Do you have a family member or friend who just loves learning about fun stuff? Plume publishes the most wonderful books about all kinds of things. Sign me up!
Joey Green really nails it with DUMB HISTORY. This little paperback is so jammed full of amazing but true stories, I hardly know where to begin describing the contents. Maybe the best info is about they-should-have-know -better translations. When Pepsi pitched their “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” slogan to Taiwan, the Chinese read it as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.” To the Germans, it was “Come out of the grave with Pepsi.”
The Scandinavian company that wanted to let the English know it manufactures a great product ran an ad that read, “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.” Hispanics must have wondered what the deal was with the National Dairy Council inquiring “Are you lactating?” My very favorite is Perdue’s motto translated as “It takes an aroused man to make an affectionate chicken.”
But when it comes to dumb, our celebrities never let us down. When a reporter asked whether Shaquille O’Neal had visited the Parthenon during a recent trip to Greece, Shaq replied, “I can’t really remember the names of the clubs that we went to.” No record of what the response might have been when Christina Aguilera queried “Where’s the Cannes Film Festival being held this year?” You just gotta love it.
Wendy Northcutt presents the latest in a very popular series with THE DARWIN AWARDS: COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION. If, like me, you tell yourself “Well, that was dumb” at least once a week, you need this book. As stated by the great Albert Einstein himself, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not so sure about the former.” The premise is simple; by acts of extreme foolhardiness, the particularly dim-witted often manage to remove themselves from the gene pool by blowing themselves up while playing with flammables (think “Zoolander”); falling from great distances, having removed their only means of support; and, in one case, driving way too fast on a motorized barstool. No wonder college students love these reports; it’s so great to feel smart by comparison.
There are certain burning questions which simply must be answered, such as WHY DOES BATMAN CARRY SHARK REPELLENT? Brian Cronin has focused his energy on unearthing the solutions to this and other puzzles in the world of comic books. The author has a long list of people he thanks. For me, that litany would begin with my mother, who shot down her fellow teachers disapproval of my love of comics with, “Who cares, as long as she’s reading?” The subjects pondered are broken down into lists, including astonishing things that the Caped Crusader carries with him on night patrol. After all, to conquer the crime in Gotham, it’s not unreasonable to travel with bat-freeze pills, a secret identity disc, crayons, and of course, his makeup kit. (I don’t even want to hear it.) I would, wouldn’t you?
We do indeed live in A WORLD OF CURIOSITIES. John Oldale subtitles his findings as “Surprising, Interesting, and Downright Unbelievable Facts from Every Nation on the Planet.” And also, thanks very much, even a few jokes. From the good old USSR, “Q. Why do KGB men always come in threes? A. One to write a report, one to read it, and one to check up on the two intellectuals.” For those who gobble up facts like others pop peanuts, we have tidbits like the truth about Madagascar, a piece of India off the coast of Africa, inhabited by people from Borneo, and named by mistake by Marco Polo, who thought he was writing about Mogadishu, Somalia. Incidentally, the Malagasy are the world’s biggest consumers of rice. Weird but true, in 1937, it was thought to be an ideal locale for the relocation of Polish Jews. I bet it would have been a lot better than Poland.
Want to guess the shortest war in recorded history? The answer is Great Britain vs. Zanzibar, for a thrilling forty-five minutes; now, guess who won. Learn why you must never touch a Thai person on the head. Amaze your friends with the knowledge that the first purchase ever made with the Euro was a bag of lychees. If you don’t know whether or not somebody would love this book, ask them if they agree with my conclusion that people who think they know it all are very annoying to those of us who actually do. Sheldon Cooper lives!
The world breaks down into two kinds of people: those who like to travel; and those who like to read about travel, but not actually have to do it. This is not true; but it often seems true. Wheezing my way up a hellish slope in the Andes is not my idea of a good time, but Mart Adams writing about his adventures in TURN RIGHT AT MACHU PICCHU is a great armchair vacation. Adams decided to retrace the steps of Hiram Bingham, the eccentric explorer who led the 1911 expedition to find a legendary city of Incan treasure. Once heralded as a hero, and even elected to the senate on the basis of his fame, Bingham has now become the center of controversy; was he a liar and plunderer, or a champion who opened a window on an ancient civilization? Adams endured crossing a 15,000-foot pass, instant blizzards, and the Amazon jungle to find the answer to the question that has been asked by scholars for a century: what was Machu Picchu?
These are just a few of the outstanding books by Plume. I can’t think of a more delightful summer than to sit in my air conditioned library, read them all, and not come out until September.
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Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist and an avowed bibliophile. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. Michall is a voting member of National Book Critics Circle. www.michalljeffers.com