Think of anything bad, from art heists to Genghis Kahn, and it's likely to be included in this wickedly smart and humorous guide to the seedy underbelly of basically everything. The brainiac team at "mental_floss", creators of the hit magazine and last year's Condensed Knowledge, have scoured the darkest, dirtiest corners of history and the globe to gather this ultimate collection of the bad stuff you're not supposed to know and you certainly never learned in school.
Organized by theme, with chapters for each of the seven deadly sins, the book includes feuds, plagiarists, hoaxes, lies, schemes, scandals, evil dictators, mob bosses, acts of revenge, angry queens, cannibals and much more, all organized into bite-sized—albeit foul-tasting—lists (i.e."The Fascist Style Guide: Five Dictator Grooming Tips", “Four Biblical Girls Gone Wild" and “Three Delicious Animals We Charbroiled Into Extinction."). It's the perfect way to add some spice to a dull conversation and proves that learning can be not only easy, but exquisitely sinful.
Concept trumps execution in this hit and (mostly) miss compendium of "the worst history has to offer." Editor Hunt and Mental Floss cofounders Pearson and Hattikudur (Condensed Knowledge) group their material into chapters based on the seven deadlies and purport to present "every bawdy story and dirty secret your history teacher wanted to tell you, but couldn't for fear of losing his or her job." More often than not, the "dirty secrets" are recounted in matter-of-fact prose, peppered with uninspired juvenile humor ("sometimes you have to get a head to get ahead" when introducing leaders who killed family members, or exclaiming "Eeeeuuuuw!" in response to sibling marriages among the ancient Egyptians), but the book makes a passable bathroom read. When compared to other recent works of historic satire, (John Stewart's America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction or The Onion's Our Dumb Century) this collection, with its dependency on camp humor, fails to satisfy. Readers seeking lighter fare may find the book appealing, but those in search of intelligent satire will do better to look elsewhere.