George Washington was not the first President of the United States. Columbus did not believe that the earth was flat. America is not named for Amerigo Vespucchi. Galileo was not the first to suggest that the sun was the center of the solar system. Mount Everest is not the tallest mountain on Earth. (In fact, we aren’t even sure exactly what criteria should be used to determine the highest point on the planet!)
The Book of General Ignorance is packed with these — and other — shocking rebuttals of virtually every “fact” you learned in kindergarten … heard in Sunday school … or saw repeated in yesterday’s paper.
The text of the book is presented in a fluid, almost stream-of-consciousness format, with one surprising negation (George Washington’s false teeth were not made of wood) giving rise to another (one pair was made from a rhino’s horn) and another (rhino horns are neither horns nor specialized hairs). For those of us who relish useless information, this book is a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of obscure facts and tasty trivia.
And no — the book’s facts are not gleaned exclusively from geography and history. I now also know, for example, which creature on Earth has the biggest penis. (And let me tell you … this particular nugget of information is likely to make the most confident man feel inadequate.) There’s great info for travelers, too. (The next time your Egyptian tour guide tells you Napoleon stole the nose of the Sphinx, you can set him straight.)
In a hurry? Put this book on your reading list anyway — its structure encourages and rewards episodic reading. Shelve it on your bedside table (or — ahem — by the commode … did I say that out loud?!?) and crack the covers whenever you could use a moment’s distraction.
For Amazon Kindle Owners Only: This book has the distinction of being the first book I read on my Kindle! I love being able to search the text by keyword (so I can zip directly to the fact I’m struggling to recall). The clever line art sandwiched in between certain sections looks great on the Kindle screen, to boot! (Order the Kindle version here.)
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