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The Pessimist's Guide to History 3e
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The Pessimist's Guide to History 3e

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  319 ratings  ·  37 reviews
The classic irreverent look at the past—now updated with even more appalling facts!

Fourteen billion or so years ago, the Big Bang exploded—and it's been downhill from there. For every spectacular discovery throughout history, there have been hundreds of devastating epidemics; for every benevolent despot, a thousand like Vlad the Impaler; for every cup half-full, a larger c
ebook, 512 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published June 1992)
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This is about as much fun as a non-fiction book can be: a chronologically-ordered series of snarky summaries of bizarre, tragic, frightening, grimly-hilarious catastrophes and disasters from history. I think of it as a companion to Wikipedia (which itself is a handy companion to more serious research): I read this book, get the basic outline of interesting stories from the past, then go to Wikipedia and get a slightly-less-basic version of events. Fun! (God, I'm a dork.)
Ben Sweezy
Fun times abound. Unless you're Constantinople.

However, I don't really like the snarky comment at the end of each entry.
This catalog of historical disasters, both natural and man-made, has a certain snarky, superficial appeal, which doesn't survive a closer reading. Its putative appeal rests in the implicit invitation to the reader to join in ridiculing various follies perpetrated by the powerful and the pompous throughout the ages. The problem is that all but the most jaded of readers must eventually recognize the ultimate emptiness of this kind of schadenfreude. Furthermore, the great majority of catastrophes d ...more
Easy to put down yet oddly captivating, this book is more a list of catastrophes from the past 4,000 years than it is a pessimists' guidebook. For this reason, it has anecdotal value, but can bore the reader after countless accounts of burning theaters and erupting volcanoes.
Alex Telander
Optimists have ruled the world in popularity since the first one made a comment about the beautiful weather, leaving the pessimists behind, ignored, and looked down upon; but now that's all going to change with the freshly updated Pessimist's Guide to History. For every happy comment, witty repartee, and overly-positive statement, pessimists will now have the fodder to fight back, with this handy reference manual.

The book begins with the most catastrophic event in the history of the universe: th
This was a very interesting book, but I would have liked more in-depth information on more of the disasters catalogued in it, especially the more modern ones. I realize that kind of defeats the purpose of a book whose selling point is its short, tantalizing bites of info, but there it is.
Keli Wright
another book that was a waste of my time. It had historical events and he did write about them but they were all skewed to his perception and for his jokes. He also added Larry King interviewing Paris Hilton and how that made us brain dead that was just stupid.
Lovely book about death, pain & suffering...if there is a way to make these subjects sound less appalling I believe the author found a way to do manage it. Thankfully, the way the book is written offers some detachment from the situations so you don't truly feel the Human drama playing but I found it to be more like reading a technical paper.

One thing I found appalling is the lack of mention of the Mexican Revolution period (1910-1920). One would assume that a civil war that lasted a decade
William Scott
Sucked! Many facts were simply made up. Since when are bible stories counted as actual history? I had to put it down before I ran into some Grimm's Fairy-tales and threw it across the room.
This book was fun. I suspect it was written to be one of those "pick up here and there" books, but I read it straight through. It really brings home how unfriendly our earth is; it seems it's nothing for half a million people to die from hurricanes and earthquakes every few years. The only bad thing about reading it front to back is that I got a bit desensitized. "Volcano wipes out blah blah blah ... *yawn*." My only complaint about the book in general is that it tended to repeat some folkloric ...more
While I love a good list, going through about a 100 million years of natural and man-made disasters can get you down. The book covers everything from prehistoric extinctions to deadly volcanoes to presidential assassinations, most entries ending with a suitably gloomy statement about humanity's choices and actions. Like your favorite pessimistic friend, you alternately agree with the dark outlook and grow weary of the consistently bleak outlook. It's like Earth's history being recited by Marvin ...more
Sharon Zimmerman
The very segmented style of the book, with every disastrous event separated out, made it easy to stop when the history became tedious. Because the author chose such a broad unifying topic for her book, there were no characters to empathize with and cheer for in this book.
Several of her "disasters" were tongue in cheek which broke the monotony a bit.
All in all, if you're looking for history you can read straight through, pick something else. If you're looking for something that can easily be put
Daniel Kukwa
My only complaint is that, pre-1700, the entries don’t exactly compare to the latter half of the book. Now, I can’t blame recorded history for being more detailed after a certain point, but at times it does feel as if the ancient world is slightly neglected. Still, as a cross between the ultimate bathroom book AND an alternate research tool, it’s certainly worth a look over…if, for nothing else, than officially declaring an event involving Paris Hilton a historical disaster!

Bible stories considered fact and history? What...
Russell Dunn
I liked it, but i was distracted by some unnecessary comedic commentary added to the end of nearly every tragic entry. I understand that the intent of the whole product is to be a tongue-in-cheek treatment of these horrible events, but the problem is that the comments simply aren't funny. Nonetheless, this is an extraordinary catalog of terrible moments in the Earth's past, many of which are under-historized or forgotten.
This book gives brief samplings of events through history. While it's interesting and educational, and does have humor, I was hoping for a bit more humor, as the title seems to imply. It just concentrates on all the bad things (as it says it does) but that doesn't really make for a pessimist.

For a while I had this book on hold, but I can't actually see myself going back to it, so it will be left unfinished.
Hailey Franks
Such a wonderful book to pick up and come back to because of the way it is sectioned. It's not one you need to sit down and read straight through. Even if you aren't a huge history fan because you think it's "boring", these are all the disastrous and interesting parts that everyone will enjoy.
A good world history lesson or review for someone who has slacked off in that area. Also very depressing to read all of humanity's failings... I had a nightmare about Nashville being attacked by terrorists, which is unusual for me.
Tanz Sixfingers
I loved this book, and I refer back to it fairly often, especially when working on historical or time travel tales. It's a very different encyclopedia of when things went wrong, and rates them based on how many people died.
Very educational, but really entertaining. Even though it is a true timeline of events I was still able to read it cover-to-cover without it ever feeling like a text book. And so full of interesting and more useless knowledge.
I liked it. This book was basically just a summarized version of all the bad things that have happened throughout history. I just wish it had been longer, the one I had only went up to Y2K.
Hillary Steckler
Slightly depressing, but a lot of very interesting events that I had never heard of before. The format is very simple, with a short excert about each event. This made for an easy gym read.
Light, quick and an easy way to gain some basic facts to boost your Trivial Pursuit score and give others the impression that you were a couple credits shy of a History major.
This book really is for the pessimist. I expected something more about the inanities of man, and instead got page after page of death and destruction. Not my cup of tea.
fun to have on the book shelf, but nothing one could get drawn into. might consider changing title to The Pessimistic Guide to History for People Diagnosed with ADHD.
Lots to learn from this book: interesting factoids of disasters and not-so-great things to happen in history, told with a nice cynical commentary. Good times!
Michael Rank
Not necessarily a cover to cover must read, but a great almanac for all the horrible things that have happened in history.
More of a reference book than I was expecting, Nice to have but not much to read.
Belated birthday present from my best friend, who knows me all too well.
Really fascinating stuff, though not exactly a page turner.
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Goodreads Librari...: ISBN13: 9780061431012 3 151 Dec 03, 2012 03:08PM  
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