801 Things You Should Know (Review)

I spotted 801 Things You Should Know by David Olsen in the newer stacks at the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library the other day.  I decided to bring it home because it looked like something to enjoy during the busy holiday season.

Curiously, the book is packaged like a popular paperback but it’s categorized as reference.  Indeed, it has the potential to be one or the other. In its present form, it should have been edited down and aimed more at the popular market.

There are eight sections included in 801 Things You Should Know.  Each section contains alphabetically listed topics that are given a short, rudimentary sketch.  If you are already a well-read individual, you will not learn very much from the book.  The entries do serve as good memory prompts, though.801-philosophers

If, for example, you turn to the section, “People and Culture”, you’ll find an entry refering to Sandro Botticelli.  There are four sentences that very briefly summarize his notable work. The reader is reminded of his most famous paintings, “Primavera” and “The Birth of Venus”. The memory jog may spur you to investigate further, or it will help you recall facts you learned about Botticelli, earlier.

Rather than giving lessons about the various topics, the author provides tiny appetizers that will hopefully lead the reader to investigate further.  One instance is “Postindustrial Society”.  Here is something that is mentioned by intellectuals in educational discussions or political arguments.  The term, Postindustrial Society seems little more than buzzwords for talk-show pundits. However, we are reminded that it refers to the economic shift from blue-collar industry to white-collar, science-based companies. This informative tidbit helps us grasp a topic we really need to understand.

Unfortunately, 801 Things You Should Know is redundant and unsatisfying.  These days, a person can consult a search engine and find a wider selection of more informative material about any of the topics listed within the covers of this book.

If I had been the author of a similar book, I would have included some photographs and drawings to illustrate the topics. The sections would not be made up of alphabetized entries. There would be more “flow” or evolution in the arrangement of the subjects.  I certainly would not market it as a reference book.

This book did serve one of my needs during the holidays, in that it was a conversation 801-bigbangstarter during some slow after dinner moments. One group chatted about the “Divine Right of Kings”. The participants, however, quickly converted the discussion into complaints about the power and wealthy elite’s influence in Washington DC.

Another group noticed the entry about Frank Lloyd Wright. They decried the deterioration of architecture from Wright’s genius into today’s hodge podge of suburban blight.

Overall, I enjoyed the book as bedtime reading.  There was nothing to upset my mood, but I found some things to think about when I eventually turned off my bedside lamp and turned in for sleep.  I don’t think I would spend money on the book, though.

{ 801 Things You Should Know–From Greek Philosophy to Today’s Technology, Theories, Events, Discoveries, Trends, and Movements That Matter by David Olsen; published in 2013 by Adams Media; 256 pages; ISBN 10: 1-4405-6571-6 }

moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes John Wayne. “Life’s tough, it’s even tougher if you’re stupid.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, cultural highlights, History, Politics, religion, Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.