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The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp Through Civilization's Best Bits [Paperback]

Erik Sass , Steve Wiegand , Will Pearson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 10.25 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (27 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061842672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061842672
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.2 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 958,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


An account of human civilization features twelve accessible chapters that cover such topics as the Dark Ages, terrorism, and the unlikely namesake of the literary character Babar. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad for History Lite! 7 Dec 2008
I recently picked up a copy of Sass & Wiegand's "The Mental Floss History of the World," thinking it would probably be another amusing collection of brief historical trivia. It turns out to be a fairly detailed and witty narrative of events from ancient times to the present, a true world history that tells the story of China, India, Japan, Africa, Polynesia and the New World as well as Classical and Western Cilvization (obviously, at a mere 394 pages, it doesn't do any of this in great detail).

The book also offers a pleasing assortment of "ah-ha" moments, such as the fact that in 1175 BC Pharaoh Rameses III "forced" the Peleset tribe of Sea Peoples to settle in Egyptian-controlled Canaan (probably more an accommodation to facts on the ground than a true Egyptian victory). The Peleset became known in the Bible as "Philistines" and the territory that they occupied came to be called "Palestine." The narrative is spiced with side bars that explore interesting details like this, and each major section of the book concludes with an amusing review of "who's up" and "who's down" during that period of history.

I read a lot of history books (I just finished Susan Wise Bauer's superb "History of the Ancient World"), and "The Mental Floss History of the World" seems pretty accurate. It also offers up some new and interesting facts and perspectives that aren't covered in weightier tomes, plus it's a lot funnier. This is not the boring history that is the bane of high school students everywhere--this is world history revealed as the comedy and the tragedy it so often is.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  99 reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Blast from the Past 24 Oct 2008
By Karen S. Garvin - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As a fan of Mental Floss magazine, I hoped their book would bring some of the irreverent humor that the magazine is known for to the pages of history. I am not disappointed. The history of the world is a very wide subject to try and cover in one book, but the authors do a nice job in breaking the topic down into manageable chapters.

Chapters include some prehistory subject matter, ranging from the time our ancestors stood up to the time they started building cities and planting cereal crops. While written from an American perspective, the authors have tried to include South America, Africa, Australia, and China and the far east into the chapters to give the reader a good sense of what was going on in the world during a specific timeframe.

The text is fairly dense (there's a lot to read!) but it's sprinkled with shaded boxes with quotes and other related tidbits of information. One hilarious quote from King George III's diary reads "Nothing important happened today." Yeah, right.

Each chapter opens with "In a Nutshell," an overview of the era, and ends with a "By the Numbers" summary of factoids for history buffs. The book doesn't have to be read sequentially, so you can jump right into the Middle Ages or whatever time frame you are interested in. The book is aimed at adults but should be suitable for teens and pre-teens.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please, sir, may I have some more? 2 Nov 2008
By the Peripatetic Gardener - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
'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.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 - Interesting but not ROFL 22 Oct 2008
By H. Sapiens - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am a huge fan of Mental Floss, which is hilarious. In addition, I highly enjoy Mental Floss presents In the Beginning: From Big Hair to the Big Bang, mental_floss presents a Mouthwatering Guide to the Origins of Everything and mental floss presents Instant Knowledge (Collins Gem) (Collins Gem) both of which are excellent stocking stuffers.

On first note, the book is very, very dense. Lots of words without pretty pictures with lots of sidebars throughout. I am not sure that the book is meant to be read from front to back - and I have never read any of their books like that - rather pick and choose what topics you want to read. However, it is arranged in chapters. The little sidebars provide tantalizing extra bits of info - like how a fire was used by Nero to persecute a local cult - the Christians. As someone who enjoys random, tantalizing bits of knowledge, it definitely has lots of juicy historical tidbits that at least in my case I found very interesting. While it did have a few OMG sections, I did not find it witty or overtly funny.

I would not necessarily recommend this to anyone that is not a fan of Mental Floss without first checking it out on a bookshelf. However, for the fans of random facts and Mental Floss, it is a no-brainer - not their best, but definitely packed with information.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars anothe gem from mental_floss 23 Oct 2008
By the kove - Published on
Yet another wonderful product from mental_floss. Admittedly, I've enjoyed the mental_floss brand for some time now. This book gives me no reason to think otherwise, as it packages lots of nifty facts into a quirky, fun, readable format. I can even get my kids to enjoy parts of it. As with the other products, what separates mental_floss from other educational mediums is its ability to make learning fun.

If you're anything like me and you're a little too busy to read something from beginning to end in one sitting, this makes a nice compromise. Actually, I flew threw a lot of it after a few train-rides into work, and now I'm only hoping to find another book to keep me occupied for the next few train rides.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great historical overview. But not as irreverent as expected. 20 Nov 2008
By Esther Schindler - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mental Floss' History of the World fills the spot on your shelf next to "Don't Know Much About History" and (in my case at least) Lies My Teacher Told Me. It's a primer, an overview of the history you might have learned in school if you were paying attention (which I know you were not).

If you are reasonably well-read about world history you probably won't learn a huge amount that you didn't know; but the exceptions do make this worth owning. Every home library has a need for a book like this: an authority to turn to when your beer-bet shouting match is regarding when Asian silk first reached the mideast (1000 BCE in case you're wondering). (What do you mean, you don't have shouting matches over things like this? Mine does.)

Billed as "an irreverent romp though civilization's best bits," this is an enjoyable and educational book... but I'm not so sure it qualifies as "irreverent." Lighthearted? Not-boring? Interesting? The book you wish your high school history class used as a textbook? Sure. But despite a few fun sidebars (such as the origin of the name Caligula) and well crafted headlines ("Sparta: One Badass City-State"), most of the text is just, well, factual text. It's accurate and useful and a very good "Cliff's Notes" for those of us without a final exam to worry about... but it's mainly just text. If you want a history book that'll make you giggle, you'll have to order a copy of The Cartoon History of the Universe.

That's meant as "here's what to expect" more than criticism. I like this book, and I'm merrily working my way through it a chapter at a time. (A little goes a long way, here.) If you slept through your History class and want to catch up, and you want to be (gently) entertained while you do so, hitch your mouse over to the Buy Now button.
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