The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know Hardcover – 1 Apr 1990
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Defines the people, places, sayings, and ideas representing what the authors consider essential information for literate Americans.
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Top Customer Reviews
These snippets may indeed seem like bits of useless information, but that is where you are wrong. People who have read this book, can go almost anywhere in the world and look as if they know almost everything. This book can give anyone an instant degree. It makes even the most common of people seem like they graduated with honors from Harvard. With catagories rangin from Philosophy to Literature to Geography to modern history, one can become an expert on almost anything. Since I read this book, I have been able to talk to people I was afraid to, people who seemed too educated, too high up, but now I am equal to them.
The book is arranged in several different catagories, which runs alphabetically in small paragraphs about different aspects of that topic. It can easily be used as a quiz book or as a basis for a class. This book is all the textbooks in the world as one. This book changed my life and can change yours.
I hear you ask if there is anything NOT wonderful about this book, and indeed there is. It is perhaps too American oriented. There are topics specifically labelled "American Geography" and "American History", and most Historians will agree that the history of America is one of the less important genres of history in this day and age. Perhaps a more global edition needs to be made. it is not only these catagories, however, in the religion catagory, it is mainly American based religions that are talked about. But the author was American and American's do tend to be proud of their heritage.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I fear that many critics of this book chastize it for its failure to include persons or events near and dear to their hearts. While I am sympathetic to that concern, the reader must understand that this book is akin to a popularity contest of culture, with the most commonly used/understood concepts rising to the top. This is actually a good thing, although it seems shallow at first blush.
As the authors note, the ability to communicate/read well stems from shared understanding. This book succeeds by providing what, at a minimum, should be known by someone because most literate Americans also know it. The authors, in fact, do not suggest we educate ourselves only within the confines of this book, or take its ideas as intrinsically more valuable. Rather, they say only that this is where we must start.
If my friends from abroad asked me what single best reference would prepare them to interact intelligently in America, this would be it.
This is in no way, shape, or form a book that will help you write a paper, pass a history course, or understand some obscure literary reference in a poem.
If you read it, however, you may just impress Jay Leno when he does his "Jay Walking" segments on the Tonight Show.
For what it is - an all purpose guide to Western / american culture - it does a good job. I've referenced my copy many times over the years. ie When I'm watching a movie set during the life and times of Horatio Nelson, I've looked up Nelson in the book. When I'm reading a book that takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, I've referenced quite a few things.
Is this the entire history of Western / American culture? NO. It's a thumbnail sketch with many, many holes.
It is however, quite informative and interesting.
As long as you understand what it is and what it isn't - I'd recommend the book.