly as repeated readings can result in massive cerebral hemorrhaging due to overstimulation and lack of sleep.
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