10 books that will live in infamy … or at least make great gifts

December 7, 2012 – Looking for that perfect gift to give the curious person on your shopping list this holiday season? Here’s a list of quirky books, courtesy of www.listverse.com and list maker extraordinaire Jamie Frater, that might do the trick.

10. World’s Worst by Mark Frauenfelder – This fun book is filled with the worst things in the world, such as dangerous people or places, disgusting or hideous creatures, and more. In thoroughly researched, scathingly funny essays, the author avoids the obvious and digs deep to tell the fascinating tales of the worst people, places and things on Earth for the reader’s amusement and edification.

9. The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean – In this book, Sam Kean goes through the periodic table of elements and tells a story or anecdote about it. It presents a parade of entertaining anecdotes about scientists (mad and otherwise) while covering such topics as thallium (Tl, 81) poisoning, the invention of the silicon (Si, 14) transistor, and how the ruthenium (Ru, 44) fountain pen point made millions for the Parker company. With a constant flow of fun facts bubbling to the surface, this is just the sort of book that will be loved by anyone who is a fan of trivia and snippets of information.

8. Forbidden Knowledge by Michael Powell – This is a great book for anyone who wants to know the secrets behind things we aren’t meant to do, such as how to make counterfeit money, how to break into a car, how to become a religious icon, etc. It is a very interesting book that will appeal to most people.

7. History’s Greatest Lies by William Weir – In this book, the author neatly dispatches many of the most treasured stories to be found in schoolbooks, and repeated elsewhere. He relates that Emperor Nero did not fiddle as Rome burned because the fiddle or violin wasn’t invented until the 16th century (you heard that here first)! Also, Paul Revere did his best to alert the extensive Colonial militia that the British were coming, but they got to him first, holding him for a while as the word was spread, by a variety of means. All things considered, this book provides a very interesting new look at history.

6. Why Do Men Have Nipples? By Billy Goldberg, M.D. – This is an amusing book compiled by doctors to answer all of those questions we all want to know the answer to but are either too embarrassed to ask.

5. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – From primordial nothingness to this very moment, this book reports what happened and how humans figured it out. To accomplish this daunting literary task, Bill Bryson uses hundreds of sources, from popular science books to interviews with luminaries in various fields. His aim is to help people like him, who rejected stale school textbooks and dry explanations, to appreciate how we have used science to understand the smallest particles and the unimaginably vast expanses of space.

4. An Incomplete Education by William Wilson – You’ll find everything you forgot from school–as well as plenty you never learned–in this all-purpose reference book, an instant classic when it first appeared in 1987. The updated version takes a whirlwind tour through 12 different disciplines, from American studies to philosophy to world history. Along the way, Judy Jones and William Wilson provide a plethora of useful information, from the plot of Othello to the difference between fission and fusion.

3. Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things by Cy Tymony – Do you know how to make something that can tell whether the $20 bill in your wallet is a fake? Or how to generate battery power with simple household items? Science-savvy author Cy Tymony does. More than a simple do-it-yourself guide, this quirky collection is a valuable resource for transforming ordinary objects into the extraordinary. The best thing about this book is that you don’t just get to read it – you get to put into practice the many suggestions found in it – a wonderful way to while away a wintry weekend.

2. The Book of Myths and Misconceptions by Armchair Reader – The Book of Myths & Misconceptions shines a bright new light on hundreds of “facts” that are widely (and incorrectly) accepted as truths. Give it a read and you will be able to impress, educate and discredit friends.

1. Secret Places, Hidden Sanctuaries by Klimczuk/Warner – In this book, the doors of some of the world’s best-hidden places and most secretive organizations have been thrown wide open! Some of the names are familiar: Area 51, Yale’s Skull and Bones, Opus Dei, the Esalen Institute. Others are more obscure, hidden by fate or purposeful deception, such as the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center, the super-secure facility where Vice President Dick Cheney was secreted after the 9/11 attacks, and Germany’s Wewelsburg Castle, which was intended to become the mythological centerpiece of the Nazi Regime. This is not a throwaway quick read – it is an intelligent and incredibly well researched book you are guaranteed to love.


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