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The Areas of My Expertise    by John Hodgman order for
Areas of My Expertise
by John Hodgman
Order:  USA  Can
Riverhead, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

If truth is stranger than fiction, then a hint of truth embellished with mostly lies is, well, just plain strange. John Hodgman - former literary agent, writer, and regular contributor to The Daily Show - has written an off-the-wall, somewhat amusing book purporting to be a compendium of Complete World Knowledge, as he puts it. It is about everything and nothing, and all of it is lies, according to the author himself.

The book is divided into sections called What Will Happen in the Future, Information You Will Find Useful in the Present, What You Did Not Know About the Past, etc., and covers a range of topics such as Jokes That Have Never Produced Laughter, A Brief Time Line of the Lobster in America, Some Prophets Who Were Not Actuaries, Nine Presidents Who Had Hooks for Hands, and Four Famous Monsters and Their Hunters, along with a myriad of tables, charts and diagrams.

Hodgman has an odd fascination with hobos - references to them are sprinkled throughout the book, and strangest and funniest of all, he lists 700 (yes, seven hundred) popular hobo names, including Handformed Hamburger Clarence West, Frypan Nonstick McGee, The Goose, Not the Goose, Beef Grease Porter Dripchin, Chiseltooth Muck Manly, and Nichols Crackknuckle. This list alone is worth the price of the book.

My favorite section of the book is called Our 51 United States, where the author writes fictional facts about each state, including a little known state called Hohoq, which is 'a cloud-circled plateau that moves mysteriously from place to place throughout America, and frequently goes completely unobserved for decades.' As another example, Hodgman writes that Iowa's nickname is The Hobo State and the state motto is 'Here We Cease Our Motion,' and then goes on to write made up facts about Iowa.

If you are a John Hodgman fan, and/or are looking for a light, comical read, filled with wry humor, not to be taken seriously, The Areas of My Expertise is probably up your alley.

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