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“An irreverent romp through history’s best bits,” The Mental Floss History of the World is an amazingly entertaining joyride through 60,000 years of human civilization. As audacious as it is edifying, here is a hilarious and irreverent—yet always historically accurate—overview of the ascent (or descent) of humankind, courtesy of the same rebel geniuses who brought you Ment “An irreverent romp through history’s best bits,” The Mental Floss History of the World is an amazingly entertaining joyride through 60,000 years of human civilization. As audacious as it is edifying, here is a hilarious and irreverent—yet always historically accurate—overview of the ascent (or descent) of humankind, courtesy of the same rebel geniuses who brought you Mental Floss presents Condensed Knowledge and Mental Floss Presents Forbidden Knowledge. Updated with all the hot topics and events of the past few years, The Mental Floss History of the World is proof positive that just because something’s true doesn’t mean it’s boring.


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“An irreverent romp through history’s best bits,” The Mental Floss History of the World is an amazingly entertaining joyride through 60,000 years of human civilization. As audacious as it is edifying, here is a hilarious and irreverent—yet always historically accurate—overview of the ascent (or descent) of humankind, courtesy of the same rebel geniuses who brought you Ment “An irreverent romp through history’s best bits,” The Mental Floss History of the World is an amazingly entertaining joyride through 60,000 years of human civilization. As audacious as it is edifying, here is a hilarious and irreverent—yet always historically accurate—overview of the ascent (or descent) of humankind, courtesy of the same rebel geniuses who brought you Mental Floss presents Condensed Knowledge and Mental Floss Presents Forbidden Knowledge. Updated with all the hot topics and events of the past few years, The Mental Floss History of the World is proof positive that just because something’s true doesn’t mean it’s boring.

30 review for The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp through Civilization's Best Bits

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kam

    I picked this book up on a whim. Admittedly, the cover had a lot to do with it: a carnival-like mish-mash of notable historical figures, and the promise of history's "best bits" somewhere in there. As a historical buff, there was absolutely no way I would not pick this up, and I did. After having just finished reading it, I'm rather on the fence about this one. I see it's merits, to be sure, but at the same time, I do see where a reader might not be happy with it. First, a caveat. I might just be I picked this book up on a whim. Admittedly, the cover had a lot to do with it: a carnival-like mish-mash of notable historical figures, and the promise of history's "best bits" somewhere in there. As a historical buff, there was absolutely no way I would not pick this up, and I did. After having just finished reading it, I'm rather on the fence about this one. I see it's merits, to be sure, but at the same time, I do see where a reader might not be happy with it. First, a caveat. I might just be nitpicking here, but when Magellan's death is brought up in the book, it is mentioned "he was eaten by natives." This is quite sensational, but not true - there is no historical evidence of pre-Hispanic Filipinos practicing cannibalism in any way, shape or form, and in fact Magellan was killed in a skirmish against a native chieftain named Lapu-Lapu, in waist-deep water around the island of Mactan. Pigafetta's account of the battle, along with his observations of the pre-Hispanic Filipinos, clearly indicates that though Lapu-Lapu and his men might have killed Magellan and refused to return his body to the Spaniards, they did not eat him. The cultural milieu of the area was more akin to their Malay predecessors and neighbors, who did not practice cannibalism, as opposed to the natives of distant Papua New Guinea. But that is a simple, minor error, and can be ignored in light of other, more positive things that can be said about this book. Its best feature is its sheer readability: none of the weight (literally and figuratively) usually associated with textbooks is to be found anywhere in it. There is also a sprinkling of interesting facts that do not normally show up in standard history textbooks, which are handily tied up with the main body of the topic. Each chapter begins with a set of important dates, and ends with a set of important numbers - these are usually the hardest parts to remember when it comes to learning history (for me, at least), so to have them handily book-ending each chapter is quite convenient. Another good thing about this book is its tongue-in-cheek humor, though given that this is from the people at Mental Floss, that is pretty much par for the course. Nevertheless, it does take away a lot of the tedium that comes along with reading a standard textbook version of history, and there are quite a few moments that will make the reader chuckle. Not outright laugh, since the humor verges on the rather corny, but chuckle. On the downside, though, this is a very "lite" version of world history. It does not cover the main events with any great depth, and some minor (but still important and still fascinating) events are not covered at all. Then again, this is to be expected: the book itself is only a few hundred pages long, and to cover all of history with any greater depth would mean publishing either an impressively long book ("the first book visible from space," as the authors cheekily mention in the introduction), or publish several volumes. I would have liked a multi-volume version of this, with each book going over a specific period of history with more depth, but this is merely me as a history buff speaking. But then again, this book was not really meant for serious history buffs in the first place. For those of us who loved history before coming across this book, this is nothing more than a quick reference, something to turn to when one needs to confirm something and access to Wikipedia is unavailable. It's possible to find amusement in it, especially if one is of a mind to treat history a little less seriously, but for true depth, the history buff might have to look elsewhere. For the layman, however, or for someone who doesn't like history but wants to, then this is a great introduction to the joy, drama, and outright weirdness of history. Like a sports highlights program on ESPN, this book really does cover "the best bits," and quite a few of the important ones, too. The cheeky treatment of history in this book makes history more accessible, and (hopefully) will lead to a greater interest in the subject.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    Why did I love this book one may ask? Mostly BC in the very first page they mention that humans love to eat and "apparently like to have sex.... A LOT", as well as alluding to prostitution. Yeah, that's all you need to get immediate interest from 99% of the world's population. Which is why I use such tactics in my never-ending quest for maximum attention, well not prostitution OF COURSE (my mother reads these, so the need to stay family friendly is obviously of the UTMOST importance)! A mere few Why did I love this book one may ask? Mostly BC in the very first page they mention that humans love to eat and "apparently like to have sex.... A LOT", as well as alluding to prostitution. Yeah, that's all you need to get immediate interest from 99% of the world's population. Which is why I use such tactics in my never-ending quest for maximum attention, well not prostitution OF COURSE (my mother reads these, so the need to stay family friendly is obviously of the UTMOST importance)! A mere few pages later, the Sumerians are leaving pictures of ladies drinking beer while doing things ppl do with their knickers off while poems about beer are written. See?? You can't blame me or frat parties for your children's debauchery...it's only human nature! Knocking boots really seems to be a theme of the history of the world too. ESP when a chapter starts: "In the ancient world, it was all about banging your sister....if you were rich enough". Sweet jebus I had no idea what I was getting into with this book! And with a sentence like that…am I sure I really would have wanted to know?! This book is a delightful and debauched collection of history that I will continue to read over and over BC it's far too much to absorb in one sitting. Except the Thai kingdom of Siam where the men grew their hair & nails long & had small silver beads inserted into their scrotum so they jingled when they walked (I can see you all cringing now, which is why I had to share in such torturous stories)....somethings just burn into your memory quickly, like the vision of Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day. All I can say is, that the education system would likely be far better off teaching history in this way…FAIRLY certain your kid's ADHD problem would at least be sated in history class.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    This is a tough one for me to review. I listened to this book on CD during a long car ride, which definitely had some affect on my rating...I was pretty sick of the narrator's voice by the end of 15 hours and it wasn't quite what I had expected. I picked this "book" up based on the teasers on the back cover, specifically for the following comments - "most interesting bits have been handpicked", "packed with little-known stories", and "outrageous facts". I was looking for a light book to make my This is a tough one for me to review. I listened to this book on CD during a long car ride, which definitely had some affect on my rating...I was pretty sick of the narrator's voice by the end of 15 hours and it wasn't quite what I had expected. I picked this "book" up based on the teasers on the back cover, specifically for the following comments - "most interesting bits have been handpicked", "packed with little-known stories", and "outrageous facts". I was looking for a light book to make my drive go faster. First of all, it just wasn't that funny...partly because the narrator just couldn't pull it off (maybe I could have if I had been in my own, much funnier, head?) and partly because there wasn't that much truly funny material. I did chuckle occasionally, but I was expecting to laugh out loud a lot. Second, I also expected that this book was more of a compilation of funny historical tidbits, but it's actually just what the title says...The History of the World! All the way from the beginning to the present...and quite thorough at that! If my expectations were set more accurately from reading the back cover, I think my rating would be higher. The authors took on a lofty feat...and accomplished it quite well. This is a great book for anyone looking for an excellent overview of history, with a few small chuckles along the way. If I had been looking for something like this, I would have been very happy with what I got.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Gilbert

    There's so much in this book that I couldn't possibly have learned it all on the first read, but now I can say brilliant things at parties like, "The Mongols ... uh, existed. Around ... 1100. I think!" The jokes were a little hokey at times, but this book served its intended purpose, which was to get me started in my quest to repair an unbelievably crappy education that left me embarrassingly ignorant of pretty much everything. I highlighted tons of summarizing passages that would make interesti There's so much in this book that I couldn't possibly have learned it all on the first read, but now I can say brilliant things at parties like, "The Mongols ... uh, existed. Around ... 1100. I think!" The jokes were a little hokey at times, but this book served its intended purpose, which was to get me started in my quest to repair an unbelievably crappy education that left me embarrassingly ignorant of pretty much everything. I highlighted tons of summarizing passages that would make interesting books on their own, and will use those as jumping-off places for more detailed histories of events like WWII, apartheid, and so forth. As a summarizing text, this book best serves as an illustration of everything you DON'T know, and other tomes are going to have to fill the intellectual void itself. The book got monotonous at times; the blame lies not with the writers but in human nature, because man, people were ALWAYS FIGHTING. ABOUT EVERYTHING. So it goes like this: war, war, war, exciting scientific discovery, war, war, war, moon mission, war. So, yeah, be warned that there are a whole lot of battles between a whole lot of cultures in this book, with a satellite and a polio vaccine thrown in there just lighten the mood a little.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Huskey

    If only all history books were written with the same humor and easy-to-read stories . . . While thousands of years of history cannot be completely disseminated in one 400+ page book, the authors do a pretty decent job of hitting the highlights and major historical events.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    It is obvious, of course, that one cannot contain the history of the world in a 400-page book, so the question is why would one ever try? But try they have, and Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur have delivered a humorous and fairly enjoyable trip through the history of the world in their 2008 book “The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp through Civilization’s Best Bits”. There are several good points about the book. I thought they did a very good job in breaking history down It is obvious, of course, that one cannot contain the history of the world in a 400-page book, so the question is why would one ever try? But try they have, and Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur have delivered a humorous and fairly enjoyable trip through the history of the world in their 2008 book “The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp through Civilization’s Best Bits”. There are several good points about the book. I thought they did a very good job in breaking history down into the different periods and did their best to keep the reader informed as to what was going on around the world during those times. Of course, lack of history for some areas certainly prevented them from doing as much as one would have liked, but the fact is they did better than most in providing more than just Western history. Another plus is the way they included small interesting tidbits along with the overall historical perspective. These provide most of the humor in the book, and it helps keep it more interesting for the reader as well as help hide all that they are leaving out. Probably the best thing about the book is the way they were consistent in the presentation in each section. They open with the “In A Nutshell” section, which briefly describes the most significant events of that period of history. This is followed by their “What Happened When” section, which provides a timeline for that period of history. Next they have their “Spinning The Globe” section, which tries its best to give the reader a view of what was going on in each of the regions around the world. The next section they title “Who’s Up, Who’s Down” which looks at what fared well during that period and what didn’t do so well. The next section they titled “So Long And Thanks For All The” which looks at what happened during that period which had a lasting positive impact, at least for the most part. This is followed by the “And Thanks, But No Thanks For” section, which looks at what came from that period which we would rather not have had. The last of the repeated sections for each period of history is called “By The Numbers” where they throw significant numbers at the reader for that period. While they did a number of things very well, it was difficult for me to get past all they were leaving out. As someone who loves history, I would like to see them give the periods of history a more in depth treatment, somewhat along the lines of what Larry Gonick has done with his “Cartoon History of the Universe”, which has now turned into “The Cartoon History of the Modern World”. Still, any book which helps people enjoy learning history isn’t all bad, and so I give this three stars and it probably deserves right around 3 ½. It is certainly a good book for people who want an overview, though there is a lot left out, and they oversimplify a great deal of what took place.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah {The Bookish Knitter}

    4 Stars This was a really fun book. It wasn't hysterically funny, but it was humorous. It also contained a lot of information, but it was presented in a very entertaining way. I really enjoyed the audio version and the narrator did a fantastic job!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    TBR Busting #11 Narrated by Johnny Heller An audio file to keep should I ever have the company of a young enquiring mind. A good compliment to this is THE CONCISE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORLD HISTORY TBR Busting #11 Narrated by Johnny Heller An audio file to keep should I ever have the company of a young enquiring mind. A good compliment to this is THE CONCISE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORLD HISTORY

  9. 4 out of 5

    ❂ Murder by Death

    A great book for those out there who might be like myself: undereducated in history, wanting to know more, but not so fascinated that we require dry academic debate or mind-numbing statistics. Very readable and easy to read as much or as little as you'd like at any one time. I'd highly recommend it. Full review: http://jenn.booklikes.com/post/102115... A great book for those out there who might be like myself: undereducated in history, wanting to know more, but not so fascinated that we require dry academic debate or mind-numbing statistics. Very readable and easy to read as much or as little as you'd like at any one time. I'd highly recommend it. Full review: http://jenn.booklikes.com/post/102115...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Thomas A

    This book encompasses not just important events in history, but small facts some readers would be delighted to know. It includes events from all countries, and ancient civilizations. The chapters are divided into time periods, going from the past to the present. It includes a time line at the beginning, "Thanks for all the.." and "Thanks, but no thanks for..." sections. The book has small footnotes about important people in a certain culture or movement, and interesting facts about someone or so This book encompasses not just important events in history, but small facts some readers would be delighted to know. It includes events from all countries, and ancient civilizations. The chapters are divided into time periods, going from the past to the present. It includes a time line at the beginning, "Thanks for all the.." and "Thanks, but no thanks for..." sections. The book has small footnotes about important people in a certain culture or movement, and interesting facts about someone or something. I like this book, and it's information. I'd recommend it to people who want to brush up on their knowledge of history, and people who wish to learn smaller, little-known facts.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kevin McAllister

    The authors bill this book as an irreverent romp through civilization's best bits. For the most part the irrevencey does make for an entertaining look through history. On the other hand, the history of the world has often been down right horrifying , and on occasion, that irrevencey is perhaps a tad bit inappropriate.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I love history, and I love Mental_floss, so this was a no-brainer. Although it took me quite a while to get through, I really enjoyed this book. It's a 400-page condensed history of the world, chock full of stuff I did not know. And now I do! Read a book!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Grant

    An amusing though nevertheless useful world history. To me, the most interesting part of the books is that the authors actually "get" world history as a concept, and make a sincere, if somewhat snarky, go at a global perspective. I picked up quite a few good anecdotes for teaching, as well.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Levi

    An entertaining overview of the world's historical highlights.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karen • The Book Return

    Read this review and more on my blog.The Book Return Blog This book is a humorous and abridged history of the world. I listened to this as an audiobook. The funny narration is a great way to get a quick rundown of important events in history. The narrator is quirky and does the tongue-in-cheek comments wonderfully. As with any history compilation, what is included and what is omitted is subjective and this book left lots of important events out. I would have liked more coverage of important recent Read this review and more on my blog.The Book Return Blog This book is a humorous and abridged history of the world. I listened to this as an audiobook. The funny narration is a great way to get a quick rundown of important events in history. The narrator is quirky and does the tongue-in-cheek comments wonderfully. As with any history compilation, what is included and what is omitted is subjective and this book left lots of important events out. I would have liked more coverage of important recent events such as the Civil War, the World Wars, the Internet Age, etc. These were very glossed over in the book. As with anything done by Mental Floss this is just a fun, quick, look at history and not really an academic read.This review was originally posted on The Book return...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Interesting in several ways. I wish I had just picked up this book myself. The narration KILLED it for me. Ugh, I was so bored! The words and style of the book had potential, but the narrator put me right back into textbook mode. I picked this book to get away from that. This is a better way to get a lot of history lessons at once. Learn some curious trivia bits. Some amusing, others worthy of an eyeroll and yet still a couple more I question the factuality of. Still, interesting stuff. Just cra Interesting in several ways. I wish I had just picked up this book myself. The narration KILLED it for me. Ugh, I was so bored! The words and style of the book had potential, but the narrator put me right back into textbook mode. I picked this book to get away from that. This is a better way to get a lot of history lessons at once. Learn some curious trivia bits. Some amusing, others worthy of an eyeroll and yet still a couple more I question the factuality of. Still, interesting stuff. Just crap narration that dragged it out!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Gaining and keeping the average reader's interest in history is a problem authors have faced for, well, probably most of history. One method is to try to liven things up with different takes or an unusual focus. That's the promise of The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp through Civilization's Best Bits . It's a promise not totally fulfilled.[return][return]The book approaches its subject like mental_floss magazine, trying to make gaining knowledge fun and accessible. Stil Gaining and keeping the average reader's interest in history is a problem authors have faced for, well, probably most of history. One method is to try to liven things up with different takes or an unusual focus. That's the promise of The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp through Civilization's Best Bits . It's a promise not totally fulfilled.[return][return]The book approaches its subject like mental_floss magazine, trying to make gaining knowledge fun and accessible. Still, for the most part this 400+ page work is world history in a nutshell. In fact, each chapter starts with "In A Nutshell," a summary of the time period it covers[return][return]The 12 chapters use the same format throughout. The satellite's eye view of the nutshell is followed by a timeline of a dozen or so significant events. Additional detail is provided in four ensuing subsections. The first, "Spinning The Globe," takes a generally geographic approach to looking at countries, empires, peoples or events. The other three look at a variety of events, people and trends -- good, bad, silly or outrageous -- impacting subjects as wide ranging as food, weapons, religion, alcohol and sex. Each chapter concludes with statistical information relevant to the time period, such as average life expectancy, population or the length of time it took to build or the size of certain structures. Throughout, there are sidebars on various events, kingdoms or personalities as well as items of trivia. [return][return]The consistent style makes this a world history work in which one chapter is not necessarily dependent on having read a prior chapter and it is easy to find the quickest summary for a chapter's time period. Where the book falters, though, is in trying to live up to its subtitle.[return][return]Balance of review here.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Billy

    Maybe I'm missing something..., "...all of history's most interesting bits have finally been handpicked and roasted to perfection." So states the back cover. I love history; eat it up. I am also quite the sarcastic you-know-what, with a bit of a conspiracy-theorist spirit and an appreciation for pseudo-history. I say all of that to explain that the reason for not getting this book is not that it wasn't up my alley. Fact is, when I saw it, I let my wife see it and she said that it would seem the bo Maybe I'm missing something..., "...all of history's most interesting bits have finally been handpicked and roasted to perfection." So states the back cover. I love history; eat it up. I am also quite the sarcastic you-know-what, with a bit of a conspiracy-theorist spirit and an appreciation for pseudo-history. I say all of that to explain that the reason for not getting this book is not that it wasn't up my alley. Fact is, when I saw it, I let my wife see it and she said that it would seem the book was written just for me. I don't know the mental_floss series, but if this is an example, I'll stay away. I really expected to enjoy this book. But I didn't. Sure, it has a lot of historical information, but it is not "hilarious" (as the cover suggests); I would submit that its not even funny, its just fact. Some of the facts are not entirely accurate (and perhaps this was meant to be funny?) and some of the facts are far from interesting as I believe they are just common knowledge and therefore just statement of generally known truth. How all of this equates to "an irreverent romp through civilization's best bits" is beyond me. If you want history, find a book on the topic or time in which you are interested. If you want irreverence, find something else. In attempting to cover the history of mankind, the book just covers too much in too little space and leaves a whole lot out; and again, it isn't funny (that or my sense of humor went down the crapper in the last week; which I ain't sayin' isn't a possibility). I would suggest that you leaf through a copy of this at a bookstore before you drop money on it. The book isn't bad, it just isn't what they say it will be. Basically, if you are looking for a quick and concise read that covers the highlights of human history, you could do worse; if you are looking for humor too, you could do much better.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Moore

    I listened to this on audio while on a long road trip. I wish now I had read it and maybe would have retained more of "civilizations best bits." The fact is, facts don't stick with me much ... stories are much easier to remember. I learn more about history through historical fiction, or through writers such as Stephen Ambrose, Hampton Sides, and Erik Larson. Though I do agree that the history of the world is based mostly on violence. I guess it's true that history repeats itself and mankind is d I listened to this on audio while on a long road trip. I wish now I had read it and maybe would have retained more of "civilizations best bits." The fact is, facts don't stick with me much ... stories are much easier to remember. I learn more about history through historical fiction, or through writers such as Stephen Ambrose, Hampton Sides, and Erik Larson. Though I do agree that the history of the world is based mostly on violence. I guess it's true that history repeats itself and mankind is doomed to repeat mistakes over and over again. My three star rating must have meant (at the time I finished the audio) that there were some redeeming parts of interest. Only now a month later as I try to recall interesting historical trivia that I might have gleaned from the book the information seems to have left my brain. There were plenty of things mentioned that I have some base knowledge of such as, Cleopatra's fame, Einstein's accomplishments, and the more recent terrible 911 tragedy, but as for naming something I new I might have learned here my mind has gone blank. Or maybe my mind absorbs so much that it short circuits and needs to be flossed more often. Too much information can certainly be too much. I suppose this book needs a reread.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    By no means comprehensive (and not advertised to be), but engaging throughout. Also, there is plenty of information not typically contained in a standard world history text. For example, who knew that Pope Steven VI exhumed a predecessor’s corpse and put it on trial? Awesome! This book strikes the right balance between fun and substance. Quotes: By the 1720s about one out of every four [London] households was involved in making gin. In the eighteenth century, tonic water containing quinine was one By no means comprehensive (and not advertised to be), but engaging throughout. Also, there is plenty of information not typically contained in a standard world history text. For example, who knew that Pope Steven VI exhumed a predecessor’s corpse and put it on trial? Awesome! This book strikes the right balance between fun and substance. Quotes: By the 1720s about one out of every four [London] households was involved in making gin. In the eighteenth century, tonic water containing quinine was one of the few ways to reduce malaria among British troops in Asia. Meanwhile, limes were required in sailors’ diets to prevent scurvy. The British East India Company decided to mix it all up into a concoction so foul that nobody would drink it – until some clever realist suggesting adding gin. Voila! A cocktail is born. July 1996: A United Nations report reveals that 385 people control about half of the world’s personal wealth. Another report estimated that the illegal drug black market had grown from $450 billion to $900 billion a year from 1992 to 2002, making illegal drugs the single most lucrative commodity in the world. 52 U.S. senators voted to authorize military action against Iraq in 1991. 77 U.S. senators voted to authorize military action against Iraq in 2002. In 2008, for the first time in more than twenty-five years, the percentage of American adults reading literature went up instead of down.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Gatling

    Well, I liked it. The criticism of it mostly stems from the fact that it doesn't live up to the praise on the cover. It isn't as funny as advertised. It can't be. No matter how cutely you tell it, world history is just made up of too much war and oppression to actually be funny. But this is cutely told, and I am a sucker for a bad pun and a snarky aside. So I liked it. Each section of the book (each devoted to an era of history) starts with a pretty straightforward listing of events. Then comes Well, I liked it. The criticism of it mostly stems from the fact that it doesn't live up to the praise on the cover. It isn't as funny as advertised. It can't be. No matter how cutely you tell it, world history is just made up of too much war and oppression to actually be funny. But this is cutely told, and I am a sucker for a bad pun and a snarky aside. So I liked it. Each section of the book (each devoted to an era of history) starts with a pretty straightforward listing of events. Then comes the funner stuff. "Who's Up? Who's Down?" looks at groups of peoples, ideas, technologies, and their influence. "So Long and Thanks For all the..." and "Thanks but No Thanks For..." describe significant innovations (or shameful failures) of each era, and here the authors get to delve into biographies of interesting people, or off-beat events that are the stuff of Mental Floss (the magazine)'s pages. There's enough to keep it interesting, and I did actually laugh out loud a few times. I am satisfied enough to think I would like to read the rest of Mental Floss's history books.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    As a regular reader of the Mental Floss website, I enjoyed the quirky condensed history of this book. Considering the breadth of human civilization, they touched on every facet of history, however briefly, with humor and insight. The format was great, breaking each era down into concise summaries by geographic region and also elaborating on positive and negative contributions of each period. My only criticism is the inaccurate portrayal of Henry VIII’s schism with the church on page 198, the pur As a regular reader of the Mental Floss website, I enjoyed the quirky condensed history of this book. Considering the breadth of human civilization, they touched on every facet of history, however briefly, with humor and insight. The format was great, breaking each era down into concise summaries by geographic region and also elaborating on positive and negative contributions of each period. My only criticism is the inaccurate portrayal of Henry VIII’s schism with the church on page 198, the purpose of which the authors claim was to “…divorce his wife – or his second wife, or his third-…” Henry did in fact divorce his first wife, beheaded his second wife, but he was quite in love with his third wife who died in childbirth (but I’m a Tudor junkie, so I nitpick…). Overall, it was an entertaining and informative “romp” through history, somewhat reminiscent of Kenneth B. Davis’s “Don’t Know Much About Books,” with a very distinct Mental Floss flavor.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Griffin

    THE MENTAL FLOSS HISTORY OF THE WORLD is chock-full of interesting nuggets of history that you probably never heard before. From 60,000 BCE to present day, Mental Floss brings you real history spiced with puns and sidebars of humorous character notes, origins of inventions, or quotes. Each chapter covers a particular era. They begin with an overview, then a timeline, a description of what was happening in a few select places, a “Who’s Up, Who’s Down” score, a section on the good and bad invention THE MENTAL FLOSS HISTORY OF THE WORLD is chock-full of interesting nuggets of history that you probably never heard before. From 60,000 BCE to present day, Mental Floss brings you real history spiced with puns and sidebars of humorous character notes, origins of inventions, or quotes. Each chapter covers a particular era. They begin with an overview, then a timeline, a description of what was happening in a few select places, a “Who’s Up, Who’s Down” score, a section on the good and bad inventions of the era, and finally a list of numbers, such as; 40: Average life expectancy, in years, of a citizen of the Roman Empire, and 93: Number of minutes it took to build a Model T in 1915. Sometimes the ironies got to be a bit much, but I don’t think they detract from the overall satisfaction of this book. I learned some interesting facts such as how pretzels were invented. Any history fan will find this book enjoyable and I recommend it to all.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Fiona McGier

    I am about 3/4 through this highly entertaining and educational book. It is one of those rare finds...funny, with tidbits about historical figures and time periods, that make you feel like a really educated person for knowing them. I had no idea what Zoroastrianism was, until I read that it is a religion based on a story very similar to the story of Jesus, but much older. Cinderella's story is just like one written in China in the 600s! And Vikings didn't wear horned helmets into battle because I am about 3/4 through this highly entertaining and educational book. It is one of those rare finds...funny, with tidbits about historical figures and time periods, that make you feel like a really educated person for knowing them. I had no idea what Zoroastrianism was, until I read that it is a religion based on a story very similar to the story of Jesus, but much older. Cinderella's story is just like one written in China in the 600s! And Vikings didn't wear horned helmets into battle because they didn't want to give their opponents "hand-grips". But the "berserkers" were their "shock and awe" troops, who preceded them into battle, often naked, and were entirely fearless and crazy, scaring the hell out of their enemies. There are many more interesting factoids here. Easy to read in small increments, like while waiting for doctors appointments, or in the bathroom.

  25. 4 out of 5

    SheriC (PM)

    Audiobook version, read by Johnny Heller. I suspect this book would have been much better in a regular book format, rather than on audio. The boring and repetitive lists of events at each chapter (?) start are probably laid out visually in such a way as to allow you to refer back during the meat of each section. Aside from that, it was still a light and entertaining overview of historical events, presented in a way that I wish my dusty old history teachers could have taught it. I was even mighti Audiobook version, read by Johnny Heller. I suspect this book would have been much better in a regular book format, rather than on audio. The boring and repetitive lists of events at each chapter (?) start are probably laid out visually in such a way as to allow you to refer back during the meat of each section. Aside from that, it was still a light and entertaining overview of historical events, presented in a way that I wish my dusty old history teachers could have taught it. I was even mightily impressed with the narrator's ability to make coherent sounding sentences using the tongue-twisting names of ancient civilizations and foreign languages. Until the book hit the 1940's and I had to endure hearing "nucular" spoken over and over again. I subtracted a star for that alone, and I'm afraid I had to abandon the audiobook while it was in the home stretch.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Whitney Garrett

    This book gave a good overview of world history, though it was slightly left of center. It was mostly fair, though a little less so at the very beginning (maybe don't even try to cover unrecorded history, since it's, you know, unrecorded and you're basically just guessing based on your bias, which is just as good as anyone else's bias, etc.?) and at the very end when discussing some of the events that occurred during George W. Bush's presidency and climate change. Which given that this book was This book gave a good overview of world history, though it was slightly left of center. It was mostly fair, though a little less so at the very beginning (maybe don't even try to cover unrecorded history, since it's, you know, unrecorded and you're basically just guessing based on your bias, which is just as good as anyone else's bias, etc.?) and at the very end when discussing some of the events that occurred during George W. Bush's presidency and climate change. Which given that this book was published in 2008, some of the information is outdated. Overall, the book is good. It gives a very fun and interesting look at historical events and I really enjoyed reading it. Though I will say the whole BCE/CE thing got on my nerves.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kelley

    I have enjoyed Mental Floss magazine for some time and have commented on two previous Mental Floss books. This one was a bit of a let down. While being a fairly quick read and filled it numerous historical tid-bits, it lacked the humor that the previous books contained. There is some clever turning of phrases and some clever subject and chapter headings, but overall it succeeds in creating knowing nods rather than laughs. Don't get me wrong, it was worth reading for the fun of it and the trip thr I have enjoyed Mental Floss magazine for some time and have commented on two previous Mental Floss books. This one was a bit of a let down. While being a fairly quick read and filled it numerous historical tid-bits, it lacked the humor that the previous books contained. There is some clever turning of phrases and some clever subject and chapter headings, but overall it succeeds in creating knowing nods rather than laughs. Don't get me wrong, it was worth reading for the fun of it and the trip through 10,000 years of human history, but take the phrase "irreverent romp" with a grain of salt; it isn't.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    I'm a history nerd, so this book was right up my alley. I already had Mental Floss' History of the US, which I had sort of read in bits, skipping around from here to there. I bought this one and decided to read it like a normal person, from start to finish. I wish it had talked more about the beginning of human history, because it was just briefly mentioned, but otherwise this book was a great overview of world history. Definitely helped me remember things I learned back in school that I had lon I'm a history nerd, so this book was right up my alley. I already had Mental Floss' History of the US, which I had sort of read in bits, skipping around from here to there. I bought this one and decided to read it like a normal person, from start to finish. I wish it had talked more about the beginning of human history, because it was just briefly mentioned, but otherwise this book was a great overview of world history. Definitely helped me remember things I learned back in school that I had long since forgotten. I love Mental Floss books because they are educational, but written in a way that's still entertaining.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kiera Beddes

    I didn't learn anything outstandingly new or different. As for the title, it wasn't so much an irreverent romp through history so much as a popcorn style speed walk through history. The narrative would jump from place to place at times with breathtaking speed, which I understand is one of the problems with any book discussing the history of the world, by covering the whole world, invariably, you have to jump around a lot. Also, the structure of the book didn't translate well to audiobook. Lists I didn't learn anything outstandingly new or different. As for the title, it wasn't so much an irreverent romp through history so much as a popcorn style speed walk through history. The narrative would jump from place to place at times with breathtaking speed, which I understand is one of the problems with any book discussing the history of the world, by covering the whole world, invariably, you have to jump around a lot. Also, the structure of the book didn't translate well to audiobook. Lists and pop-outs and the like are easy enough to handle when you are reading but when you are listening, if you aren't looking at it, it gets confusing to keep track of.

  30. 4 out of 5

    melydia

    Not so good as a reference book, but a fun and surprisingly thorough overview of world history. There isn't as much about Africa as I would have liked, but they didn't have written records as early as the rest of the world, so it's kind of understandable that we know less about the ancient history of the people there. I liked the way the time periods had sections of bite-sized facts, like "who's up, who's down" and "so long, and thanks for all the...", to describe often vastly disparate topics a Not so good as a reference book, but a fun and surprisingly thorough overview of world history. There isn't as much about Africa as I would have liked, but they didn't have written records as early as the rest of the world, so it's kind of understandable that we know less about the ancient history of the people there. I liked the way the time periods had sections of bite-sized facts, like "who's up, who's down" and "so long, and thanks for all the...", to describe often vastly disparate topics and events. The world is a big place, after all. A lot of the larger events and movements I'd known about, but I picked up a whole bunch of great tidbits that I hadn't known.

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