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

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  1,855 Ratings  ·  354 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 stuf
Hardcover, 421 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Crown Archetype
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Jun 19, 2013 Eric rated it liked it
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
May 18, 2015 Theresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a cultured lady who really loves wacky shit and useless-but-neat facts, this was right up my alley. I knew Ripley was an artist and the "Believe It or Not" guy, but didn't really know that he actually went to most of the places he drew. In fact, I didn't know much about him at all, minus that he's local and from blurbs and such I'd read at the 'Odditorium' at Fisherman's Wharf.

So I learned a lot about a pretty interesting fellow whose artwork and freaky souvenirs I've always enjoyed. What's
May 26, 2013 Gail rated it did not like it
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.
Feb 18, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
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
Apr 25, 2013 Karen rated it did not like it
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.
May 06, 2013 Nicole~ rated it liked it
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.
Mar 16, 2013 Dale rated it liked it
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
Aug 02, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
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
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.

Feb 20, 2013 Amy rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 23, 2013 Charlie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
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)
Chris Gudgeon
Aug 27, 2013 Chris Gudgeon rated it it was ok
Ughhhhh. Facile, halting bio of a complex, curious and rather awful fellow. Bio almost devoid of any meaningful analysis
Elise Noorda
Jun 15, 2013 Elise Noorda rated it it was ok
Interesting man. Interesting life. I would have enjoyed the book more, if it were less. Just so much information.
Jul 25, 2014 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
First and foremost, I am grateful to the website, "Blogging For Books" for sending me a copy of this book. I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

"A Curious Man: The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert 'Believe It or Not!' Ripley," by Neal Thompson, engrosses your attention from the get-go. Robert Ripley led such an extraordinary life, one feels compelled to "read all about it." It is a story of an awkward grammar-school outsider who becomes a dy
Aug 14, 2013 Ashley rated it it was ok
This book raised some questions about what we should expect from biographers. Are they merely relating details of the life of a person, or should they provide more of a commentary on that life as well? Is what we might consider to be ‘neutral’ reporting actually just reinforcing the status quo? By not dwelling on the more questionable parts of a subject’s personality, is the biographer acting in an appropriate manner, or are they implicitly giving their approval by not spending more time examini ...more
Scott Klemm
Aug 20, 2013 Scott Klemm rated it really liked it
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
Sep 14, 2014 Jc rated it liked it
A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Neal Thompson

When I received this readers’ copy, I thought this would be a great read. I remember reading Ripley cartoons and information blurbs when I was younger and found the information hard to believe but realized that the information was accurate if somewhat distorted on occasion. The life and times of Ripley should have made an interesting read. Instead, it was a story about a less than honest and egoma
May 05, 2013 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Ripley tried to deliver it all with a wink, and most readers accepted the hint of charlatanism, knowing that some of Ripley’s statements couldn’t possibly be proven or disproven, that it was all for fun.” (p. 148)

I remember as a youngster, Ripley’s Believe It or Not was my very favorite part of the Sunday papers. So I wasn't too surprised to read: “A late-1940 Advertising Research Foundation survey found that Believe It or Not had become the second most popular ne
Benjamin Thomas
Apr 04, 2013 Benjamin Thomas rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 28, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 15, 2013 Phil rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
While a somewhat obscure figure these days, this biography shows how Robert Ripley went from humble beginnings to world-famous cartoonist and one of the richest men in America.

Ripley lived the life of a pulp hero, and the book often has the same sort of breathless voice found in the old adventure magazines. I found it interesting that the narrative focuses more on his life in New York (and later Florida) than the details of his overseas excursions. Despite the adventurer mystique, it turns out t
May 23, 2013 Beth rated it really liked it
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
Charlotte Klein
Oct 23, 2013 Charlotte Klein rated it really liked it

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
Jun 11, 2014 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, biography
I was a goodreads first reads winner of this book. i would give it a 3.5. I have heard of Robert Ripley since i was a kid. I found his "Believe it or not" cartoons and little facts he included fun and interesting to read. This is a biography on the man who coined the term "Believe it or Not" I was surprised to find out that Robert Ripley actually died in 1949. It just seemed like he was around forever. he was actually born in 1890 and died in 1949. He started out as an awkward shy boy with buck ...more
Joy H.
Apr 05, 2016 Joy H. rated it really liked it
Added 4/5/16. (first published January 1st 2013)
This book is much more interesting than I thought it would be!
I'm enjoying listening to the audio CD. The reader, Marc Cashman. is very good.
It's interesting to learn how Ripley started out. He always liked to draw, even as a kid.

Below is the summary at my library's online catalog:
"The marvelously compelling biography of Robert 'Believe It or Not' Ripley, the enigmatic cartoonist turned globetrotting millionair
John Orman
Jun 03, 2013 John Orman rated it liked it
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
Aug 10, 2014 Kristina rated it liked it
Since I was a child I have been fascinated with Ripley's Believe it or Not. I remember going to his museums and loving every minute of it. I was so excited when I had the chance to read this book for review because I always wanted to know more about him and the interesting life he lead. While I learned a lot, and did enjoy the story as a whole, I found myself being bored too. It's definitely written in biographical format, and that has never appealed to me.

I had no idea how messed up Robery Rip
Hayley DeRoche
This book is both interesting and troubling. It both goes deep into the weeds of details that aren't necessary to the overall story, and glosses over things that could be more thoughtfully examined. The book closes with the assertion that Ripley taught Americans how to "gape with respect at the weirdness of man and nature."

While Ripley may have thought he respected other cultures, his version of respect can today be seen as Othering and exoticising and simply gaping at, rather than respecting o
Nov 04, 2013 Don rated it really liked it
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 had
Melissa McCauley
Apr 15, 2013 Melissa McCauley rated it liked it
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
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Veteran journalist and author of four books, most recently A CURIOUS MAN, a bio of eccentric world-traveling millionaire/playboy cartoonist Robert 'Believe It or Not' Ripley.
A CURIOUS MAN was featured on The Daily Show, on NPR, was a Vanity Fair Hot Type pick, an 'Book of the Week,' an Amazon Best of the Month, and much more. Here's what Ben Fountain had to say about A CURIOUS MAN (on NP
More about Neal Thompson...

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“You must carry along with you a lively imagination and plenty of romance in your soul. Some of the most wonderful things in the world will seem dull and drab unless you view them in the proper light.” 2 likes
“Why any one place should forever hold enchantment for the reason you are born there is a mystery. But like cats and birds we are pussy-footed and pigeon-toed and our footsteps lead toward home.… The Eskimo longs for his northern bleakness and his ice hut, the cowboy dreams of the wide open towns and prairies of the west, the old salt is looking out to sea … and down in the hold of many ships are dead Chinamen’s bones going home to China.” 1 likes
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