Select one of the keywords
Condensed Knowledge: mental-floss presents    edited by Will Pearson, Mangesh Hattikudur & Elizabeth Hunt order for
Condensed Knowledge
by Will Pearson
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)
Softcover, e-Book

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The editors tell us that they initiated the mental-floss magazine as a 'bible for trivia addicts', blurring the lines between education and entertainment. They offer the book as a buffet, which provides 'a heaping plateful of smart(aleck).' My teen son certainly pounced on it and devoured the contents, before letting me near the book.

Topic categories (15 in all) range from Art History to Religion, with stops along the way for the Sciences, Economics, History and Geography, Literature, Performing Arts, and Music, Psychology and Pop Culture - something for everyone, in fact. Here are a few that I found fun. 'Fake your way through a conversation' provides phrases to drop at Art Openings, e.g. 'de gustibus non est disputandum' (no, I won't translate it - do it yourself or read the book). We're told the difference between fakes and forgeries, conservatism and restoration, and so on. Condensed_Biology has a section for chocaholics like me (chocolate contains magnesium and phenols amongst other goodies). I'm not sure I really wanted to know about 'Sexy Insects' in Condensed_Chemistry, but perhaps it will do for after-dinner table conversation some day.

The Internet Bubble has joined the South Sea Bubble as yet another sad story in Condensed_Economics. I learned about the 'Aunt Tillie' test to ensure idiotproof software, and take exception to the name on my own Aunt Tillie's behalf. And I can live without knowing more about Einstein's pickled brain. If you want to get far away from it all, Condensed_Geography and Culture is full of remote destinations (Tuva intrigues me). I discovered the roots of 'draconian' in Condensed_History, and 'Laws of Physics That Don't Apply in Hollywood' is entertaining. In Condensed_Literature, I picked up a few phrases to drop into literary reviews, like 'unexpected resonances', and I will definitely use the Tolkien quote, 'Never laugh at live dragons.'

I could go on and on, but suggest you dip into Condensed Knowledge at your own pace. I recommend it as a wonderful source for the occasional taste of erudite trivia ... with 'unexpected resonances', of course!

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews