A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  717 ratings  ·  179 reviews
"A Curious Man" is the marvelously compelling biography of Robert "Believe It or Not" Ripley, the enigmatic cartoonist turned globetrotting millionaire who won international fame by celebrating the world's strangest oddities, and whose outrageous showmanship taught us to believe in the unbelievable.
As portrayed by acclaimed biographer Neal Thompson, Ripley's life is the s...more
Hardcover, 421 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Crown Archetype (first published January 1st 2013)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Gulp by Mary RoachThe Psychopath Test by Jon RonsonSalt Sugar Fat by Michael MossZealot by Reza AslanI Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
The Colbert Report and The Daily Show
86th out of 128 books — 87 voters
I Am Malala by Malala YousafzaiIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy KalingThe Reason I Jump by Naoki HigashidaLean In by Sheryl SandbergDrift by Rachel Maddow
Books Rec'd By The Daily Show
91st out of 261 books — 83 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Very informative but kind of boring.

For a man with a lot of mistresses and a drinking problem the book seems to gloss over the negative stuff while showing us "gee whiz, wasn't this guy swell?! just have to ignore some of the orientalist tendencies and exoticism of others, but once you get past that, bang up gentleman!"

I understand that the man grew up a bit sheltered, but it's strange to me that he carried this exoticism throughout his life.

Neal Thompson did a wonderful job with the primary so...more
Have about 30 pages to go - didn't know whether or not I would enjoy this book but I have found that it's difficult to put down. I was totally unaware of how "Believe It or Not" got started nor anything about Robert Ripley. This appears to be a very accurate book about his life, what influenced him and how he built an incredible empire. A must read for anyone that enjoys things out of the ordinary.
Just got finished reading this book. The more I read about Robert Ripley, the more impressed I bec...more
A CURIOUS MAN: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley. (2013). Neal Thompson. ****.
It’s hard to believe that this is the first biography to be written about Ripley, aside from a small work by Bob Considine published earlier in 1961. You’d think that a man of his fame would have attracted biographers by the score before now. Apparently not. This work by Thompson is an airily written account of Ripley’s life and accomplishments, written in a style much like you would...more
This was a giveaway book I had won. Much appreciation to those responsible for allowing me to get one of the first opportunities to enjoy it.

I was looking forward to reading this book because of the significance of Ripley even in today's pop culture. The book details every stage of Ripley's life but focuses mainly on two aspects. The first one is his emergence and popularity as a cartoonist with several different newspapers. The second is his love of travel and the extensive number of countries...more
I got this book in the Goodreads giveaway. I loved the "Believe or Not" show I used to watch as a child so I was excited to read this biography.

In short, it was amazing! Not only was it hard to put down, but it really showed how Ripley and the people he knew changed America. I loved how the author included "Believe or Not" facts that surrounded Ripley's life throughout the bio. Ripley was a fascinating character in American history. It is hard to believe the times he lived through and the things...more
May 26, 2013 Gail rated it 1 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Nobody
Recommended to Gail by: Other reviewers
Shelves: did-not-finish
Boy was I ever disappointed with this book. The first part was fascinating about his early life and how he became a cartoonist. I became bored, though, after eighty pages when he started traveling to Europe and elsewhere. Too many details and too many other characters being introduced was driving me nuts.
It was an entertaining enough read, I got just a tiny bit frustrated by the many "Believe It or Not" snippets throughout the book. Not a subject that I would have normally been curious about but I do appreciate the Goodreads Giveaway Program.
Elise Noorda
Interesting man. Interesting life. I would have enjoyed the book more, if it were less. Just so much information.
Awkward and bucktoothed as a child, Robert Ripley was plagued by shyness, which ultimately led to his passion for drawing and later traveling the world in search of strange and unusual people. He, too, knew what it was like to feel like an outsider, though as he grew older and became more of a household name, his money certainly propelled him from awkward outsider to suave ladies man, even if he never lost his bucktoothed smile.

Robert Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" cartoons were the reality TV of...more
Benjamin Thomas
I can remember growing up reading the Ripley's "Believe-It-Or-Not" comic strip every Sunday morning in our local newspaper. Fond memories indeed but when I saw that there is now a new biography of the man behind the art, I was chagrined to realize that I knew so little about him. I suspect many of us are in this same boat as there hasn't been much biographical work on Robert Ripley. It's almost like the cultural institution that is Believe-It-Or-Not was invented by a publishing house or somethin...more
John Orman
Checked out Ripley's Believe it or Not Odditorium in Newport, OR yesterday, so saw concrete proof that Ripley was both curious and very odd indeed! Have also visited the museum version in San Francisco, so I guess I must be curious and odd too!

A complex and restless man, ever the showman, Ripley scoured the world for the bizarre and perplexing. From Aden to Zara (not just Zanzibar!). By the 1930's, he possessed a large fortune and a huge amount or remarkable objects stored in his mansion.

He rece...more
Between PT Barnum and reality TV there was Ripley. This is a fascinating look at his life and how he developed a brand in the infancy of the concept.

The book is a simply written narrative. Author Neal Thompson tells how the young buck-toothed LeRoy Ripley grew up in Santa Rosa. He lost his father as a teen, and not much later experienced losses in the earthquake of 1906. He left his high school, inexplicably, without a diploma. While he had some setbacks he built a niche in sports cartooning, an...more
Scott Klemm
As a young child I remember looking at Believe It or Not in the Sunday newspaper as well as a book our family owned. I suppose Ripley’s cartoons (actually they are more like drawings than cartoons) appealed to my desire for adventure, travel and a fascination for the strange and weird. However, I never gave much thought about the artist behind these drawings.

Robert Ripley grew up in Santa Rosa, California – the same city associated with famed horticulturist Luther Burbank and cartoonist Charles...more
Charlotte Klein

Ugh. Deep breaths.

Okay, here we go one more time!

I feel as though I have been writing a lot of stellar reviews on Goodreads lately, but "A Curious Man" in particular really deserves top honors. This book is gripping from the get-go. It's impossible to resist the charm, awkward social graces, blatant ignorance, and curious tendencies of a man who explored more countries than Magellan and a man who had a roster of famous people at his dinn...more
The ¨Believe It or Not!¨ brand continues to be well known, but Robert Ripley has not remained as well known. During the 1920s through the 1940s he was one of the most well known celebrities in America. He traveled the world collecting stories of oddities for his cartoons that were published in newspapers throughout the world.

Strange as it seems, I felt I was reading the story of a early 20th century Rush Limbaugh who shares many similarities with Robert Ripley. Both were incredibly rich, both ha...more
Bryson Kopf
Like a few other readers here, I really wanted to like this book more since I have a deep love of Ripley's Believe or Not. As a child, I remember going to one of his Odditoriums (I believe in Myrtle Beach) and being blown away. I was equally impressed by the collections of his cartoons, which remain my favorite component of his media empire. They were beautiful, evocative, atmospheric, and really did transport you around the world. Perhaps that is why the world of this book is not as dazzling.

Melissa McCauley
LeRoy Ripley is the embodiment of the American dream: a poor, bucktoothed, stuttering kid who cartooned his way to fame and fortune, was surrounded by beautiful women and traveled the globe. Thompson shows that behind the public persona Ripley lived a very lonely life, cut himself off from the support of family and friends, and was an alcoholic. This Ripley seemed to never achieve emotional maturity or find happiness no matter how much he achieved - in fact it’s amazing how much he accomplished,...more
Dan Sussman
Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not,” is a touchstone of my youth. I became hooked on all things Ripley in my pre-teen years. The NY Journal-American, which carried the cartoon, was verboten in my house (“a right wing rag,” my father fumed), but there were plenty of paperback Ripley anthologies for me to read and re-read obsessively. I also made a pilgrimage or two to the Ripley museum on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City.

Consequently, publication of Neil Thompson’s “A Curious Man,” stirred up some nosta...more
Ripley's biography is comprehensive and an easy read. The little "believe it or not" vignettes were also pretty interesting.

I think it could have used a good editor though. Giving the book section with headlines on each theme would have been better organized than simply numbering chapters.

Also some material seemed kind of superfluous or dull. It also could have been shortened.

All in all, it was interesting to read about the man whose hokey museum I still enjoy greatly.
Well-done biography...believe it or not (sorry, had to)
Leah K
A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Neal Thompson
421 pages


I have to admit that Robert “Believe it or Not!” Ripley was not a very likable guy. He was a boozer, racist, a womanizer, and a jerk but one must also needs to remember in part of that that he was a product of his time. So while I didn’t particularly like the man, I did like the book.

The author, Neal Thompson, does a great job in researching and writing about Ripley. He kept my atten...more
Tad Richards
Often I find myself more interested in the early life of the subject of a biography - the rise rather than the fall. That was true of this book. I enjoyed it, found it interesting, well researched, but by the time he had become hugely successful and had started drinking to excess, my interest began waning.
This Book is a true Winner. Robert Ripley IS CURIOUS. Beyond belief for sure. Strange? You bet. Weird? You bet. This guy is one of a kind. His life is fascinating beyond ---- Way beyond.
Won this book from GOODREADS.COM. A treasure of a book.
Believe It or Not I Really enjoyed this book.(less)
I tried. I could not get through this book though. I never wanted to pick it up because I found it so boring. And so long. The author goes into too much detail. I even skipped ahead and it didn't get any more exciting.
Sean Kottke
If you know me well, you know why this attracted my attention. Long ago and far away, my parents took me on the Great American Road Trip from Michigan to California. On the way back, we passed through Arizona. We could have gone to see the Grand Canyon. Instead, we visited the now closed Royal London Wax Museum in Phoenix. Some years later on a visit to Niagara Falls, my mother lamented that I was far more interested in visiting Louis Tussaud's Waxworks and the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum...more
Valerie Carter
Fascinating Biography of an un-"believable" life. Charmed, challenged and driven are just a few of the words I could use to describe Robert Ripley. His life spanned so many interesting historical events: the great earthquake of San Francisco, the depression, both world wars and the industrial revolution. Ripley was a world traveler before it was common to be a world traveler. His was a true American story. My only criticism is that I wish there were more illustrations and photographs included. H...more
I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads. Thank you for the chance to win!
"Ripley's Believe It or Not!" Having traveled with my family a multitude of times to Myrtle Beach, SC, Ripley's Believe It or Not has always been a part of my vocabulary. I never thought much about it beyond the one time I visited the "Odditorium" located on Ocean Boulevard. "Ripley" was so synonymous with "Believe It or Not!" I didn't ever consider the person behind it all. When I saw there was a new biography out about Robert L. Ripley, I was really intrigued, wanting to know the story behind...more
Ripley was an odd child, buck-toothed and painfully shy he found solace in drawing. He was told that he talent would never allow him to amount to anything, but living in an age when newspapers used cartoonists instead of photographers, he managed to parley his talent into a career. Establishing himself among the best cartoonists of his time, he was able indulge in his passion for travel, which led to the concept of “Believe It Or Not!” Being an outsider himself helped him appreciate some of the...more
I went to the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum on Fisherman's Wharf over a decade ago. I haven't thought much about it since. I like the odd, so rooms full of odd are normal to me. I remembered this visit recently because it is the anniversary of the death of a friend, who went to the museum with me. I decided to read this book because my friend, like me, enjoyed the weird, odd, and unbelievable. I try to find happy ways to commemorate his life every year, when the date of his death rolls aroun...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Here is Where: Discovering America's Great Forgotten History
  • The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris
  • Queen of the Air: A True Story of Love and Tragedy at the Circus
  • Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu
  • Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey
  • Bolivar: American Liberator
  • The Age of Edison
  • Wilson
  • The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys, The True Story
  • A Man of Misconceptions: The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change
  • Still Points North: Surviving the World's Greatest Alaskan Childhood
  • Rita Moreno: A Memoir
  • For God, Country and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It
  • The Outsider: A Memoir
  • The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King
  • Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age
  • Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure That Took the Victorian World by Storm
  • Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery
Veteran journalist and author of forthcoming bio of eccentric world-traveling millionaire/playboy cartoonist Robert 'Believe It or Not' Ripley. Here's what Ben Fountain has to saying about A CURIOUS MAN: "Anyone who wants to understand America needs to read this book…Neal Thompson gives us a vivid portrait of this complex, restless man in all his maniacally conflicted glory."
And Karen Abbott: "Int...more
More about Neal Thompson...
Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR Light This Candle: The Life & Times of Alan Shepard--America's First Spaceman Hurricane Season: A Coach, His Team, and Their Triumph in the Time of Katrina Reckoning: Vietnam and America's Cold War Experience, 1945-1991

Share This Book