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Publisher's Summary

About 60,000 years ago, the first Homo sapiens were just beginning their move across the grasslands and up the ladder of civilization. Everything since then, as they say, is history. Just in case you were sleeping in class that day, the geniuses at mental_floss magazine have put together a hilarious (and historically accurate) primer on everything you need to know---and that means the good stuff.

Twelve core chapters of world history tackle everything from civilization's baby steps in the Fertile Crescent to the Not-Really-That-Dark-Unless-You-Lived-in-Europe Ages to A World United by Terror and TV. From the Golden Haemorhoids of the Philistines (punishment from above) to the likely namesake of the cartoon elephant Babar (a Mongol prince) to the most pressing language translation issues facing the menus of today ("carp" vs. "crap"), all of history's most interesting bits have finally been handpicked and roasted to perfection.

©2008 Mental Floss LLC (P)2008 Tantor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Batman
  • Memphis, Tenessee
  • 07-10-09

History can be entertaining.

This is not a book to be used for the scholarly study of history, but it is a great book for making you think about history and want to know more. I have listened to it twice, a little bit at a time and still enjoy it.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Jody
  • Coupeville, WA, USA
  • 04-10-09

Good, but not good enough

I found the format somewhat confusing, seeming to jump from topic to topic, then revisiting a topic mentioned earlier, etc. That might not be a problem with the print version, but when read from front to back, it is (for me, at least).

The reader is also somewhat problematic. He has plenty of 'melody' to his voice, but a great many idiosyncratic pronunciations, which I find jarring. For instance, 'paraBOla' rather than the usual 'paRAbola'. Also, there are several malapropisms, which could be the fault of the authors, or a misreading by the reader. For instance, 'neuron' when it should be 'neutron' or 'climactic' when it should be 'climatic'. Still, it is worth listening to just for fun.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • david
  • lake oswego, OR, United States
  • 09-14-10

Quick Romp Review

This book was lively and moved along with a lot of humor and information. It was free of a "right" or "wrong" theme and moved through the phases of various cultures and religions with no biasis.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant and Funny. What more could you want?

After listening to "The Book of General Ignorance" I became addicted to this genre. I drive all night and am a lifelong learner. I soaked up so much of this book that I can send almost anyone into information overload. If you want to exercise your brain, increase your intelligence, end world hunger, or just make your co-workers look like the idiots you know them to be, BUY THIS BOOK!!!

20 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Breezy, but Fascinating and Informative

I've listened to this recording repeatedly and always pick up new and interesting information. Its style is friendly, accessible and never tedious. Moreover, Johnny Heller has become my favorite reader. He has real flair and a tremendous delivery. I wish I could find other things he's read, alas. For history lovers, this recording makes the subject fun and appealing. I love this audio book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

This was just great!

Some people are very critical and demanding of their entertainment. Perhaps I am not, or maybe this book really was great!

I love the delivery of the narrator and his sarcasm.

Who knows how accurate the historical estimations are? All I know is that it is more than I know, or had the time to research.

It was purely for mental enjoyment and entertainment. If it was all true, then I am smarter then when I first pushed play. If not, then my friends at parties now think I am an idiot for all of the tid-bits I have spewed! Either way, I'm happy with the audiobook!

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Mental Floss this book

I love history and the opportunity to hear it from a different/funny perspective enthralled me. I was greatly disappointed with this book. It seems as if the writers were on a stream of consciousness kick. There was no logic to how the material was presented - no ongoing theme, nothing chronological, no mental paradigm to guide the reader. Once in awhile a funny point emerged which left me thinking, "Is that it?" Don't bother with this one.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Not That Irreverent, But Still Really Good

Would you consider the audio edition of The Mental Floss History of the World to be better than the print version?

No. I think some of the humor is lost via the reader, who falls flat. I would also assume that there would be maps, lists and graphs that would enhance the print version.

What did you like best about this story?

I love the fact that they try and encompass everything. And for the most part, I think they get as much as could be expected or imagined in one volume. They treat the pre-Colombian Americas and Africa with equal respect to Asia and Europe, which few books attempt. They tend to do very cursory glances over big historical moments so they can include a larger vision, and it feels like they are respectful to the reader by assuming that they know about WWI or WWII, rather than treating people like they never heard of it. They do a really good job of talking about cause and effect. Rather than use taxation/representation as the cause of the American Revolution, they link it back the French and Indian War.Despite being a general history book, and I have a lot of knowledge in the area, I was still introduced to new facts. I loved that.Overall, a great primer book for further exploration with a lot of respect for all cultures. Wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was.

What aspect of Johny Heller’s performance would you have changed?

He falls flat on their attempts at humor. I think that he doesn't do them justice in the "irreverence" aspect.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

God no. You digest this one in hour segments. I listened to this at the same time I listened to another book. I feel if you try to do too much of this at one time, you might get too much information and therefor not process as much as if you take it slowly.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Andre
  • Ithaca, NY, United States
  • 02-24-11

Historical overdrive

This is an extremely interesting book, but it would be better to read it, rather than listen to it rush by. There are hundreds of facts and episodes, condensed and only slightly analyzed. If you were reading it, it would be possible to pause and let some description sink in; there's no time for that in the audio version.
Two minor irritants. One is the interjection of cutesy statements, in an effort to live up to the title of the book, and to (mistakenly) make it lighter and more interesting. They don't, and are only annoying.

The other is the pronunciation of the word nuclear. The reader persists in saying "nicular", instead - a dreadful mis-pronunciation.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dann
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 07-23-10

Holy CRAP, Historianman!

Gees, humans are MEAN to each other. I'm amazed we've snowballed into almost 7 billion people. We're locust on this planet, a disease of our own making. Considering that most of the meanest people have conquered and formed this human race it's amazing that we have some sort of civility ... wherever it may be. It's also amazing that we're not dragging our knuckles anymore. What an eyeopener.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful