'The Mental Floss History of the World' is aptly subtitled "An Irreverent romp through civilization's best bits." For a paperback book of almost 400 pages, it necessarily is quite selective as to what is included and the degree of detail pursued. However, it seems accurate in its facts, does have a particular axe to grind to any degree, and tries to be a true history of the world: not another European- or American-centered history which masquerades as a world history book. The Olmecs, the Chinese, the Hindus, and other peoples are woven into the story of the world. From my perspective, this latter point makes it a corrective to the often inadequate coverage of the historical developments in East Asia, Africa, and South America in the histories that I had been exposed to during my education..
Obviously, this was not intended as a textbook, but simply an interesting and readable compilation of major historical developments that an intelligent reader might enjoy if that person is able to reconcile wry humor and history. In offering this little book, the publishers of Mental Floss continue the pattern set in their magazine. The reader is able to find out the facts about vomitoriums, the origins of cold cream, when tamales emerged, and who were the first opium runners (the English!).
This little history is light reading; but strongly recommended for people who can look on the lighter side of things. Solemn folks who shudder at the poppies of humor emerging in the landscape of the heath of seriousness should look elsewhere. For example, the plural of Ottoman is 'Ottomans', not 'Ottomen,' chastity belts were nonexistent at the time of the Crusades, and peasants are described as "serfs without turf." It's things like this in this book that leave me wanting to say, like Oliver Twist, "Please, Sir. May I have more?"
I am a little skeptical, however, about the possible linkage of the sixteenth century Mongol prince Barbar to Barbar the elephant of the children's books by Jean De Brunhoff.