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An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn't

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When it was originally published in 1987, An Incomplete Education became a surprise bestseller. Now this instant classic has been completely updated, outfitted with a whole new arsenal of indispensable knowledge on global affairs, popular culture, economic trends, scientific principles, and modern arts. Here?s your chance to brush up on all those subjects you slept through When it was originally published in 1987, An Incomplete Education became a surprise bestseller. Now this instant classic has been completely updated, outfitted with a whole new arsenal of indispensable knowledge on global affairs, popular culture, economic trends, scientific principles, and modern arts. Here?s your chance to brush up on all those subjects you slept through in school, reacquaint yourself with all the facts you once knew (then promptly forgot), catch up on major developments in the world today, and become the Renaissance man or woman you always knew you could be!How do you tell the Balkans from the Caucasus? What?s the difference between fission and fusion? Whigs and Tories? Shiites and Sunnis? Deduction and induction? Why aren?t all Shakespearean comedies necessarily thigh-slappers? What are transcendental numbers and what are they good for? What really happened in Plato?s cave? Is postmodernism dead or just having a bad hair day? And for extra credit, when should you use the adjective continual and when should you use continuous?An Incomplete Education answers these and thousands of other questions with incomparable wit, style, and clarity. American Studies, Art History, Economics, Film, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Science, and World History: Here?s the bottom line on each of these major disciplines, distilled to its essence and served up with consummate flair.


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When it was originally published in 1987, An Incomplete Education became a surprise bestseller. Now this instant classic has been completely updated, outfitted with a whole new arsenal of indispensable knowledge on global affairs, popular culture, economic trends, scientific principles, and modern arts. Here?s your chance to brush up on all those subjects you slept through When it was originally published in 1987, An Incomplete Education became a surprise bestseller. Now this instant classic has been completely updated, outfitted with a whole new arsenal of indispensable knowledge on global affairs, popular culture, economic trends, scientific principles, and modern arts. Here?s your chance to brush up on all those subjects you slept through in school, reacquaint yourself with all the facts you once knew (then promptly forgot), catch up on major developments in the world today, and become the Renaissance man or woman you always knew you could be!How do you tell the Balkans from the Caucasus? What?s the difference between fission and fusion? Whigs and Tories? Shiites and Sunnis? Deduction and induction? Why aren?t all Shakespearean comedies necessarily thigh-slappers? What are transcendental numbers and what are they good for? What really happened in Plato?s cave? Is postmodernism dead or just having a bad hair day? And for extra credit, when should you use the adjective continual and when should you use continuous?An Incomplete Education answers these and thousands of other questions with incomparable wit, style, and clarity. American Studies, Art History, Economics, Film, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Science, and World History: Here?s the bottom line on each of these major disciplines, distilled to its essence and served up with consummate flair.

30 review for An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn't

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manuel

    I really liked this book. Its for those of us who read lots of books written in the 18th and 19th century (Jane Austin fans take note) It answers those gaps in our education which come up when you want to know the differnce between a Vicar, Rector and Parson. Did you ever wonder why they drink Port, Claret or Madeira in the drawing room after dinner? What's higher in the British aristocracy? a Duke, Marquis or Barron? Why do they have Counts in Europe, but Earls in England? Why is the wife of an I really liked this book. Its for those of us who read lots of books written in the 18th and 19th century (Jane Austin fans take note) It answers those gaps in our education which come up when you want to know the differnce between a Vicar, Rector and Parson. Did you ever wonder why they drink Port, Claret or Madeira in the drawing room after dinner? What's higher in the British aristocracy? a Duke, Marquis or Barron? Why do they have Counts in Europe, but Earls in England? Why is the wife of an Earl a Countess? How do you address these people and do you bow? Whats the differnce between a Barouche a Brougham and a Landau? These are carriages by the way. Have you forgotten your Greek mythology? Who is married to who? How many women does Zeus or Jupiter seduce and who are his children from these unions. The book is very easy to read. Written in small easy to digest segments with lots of illustrations; perfect if you ever want to pick up baco-bits of information for a cocktail party. What ever your area of interest: literature, economics, philosophy, arts, film, music, political science; Im sure you will all find something to give you an A-ha moment. If nothing else, this is a wonderful and insightful resource book to answer those nagging questions that creep up in our daily readings.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    This is hilarious! I swear, I didn't know anyone could write such a comparative reference book that would make me laugh so hard that Cheerios almost came out of my nose. How's that for a visual? Highly recommended...if you have a witty sense of humor.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    Great for becoming an intellectual, or at least faking it very convincingly. It fills in those gaps you missed while throwing paper airplanes at your peers and then takes you beyond what most schools ever offered. Cleverly written and sure to make you laugh.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Half the fun of this book is arguing (admittedly a one-sided argument) with the authors about what's been included and what hasn't. Also, frankly, the smug satisfaction you get when you already know something that's presented in the book as arcane knowledge that needs careful explanation. Once you get over these tawdry pleasures and settle down to reading, however, you get what you came for: a wonderful compendium of lore in many fields, a great way to brush up your Shakespeare and everything el Half the fun of this book is arguing (admittedly a one-sided argument) with the authors about what's been included and what hasn't. Also, frankly, the smug satisfaction you get when you already know something that's presented in the book as arcane knowledge that needs careful explanation. Once you get over these tawdry pleasures and settle down to reading, however, you get what you came for: a wonderful compendium of lore in many fields, a great way to brush up your Shakespeare and everything else, and a good way to fall asleep reading.....

  5. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    if i had to recommend only ONE book that would sit beside my bed.... everything you should know - about every subject imaginable. don't expect to be able to chat about Hegel with a scholar, but you will know the basics of the major world religions, be able to tell the differences between the Odyssey and the Illiad, and read about major Supreme Court cases... every time i open it up i learn something new... or something that i forgot already...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mary Tuley

    I actually read this enormous reference book, and I tried to learn something from it, but the main thing I learned was thatI should've paid attention in school.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ami

    I nicknamed this book "the book that is making me smarter". Co-written by a Smithie (yay!), it is an incredibly comprehensive overview of just about everything, divided into the categories of: American Studies, Art, Economics, Film, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Science, World History, and a bonus Lexicon. I feel much better equipped to play Trivial Persuit, assuming that I've absorbed enough. I got this out as a library loan, so I ended up on a strict s I nicknamed this book "the book that is making me smarter". Co-written by a Smithie (yay!), it is an incredibly comprehensive overview of just about everything, divided into the categories of: American Studies, Art, Economics, Film, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Science, World History, and a bonus Lexicon. I feel much better equipped to play Trivial Persuit, assuming that I've absorbed enough. I got this out as a library loan, so I ended up on a strict schedule of at least 20 pages a day. It's probably much better to have this around as a reference book, but don't let that stop you from doing a thorough first reading! I learned a bit about nineteenth century America poets, I enjoyed a labeled drawing of the architectural components of Gothic churches, I added classic films to my Netflix queue, I laughed and learned quite a bit from the section entitled, "A Bedside Companion to the Nineteenth-Century English Novel"; included were breakdowns of topographical references such as moors, copses, dales, glades, and shires; and a breakdown of Britain's aristocratic system. The music chapter included a great introduction to opera. Philosopher bios, briefs on the state of affairs of about twenty countries, overviews of various international agreements and organizations, maps, Freud, his hangers-on, comparison of 10 different versions of the Bible, in chart form, chaos theory, string theory, a humanoid family tree (Ardipithecus ramidus set off quite the little shitstorm by a certain Mr. Leakey),so so so much. Amazing. And everything, EVERYthing, is clever, witty, tongue-in-cheek goodness. Definitely made me feel smarter, and stronger, because it's about a ten pound book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anita

    Probably the best free-in-a-curbside-box book I've ever owned. It was odd to get that please-don't-end feeling from what's basically just a collection of random facts & info, but it was just so damned entertaining. It's all very well organized, with chapters devoted to literature, music, philosophy, economics, film, etc., and the knowledge is dispense with cleverness and wit - but not overwhelmingly so. The Lexicon section was probably my favorite, with its lists of Latin abbreviations, popular Probably the best free-in-a-curbside-box book I've ever owned. It was odd to get that please-don't-end feeling from what's basically just a collection of random facts & info, but it was just so damned entertaining. It's all very well organized, with chapters devoted to literature, music, philosophy, economics, film, etc., and the knowledge is dispense with cleverness and wit - but not overwhelmingly so. The Lexicon section was probably my favorite, with its lists of Latin abbreviations, popular French sayings, obscure English words, mnemonic devices, and remedial spelling lessons. Again: presented with humor and charm. Irresistible. I read this book twice, in a way. First off I bounced around looking for the most entertaining tidbits, then I fell in love with it so thoroughly that I read it cover-to-cover. If you consider yourself a nerd in any way shape or form, I suspect you'll enjoy this book. Even if you've already heard about all 3,684 Things, you'll likely find these authors present them in a more charming manner than you've ever before encountered.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    An Incomplete Education is a bit like Cliff Notes for Everything. I picked this up in the bargain rack at my local Borders. It's been a bedside mainstay ever since and still is. It reads easily with a voice as playful as it is pedantic as it covers a range of topics (differences of the major religions, art movements you ought to be aware of, the science you snoozed through, geography of 19th century literature, etc.). If you feel you missed out on certain topics in the classroom or the lecture h An Incomplete Education is a bit like Cliff Notes for Everything. I picked this up in the bargain rack at my local Borders. It's been a bedside mainstay ever since and still is. It reads easily with a voice as playful as it is pedantic as it covers a range of topics (differences of the major religions, art movements you ought to be aware of, the science you snoozed through, geography of 19th century literature, etc.). If you feel you missed out on certain topics in the classroom or the lecture hall, it's a great pick up. Don't get discouraged by its depth or size. It's a great one just to pick through as you please.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bryce Holt

    Heck of an informative book, and the third best "Hidden Faction" books I've ever read (the best by far being "5 People Who Died During Sex" and the second best being, "An Underground Education"). It does exactly what it suggests it will do; give you mounds of information that have loose strings to subjects that you think you know at least a bit about. Definitely worth picking up, though if you're like me and prefer the seedy underbelly of hidden faction, the other suggestions might better serve Heck of an informative book, and the third best "Hidden Faction" books I've ever read (the best by far being "5 People Who Died During Sex" and the second best being, "An Underground Education"). It does exactly what it suggests it will do; give you mounds of information that have loose strings to subjects that you think you know at least a bit about. Definitely worth picking up, though if you're like me and prefer the seedy underbelly of hidden faction, the other suggestions might better serve you.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kaylee

    I loved this book! My parents gave it to me when I graduated college and it had been following me around ever since (all two pounds of it). Broken into manageable sections with just about every topic you'd want to know more about, this massive tome of a book is full of interesting tidbits as well as the facts everyone should know. The writing is conversational, without being dumbed down, and the information is well-chosen. I read it precisely the way they don't recommend reading it: straight thro I loved this book! My parents gave it to me when I graduated college and it had been following me around ever since (all two pounds of it). Broken into manageable sections with just about every topic you'd want to know more about, this massive tome of a book is full of interesting tidbits as well as the facts everyone should know. The writing is conversational, without being dumbed down, and the information is well-chosen. I read it precisely the way they don't recommend reading it: straight through, page 1 to page 679. I actually thought it was a fabulous read that way, but was content to devote myself to no other books while reading this -- and taking my time so that some of this actually sunk in.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    The content is considerably outdated, there is far too much emphasis on American culture, and it simply was not that interesting. It's an interesting browse if you want to figure out what you don't know, but drop it once you find a subject and look up a more comprehensive book on that field. I also knew most of the information contained in the science section from my High School and College education... =/

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I LOVE this book. It appeals to the Trival Pursuit geekiness in me that always wants to know the whys of things without having to resort to the encyclopedia. This book is excellent in offering little nuggets of information in an interesting and entertaining method.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bouchra Rebiai

    I was really looking forward to reading this book, and was excited when I began. I knew that it would take some time due to its length, but I didn't expect to be so disappointed in it. It's divided into 12 chapters, plus a lexicon at the end. The chapters are: American Studies, Art History, Economics, Film, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Science, and World History. I'm going to share my thoughts on each below. American Studies: I understand this book is wri I was really looking forward to reading this book, and was excited when I began. I knew that it would take some time due to its length, but I didn't expect to be so disappointed in it. It's divided into 12 chapters, plus a lexicon at the end. The chapters are: American Studies, Art History, Economics, Film, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Science, and World History. I'm going to share my thoughts on each below. American Studies: I understand this book is written primarily for an American audience, so I was okay with it. I learned some things about history too, so it was cool. Art History: I've always had trouble with art - I like beautiful paintings, but I'm not the kind of person who can tell what is painted by Picasso or by a no-name artist. This chapter had some useful information about the major artists and their most important - not most famous - works. The Leonardo/Michelangelo Crib Sheet was the most handy and cool in this chapter. Economics: I suck at all things money-related, except for simple currency conversions, budgeting, and keeping track of my expenses - all of which is more math and/or life related than economics. It was good to learn a bit about this quite important subject. Film: I consider myself a movie enthusiast, but upon reading this chapter I understood that I'm not, because most of the movies, directors, and actors/actresses mentioned here, I've never heard of - or at least encountered once before in my life. Perhaps because this was a more academic view of film and put a great deal of emphasis on film history. Literature: As a voracious contemporary books reader, I surprised myself last year when I discovered that I really enjoyed reading Shakespeare and Austen as much as I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games. This chapter was cool, because we get to know more about some of the major works and authors out there. But the coolest was a handy list of British terms used in 19th century literature with explanations, for example: what moors, copses, and stiles are. Music: I don't listen much to music, and I've never listened to people like Beethoven and Mozart. I've never been to an orchestra. Nevertheless, this chapter was okay, I managed to learn some new things. Philosophy: I was first exposed to Philosophy in MITx's Introduction to Philosophy, and I enjoyed the course a lot. So I was expecting a lot out of this chapter. It didn't fulfill my expectations, but it did increase my knowledge slightly. The best part was Rating The Thinkers: A Consumer's Guide to Twenty Philosophers. Political Science: Up until I started reading this chapter, I liked this book to some extent. However, the first part of this chapter, What You Need to Know Before Answering a Personals Ad in the International Herald Tribune: A Nervous American's Guide to Living and Loving on Five Continents; made me switch to not appreciating this book. Notice how it says Five Continents, and keep this in mind while reading the list of the countries mentioned: Argentina, Cambodia, Canada, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey. Although this list comprises 5 continents, it hardly covers all the different cultures represented. I would've settled for a shorter version of these [insert country name] 101s if they managed to include more countries. In fact, I would've been happier if I were to learn at least 5 facts - and not the usual encyclopedic stereotypical ones - about every country on Earth. Don't forget that the subtitle of the book says 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn't. So what the writers are basically saying is that one should learn about Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico, but it's okay for one not to know anything about Algeria, Sri Lanka, and Suriname. Why this discrimination? At first, I thought, okay, maybe these countries are more important in some way or other than the rest of the world. However, there are plenty of other well-known countries that aren't mentioned, for example, India, Egypt, and the UK. Since this is written by Americans for an American audience, it just reinforces the worldwide view of Americans as people who don't care to learn except about a bunch of countries. I'm not an American, but I have quite a few American friends, and I'm pretty sure not all Americans are like that, but then I watch videos on YouTube about these topics and I'm forced to think of my friends as outliers. At this point in the book, I couldn't wait for it to end so I could rant about this. XD Psychology: Given my recent interest in the psychology of everything, I was looking forward to this chapter, but after my disappointment with the previous chapter, I wasn't expecting much. It was okay, but chock-full of complex information presented poorly. I think I'll stick to the popular books in the subject. Religion: Okay. I know most of the people out there don't know much about Islam and that it's quite a weird religion to most people, but it is a known fact that even if you read Wikipedia, you'll get some sort of vague picture about it. Unfortunately, the writers of this book seem to have been doing their research in the wrong places, because they even got a pillar - Islam is based on five pillars, five things that every Muslim should do no matter what sect they belong to - of Islam wrong. Zakat, the fourth pillar - not the fifth as this book claims - is sort of like a tax that wealthy people have to pay. It's quite complex, and as a normal person, I only know the rules that apply to paper money, gold, and silver. With regards to each, there is a certain threshold one should hit, called the nisab - 87.49 grams for gold, and 613.35 grams for silver, and the amount equivalent to the nisab of silver for paper money. Once you have money, gold, or silver, that has exceeded the nisab, then you have to determine the amount of time you've had it for. If one lunar year, the hawl, has passed from the day you first had this amount of money, gold, or silver, then you have to pay zakat. Zakat is 2.5% of what exceeds the nisab. Let's say you have $1000 in savings, and you want to know whether you have to pay zakat on it or not. First of all, you look at the nisab of silver. Today, it's value is 392.54. Subtract from $1000. You have to pay zakat on $607.46. That's 2.5% of 607.46, which is $15.19. And you don't necessarily have to take that amount out of the $1000, you can leave that in the bank and pay from whatever you currently have. This isn't giving alms, which the book claims is the fifth pillar. Yes, you give zakat to the poor, but there are specific types of people it can be given to. And the fifth pillar is the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, anyway. At this point I was seriously pissed because it was clear that the writers weren't doing their job properly. Couldn't they consult an Islam 101 book written by Muslims? Science: I skimmed through this chapter a lot, because it repeated a lot ideas from high school Biology, Physics, and Chemistry. A couple of things I didn't know about were Boolean Algebra, and the ancestors of humans - my courses focused on today's humans instead of yesterday's ones. :P What would've added to this chapter is little blurbs on different scientists. It would've been interesting. World History: Another chapter that pissed me off. Also, it should be renamed to European History with a Couple of Blurbs on China, Japan, South Africa and Russia. But of course, those are the important nations, aren't they? Forget about the rest of the world and their history, those billions of people are irrelevant. All in all, it was an okay book, because I did learn a few things from it, after all. However, I don't recommend it to anybody who wants to further their education - as the writers claim to have gotten their proper education through writing this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aggie

    I read this book after college and always find it an interesting book to flip through for interesting things we all "should know".

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rick Sam

    This book would give you a tour of authors from the West in Liberal arts. It's a repertoire of facts. Basically an outline of Western Liberal education. I appreciated Literary and Poetry chapters. I never took literature or poetry classes. I would recommend this to high-schoolers or someone who skipped education. Deus Vult, Gottfried

  17. 4 out of 5

    Leah Polcar

    (This review is of the first edition) This is a great book for reminding the reader of the things they learned in high school and college. It is also pretty good at teaching you the things that you should have learned. So, it really does as it promises -- fills in the gaps in your education. That said, it in itself is incomplete, but that is probably how it must be. Some sections give short shrift to various subject areas and really don't give the reader enough information at all. For example, thi (This review is of the first edition) This is a great book for reminding the reader of the things they learned in high school and college. It is also pretty good at teaching you the things that you should have learned. So, it really does as it promises -- fills in the gaps in your education. That said, it in itself is incomplete, but that is probably how it must be. Some sections give short shrift to various subject areas and really don't give the reader enough information at all. For example, this was apparent in the sections on Psychology, which focuses exclusively on analysis and leaves out important formative scholars like Skinner and all social scientific approaches to psych. However, most chapters give you exactly enough to get the basics of a subject down -- but they are the basics. Which again, is exactly what this book is about. I agree with the other reviewer that anything you don't know will take you several re-reads to get it down pat. However, getting the fundamentals of whatever subjects you are weak in is easy as the chapters are nicely organized into smaller, clearly marked, fact paragraphs. Overall, I recommend this book highly for anyone who wants to learn the basics of some subject they do not know or remember the subjects they have forgotten years out of school.

  18. 4 out of 5

    L. (Maybe you can have too many books)

    Goodness knows I luv me some trivia. One of my favorite books of all time is Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts. When asked the inevitable question of what three books I would want with me on a deserted island, Isaac is one of them. (The other two would be How To Survive On a Deserted Island and How To Get Off Of A Deserted Island.) This book presents the Humanities in small, digestible bits with pictures as well (which I appreciated). I had gotten to the 62% mark and by that time we had covered art, l Goodness knows I luv me some trivia. One of my favorite books of all time is Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts. When asked the inevitable question of what three books I would want with me on a deserted island, Isaac is one of them. (The other two would be How To Survive On a Deserted Island and How To Get Off Of A Deserted Island.) This book presents the Humanities in small, digestible bits with pictures as well (which I appreciated). I had gotten to the 62% mark and by that time we had covered art, literature, philosophy, music, politics and were heading into the psychology branch. So why wasn't I able to force myself to finish it? I would say the writing is what held this book back. There was simply no joy here. The authors didn't seem to like the subjects they were writing about. (Isaac adored his trivia.) There's important stuff to learn here and I can't help but think how much more I would have learned if this had been written by a better author. Like Isaac.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John

    A big, chunky thick book that looks intimidating. But ... the type is big. There are lots of illustrations. This is a tongue in cheek, irreverent, humorous attempt to provide an abbreviated college education. It reads like a cross between Cliff Notes and MAD Magazine. Its audience might be those students who stumbled to the podium after a hazy four years of keggers and bongs and were handed a degree and are compelled to ask "What did I learn?". A great refresher course, this book is filled with A big, chunky thick book that looks intimidating. But ... the type is big. There are lots of illustrations. This is a tongue in cheek, irreverent, humorous attempt to provide an abbreviated college education. It reads like a cross between Cliff Notes and MAD Magazine. Its audience might be those students who stumbled to the podium after a hazy four years of keggers and bongs and were handed a degree and are compelled to ask "What did I learn?". A great refresher course, this book is filled with tidbits, trivia and anecdotes. It reminds me somewhat of the Peoples' Almanacs by David Wallechinsky which I devoured as an adolescent. It took me 3 months to read through this book but then it is meant to be digested in small doses. Nicely organized like a college curriculum, you can skip the stuff you have absolutely no interest in, but given the entertaining style of this book, you might want to read it anyway. The authors might illuminate a subject you had hitherto considered dull and unworthy of your attention.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    As with many Cliff Notes-type books of this sort, this book excels in its breadth, but lacks in its depth. On some subjects, these seemed more questions raised than answered. As would be expected, it skims surface and focuses on the “what” and not the “why” (i.e. Emerson was a great human being, but you wouldn't want to spend time with him???) It is irreverent to the point of being entertaining. And the book is definitely made for browsing as there is much diverse knowledge contained therein and As with many Cliff Notes-type books of this sort, this book excels in its breadth, but lacks in its depth. On some subjects, these seemed more questions raised than answered. As would be expected, it skims surface and focuses on the “what” and not the “why” (i.e. Emerson was a great human being, but you wouldn't want to spend time with him???) It is irreverent to the point of being entertaining. And the book is definitely made for browsing as there is much diverse knowledge contained therein and it is unlikely that one would be interested in every single subject matter. At its best, the book acts as a sampler for several books and ideas ranging from history and ideology to literature and science that one may have heard of but never had time to delve into. It is also a book that one completes over time in small chunks rather than hunkering down and reading over several continuous hours.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    This book is so sweet. It's kind of like a textbook, but written my people who know about pretty much everything and have a sense of humor. It covers things like american studies (12 supreme court decisions worth knowing by name) art history (six -ism's, one -ijl, and Dada), economics (Now, what, exactly, is exonomics, and what do economists do, again?), film (remedial watching for the baby-boom generation), literature (guess who's coming to dinner? Twelve ficitonal characters with whom you shou This book is so sweet. It's kind of like a textbook, but written my people who know about pretty much everything and have a sense of humor. It covers things like american studies (12 supreme court decisions worth knowing by name) art history (six -ism's, one -ijl, and Dada), economics (Now, what, exactly, is exonomics, and what do economists do, again?), film (remedial watching for the baby-boom generation), literature (guess who's coming to dinner? Twelve ficitonal characters with whom you should have at least a nodding acquaintance), music (eleven arias to sing in the shower), religion (bible baedeker: a mercifully brief who-what-and-where guide to the holy land), science (two trendy theories that may revolutionize our worldview--or may not make much difference at all), and more.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    What a fun book! I didn't read this cover to cover - it isn't one of those books you do that with. Instead, it's one of those books you keep in the bathroom so that you can learn something new every day. (Too bad I checked it out from the library.) I flipped through and read the parts that interested me. I even read some topics that weren't necessarily of interest because the writing style is so enjoyable! Some of my favorite sections: ~ Comparison of 10 or so different editions of the bible ~ Gree What a fun book! I didn't read this cover to cover - it isn't one of those books you do that with. Instead, it's one of those books you keep in the bathroom so that you can learn something new every day. (Too bad I checked it out from the library.) I flipped through and read the parts that interested me. I even read some topics that weren't necessarily of interest because the writing style is so enjoyable! Some of my favorite sections: ~ Comparison of 10 or so different editions of the bible ~ Greek mythology highlights ~ Explanation of the English class system ~ The Lexicon at the end There is such a tremendous variety of information in an easy-to-read text. I laughed a lot and had to pause and share some with my husband.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    If my college professors were half this entertaining I would have retained a lot more (and maybe wouldn't have had to read this)! Some really great topics (and several I cared nothing about). To no suprise the science chapters were high on my list (e.g thermodynamics, evolution, quarks). Also of great interest were discussions contrasting the major religions, the various versions of the Bible and some discussions on grammar and word and literary abbreviation useage. Authors combine wittiness (is If my college professors were half this entertaining I would have retained a lot more (and maybe wouldn't have had to read this)! Some really great topics (and several I cared nothing about). To no suprise the science chapters were high on my list (e.g thermodynamics, evolution, quarks). Also of great interest were discussions contrasting the major religions, the various versions of the Bible and some discussions on grammar and word and literary abbreviation useage. Authors combine wittiness (is that a word?) and a little bit of mockery in most essays. Sections on music composers and political science were of little interest to me--that being my shortcoming, not the book's. Probably the best "text book-like" book I have read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kesha

    I was all over the lexicon chapter. The format of that section along with priceless information was worth the 600 Some odd pages it took to get to that content. The art history was engaging and I like that a variety of artists were explored. I'm a tad bit confused why Socrates was not one of the 20 thinkers or philosophers highlighted yet the chapter's introduced with the famous painting depicting his suicide/death sentence. I would not classify your education as incomplete if you don't know eac I was all over the lexicon chapter. The format of that section along with priceless information was worth the 600 Some odd pages it took to get to that content. The art history was engaging and I like that a variety of artists were explored. I'm a tad bit confused why Socrates was not one of the 20 thinkers or philosophers highlighted yet the chapter's introduced with the famous painting depicting his suicide/death sentence. I would not classify your education as incomplete if you don't know each of the items this book details however it is nice to have a basic knowledge of the broad scope exposed in this book. This read has encouraged me to truly think about my word choice before it leaves my mouth.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sara Madden

    If I were a computer and my hard drive was full, making it impossible to store new information, I would have this book on a back up disk. It is the book that I wish I could carry around in my purse and casually take out when someone brings up an obscure topic of conversation that I really do know something about, but can't form the right words. This book is excellent in showing you all the things you know, but forgot you knew, and a few other interesting things you really hope you can remember s If I were a computer and my hard drive was full, making it impossible to store new information, I would have this book on a back up disk. It is the book that I wish I could carry around in my purse and casually take out when someone brings up an obscure topic of conversation that I really do know something about, but can't form the right words. This book is excellent in showing you all the things you know, but forgot you knew, and a few other interesting things you really hope you can remember so you sound smart the next time you are having a conversation with someone that intimidates you.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    The book that proves reference can be fun...and funny! Authors Jones and Wilson take the major areas of collegiate knowledge: Science, Literature, International Studies, American Studies and Arts, and break them down into the stuff you really need to know to appear literate. With a knack for commonly confused topics: ( "How to Tell Keats from Shelley") and a cheeky, non reverential approach, ("What You Should Know Before Answering a Personals Ad in the International Herald Tribune") Jones and Wil The book that proves reference can be fun...and funny! Authors Jones and Wilson take the major areas of collegiate knowledge: Science, Literature, International Studies, American Studies and Arts, and break them down into the stuff you really need to know to appear literate. With a knack for commonly confused topics: ( "How to Tell Keats from Shelley") and a cheeky, non reverential approach, ("What You Should Know Before Answering a Personals Ad in the International Herald Tribune") Jones and Wilson manage to be both entertaining and educational.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I like nothing more than making myself a little smarter everyday...ok I probably like making myself look a little smarter everyday. This book is an excellent tool for that. Even if most of it zooms right through your ears, some of it will hang on, and you'll suddenly remember how to correctly pronounce flaccid (it's FLAK-sid by the way)one day and pat your self on the back. I especially enjoyed the Lexicon chapter and the Literature chapters. Those not super-familiar with the sciences will like t I like nothing more than making myself a little smarter everyday...ok I probably like making myself look a little smarter everyday. This book is an excellent tool for that. Even if most of it zooms right through your ears, some of it will hang on, and you'll suddenly remember how to correctly pronounce flaccid (it's FLAK-sid by the way)one day and pat your self on the back. I especially enjoyed the Lexicon chapter and the Literature chapters. Those not super-familiar with the sciences will like the breakdown of all the "important" theories.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Deirdre

    I keaned So much............. The title 3,684 things you should have learned but didn't, thats true.Ihave learned abot some of my faves, History, American Lit 101, Art History, Economics, film, more literature, music, philosophy, political science, and now I am reading abot one of my favorites, Psychology.I planned to double major, but w/all that was going on in my life, I did not. So next term I am already signed up for Psychology classes.I cannot wait!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tsui-Hua

    bought for my sister as 08 xmas present since she's the history/politics person started flipping through/scanning/reading before I wrapped it went and returned Alyssa's hokey sci-fi book I bought for her 08 xmas gift and got her this book also then after xmas, I bought copy for myself that's how much i liked it can't read through all at once; treat it like a reference book; read something in the news? want some background info check if it's in this book.....

  30. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Twenty years later, the idea was reborn in The Intellectual Devotional: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Roam Confidently with the Cultured Class. Twenty years later, the idea was reborn in The Intellectual Devotional: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Roam Confidently with the Cultured Class.

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