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

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  972 ratings  ·  231 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)
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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
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.
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.
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
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...more
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.
Chris Gudgeon
Ughhhhh. Facile, halting bio of a complex, curious and rather awful fellow. Bio almost devoid of any meaningful analysis
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
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...more
This is a biography of Robert Ripley, of Believe-it-or-Not fame. Ripley came of age in the early 20th century and was at the height of his fame in the 1930’s and 1940’s,when he was one of the most famous men in the world, and regarded as its most well-travelled. The book is fun and interesting, not because Ripley ultimately did anything earth-shattering, but because he lived in interesting times, did interesting things, and was an interesting human being.
Ripley was basically a cartoonist, and a...more
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...more
Jul 26, 2014 Skjam! rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Believe It or Not! fans
Recommended to Skjam! by: Blogging for Books
Disclaimer: I received this volume free from the Blogging for Books program, on the premise that I would write a review.

This is a biography of Robert Ripley (nee LeRoy Robert Ripley), the cartoonist who created the Believe It or Not! feature. I was fascinated by the paperback reprints of the cartoons back in my boyhood, but knew little of the story behind the creator

This volume covers Mr. Ripley’s life from barefoot poverty in Santa Rosa, California, to his early career as a sports cartoonist, t...more
Chung Chin
I picked up this book based on recommendations by others and I find it an interesting book. While I do agree with some of the reviews that mentioned the book is boring (I stopped at some point, and returned to it after some time, and powered through before it became interesting for me again), I like the book for its tone and way of writing.

This is a book that tries to factually describe the life of Robert "Believe It Or Not" Ripley. In this book, you'll read the life of a complex, conflicted, e...more
Ryan Dejonghe
You ever see the movie BIG FISH? You know what this book reminds me of? Yeah, BIG FISH, only Ripley actually did those weird things and met those odd people, as he described them, even from the beginning. Instead of a baby popping out and sliding across the floor, Ripley’s birth was no less unusual. His dad up and left Appalachia, swam solo across the Ohio River, went across country, and tried his hand in the California gold rush.

Neal Thompson brings this book to life with his adjectively descr...more
Considering the age gap between Mr. Ripley and myself, I don’t know if you’d consider a surprise that until recently I wasn’t even sure he was real. Even after touring the Odditorium in Panama City Beach years ago, he remained something of a mythical figure in my mind—a caricature created to represent a collection of the strange and super strange.

A Curious Man, by Neal Thompson, set me straight. In this clever, engaging book, Thompson reveals the real Ripley, arguably as odd a man as any of his...more
Lynn Meinders
I picked up this audiobook for lack of anything more compelling to listen to, and because it was a newer book and probably would not have any scratches on the CDs. So--I did not exactly start it with the most high of expecatations! I did find it to be interesting, though. Ripley's Believe It or Not has been around much, much longer than I could have guessed, and it is surprising to me how this took off during a time in the US that was very hard for most people (1930's). It's always interesting t...more
Thompson’s biographical novel successfully unravels the mystique surrounding a man the world mainly sees as offering up only a buffet of oddities. Yes, the author’s style is straight-forward and unadorned, so those who lean more towards fan of history are more apt to enjoy the authorial flair (or lack thereof). Thompson goes in mainly chronological order from LeRoy’s young life, interspersing “Believe It!” factoids throughout the chapters in a celebratory nod to the “strange and brilliant” Riple...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
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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
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