The Smartest Book In The World (Review)

I spotted The Smartest Book In The World by Greg Proops in the new books stack at the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library about a month and a half ago. I didn’t bring it home with me then, because the title seemed a bit preposterous and a quick skim of a few pages left me unimpressed. In addition, there were some other books that I actually wanted to read in the shelf above.  Week after week, I noticed Proops’ book had remained on the shelf, apparently untouched, so I decided, on a whim, to bring it home.SmartestBook-01

When I finally had time to sit back in my easy chair, I read the dust jacket notes to put myself in the proper mood. Greg Proops is billed as a renowned comedian who is known for starring on the comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and his podcast, “The Smartest Man In The World”. None of this rang a bell with me. He is also, apparently a “fountain of historical knowledge… and a charming know-it-all”.

The Smartest Book In The World starts out with its agenda,  which is basically a layout of the author’s passions and prejudices. He covers several topics, from Ancient History to the Women’s Movement. There are several essays that vaguely remind me of my own meanderings on bluejayblog. Apparently the book is an attempt to duplicate his podcast in written form.

Some of the essays approach their goal of being entertaining and informative. A few of the topics are covered fairly well, others are just briefly touched upon.  Overall, the book lacks a solid continuity.  It appears to be randomly put together. It comes off as somewhat scattered.

One of my favorite pasttimes is history so I looked forward to Proops’ “smart” musings on the subject. I was disappointed.  Even though I enjoy watching movies once in awhile, I am bored by movie trivia.  The book’s sections about movies made my eyes glaze over, so I only read a few, then skipped past most of the rest.

I learned a few tidbits about the Feminist movement, but only as much as can be gleaned from the barest outline of its history. There was no in depth Women’s Movement writing at all. I suppose that is to be expected in such a short book as this one.

The book has one saving grace in my eyes, baseball.  There are several chapters about the game and its people scattered throughout Proops’ book. I was happy to find out that Proops used to spend some of his boyhood at Candlestick Park as a fan of the San Francisco Giants.  The author briefly describes how he and his father drove from “dreary” San Carlos, to San Francisco’s baseball venue for their mutual enjoyment of the games. Because I’m a Giants fan, I felt a connection.

I particularly enjoyed his snippets about baseball’s colorful past.  He name dropped such greats as “Shoeless Joe”, Babe Ruth, Tom Seaver, and Ty Cobb. The author apparently doesn’t like Ty Cobb very much.  For some reason, maybe as filler, Proops included the poem “Casey At The Bat”.

I enjoyed reading about a few of Proops’ “fantasy teams”. Especially those made up of baseball’s all-time traditional greats and members of the Hall of Fame. However, the SmartestBook-02author lost me when one of his fantasy teams was made up of US Presidents. He further lost me at fantasy teams composed of presidential wives. He went unamusingly over the top with his fantasy team made up of ancient Romans. The fantasy team of infamous dictators was somewhat amusing, though.

If you don’t care for baseball, you’ll probably skip over a large share of this book. If you enjoy movies, poetry and music, there are some tidbits to read. Regarding popular music history, there is just enough to pique a little interest. The only instance that his tastes intersected with mine was with The Beatles. If you follow pop music, there is very little more to offer to fortify your knowledge. The short entries are not very enticing.

I’m afraid that this short review of The Smartest Book In The World is ending up as a pan.  The book title sets up the reader for some erudite knowledge and wisdom. Instead, it is an ironic hyperbole that tries too hard.  This book really doesn’t seem to be all that smart.  If this book is a promo piece for Proops’ podcast, it falls flat in that regard, for me.  Someday, perhaps I’ll download some episodes, if I manage to find a few moments to spare.

{ The Smartest Book In The World: A Lexicon of Literacy, A Rancorous Reportage, A Concise Curriculum Of Cool by Greg Proops; 320 pages; published May 2015 by Touchstone; ISBN:  978-1-4767-4704-0 }

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this Proopsism, “Honesty and unpopular opinions are the toughest sell in a country with an irony-deficiency.”

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, Entertainment, History, music, Politics, religion, sports and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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