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The Areas of My Expertise (Complete World Knowledge #1)

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  10,607 ratings  ·  781 reviews
Hot on the heels of the #1 bestsellers The Onion's Our Dumb Century and Jon Stewart's America comes The Areas of My Expertise, the brilliant and uproarious #15 bestseller (i.e., a runaway phenomenon in its own right-no, seriously) - a lavish compendium of handy reference tables, fascinating trivia, and sage wisdom - all of it completely unresearched, completely undocumente ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Riverhead Books (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

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God. I was fucking bored out of my mind by this book. The only thing that was remotely entertaining was the chapter on hobos, and that's mostly because I think the word "hobo" is hilarious. Too f-ing precious, and, as Katie (who also hated it) said, "Why would I read un-funny fake facts when I could read real facts?"
Erik Mallinson
The audiobook is the only way to truly enjoy Areas of My Expertise. You really have to get this. It's in the audiobook section, misfiled under non-fiction.

Notable to the audiobook:
* John Hodgman reads the whole book
* Jonathan Coulton plays music (incl. State Songs!)
* A Bonus CD of John Hodgman reading all 700 hobo names with Jonathan Coulton playing music the entire time.
* "Were You Aware Of It?" interludes
* Guests
* Asides from John Hodgman

Glen Engel-Cox
I acquired this book through our book club gift exchange and, although I had never heard of it before, thought it would be an interesting read, and it came recommended by some of the members of the club. I tended to read it before going to sleep every night, and perhaps that affected my opinion of it, but in comparison to the other book I was currently reading, the latest novel by Joe Keenan, its humor felt to me either so understated as to be missing or so forced as to be strained. The list of ...more
This book has quite a few moments of pure genius, and some moments of not so funny, although pretty clever ideas. In the McSweeney's realm of humor, and like most of the McSweeney's humor when it works it's really funny, but sometimes you feel like your on the outside of an injoke.
There are very few books that make me laugh out loud. I blame much of this on my sense of humor - since I tend towards nonsense and bizarre humor, most books just leave me cold.

And then came John Hodgman.

Better known as the 'PC Guy' from Apple commercials, Hodgman gave an interview on NPR several months ago. He was freakin' hilarious. Part of his hilarity stemmed from his combination of entirely serious Pythonesque (well, Chapman and Cleese-esque) delivery, and part stemmed from the seemingly ra
I remember reading the cover of Areas of My Expertise when it was first released and being skeptical, unsure if I like Hodgman's tone. Not really knowing who he was, I couldn't tell if his snobbiness was serious. But the text on the cover led me inside the book and soon it was clear: Hodgman was my kind of snob, and I fell in love. I read most of it at work and probably should have been fired for my overt laziness, but luckily the economy was slow and I was ostensibly in charge, so I could read ...more
I love John Hodgman on The Daily Show. His laid-back manner, dry wit, droll deliverly and ""expert"" schtick are a perfect match for that show. However, I have to say that I can't bring myself to read more than a few pages of ""The Areas of My Expertise"" the book. The humor just doesn't work for me on the printed page. The random-ish juxtapositions come across as forced rather than funny. The repeated references to warewolves and hoboes seem less like Hodgman has a theme and more like he's runn ...more
Michael P. Fertig
I was really looking forward to reading this book. I was looking forward to the random humor I often enjoy, but found it to be more annoying than anything. It was after the fact that I realized I approached it the wrong way. I thought everything in the book would sort of be connected somehow. But it's really nothing more than a bathroom book. Pick it up when you feel like it, read a random passage about whatever, put it down, wash your hands, and carry on with your day.
Elijah Spector
It is strange when you consider yourself a fan of someone's work, then realize that you have not actually experienced any of what they actually consider their work to be. I am a fan of Hodgman's film and TV appearances, his amazing podcast, and even his Twitter feed, and yet I hadn't read any of the books that are his real artistic output.

So I bought all three at once.

The real beauty of The Areas of My Expertise is the way in which real facts are weaved deceptively into the lies that make up its
While I was reading John Hodgman's almanac of made-up trivia, I kept on expecting myself to get tired of the "joke" (man makes up a book of fake trivia, har har har), but I was mildly surprised to find that I never did. On the contrary, I can witness to the fact that The Areas of My Expertise is sustainedly, side-splittingly funny from beginning to end. From the LYCANTHROPIC TRANSFORMATION TIMETABLES at the beginning of every chapter (Second Seventh: the efficacy of the taming love of a pure wom ...more
Mark Rayner
Jul 21, 2010 Mark Rayner rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone but hobo or people with hooks instead of hands
Shelves: humor
I learned several important things from The Areas of My Expertise:

* it is possible to sell a book of total nonsense
* one can put a funny spin on The Great Depression
* I should be more suspicious of the large black squirrel population in my home town.

I was mildly disappointed that there wasn't more about pirates in this thing encyclopedia of total world knowledge. Apart from that, I would say that this is not a book to be missed, even if it is a little heavy on the hobos.
Pris robichaud

Random, Fascinating and Utterly Unreliable Information, 22 Oct 2006

"An almanac of random, fascinating and utterly unreliable information -- Hodgman has the gift of being outrageously but quietly convincing. He begins at the absolute outer edge of credibility and, as if he is holding your hand, walks you over the edge into a very funny mix of reality and nonsense. Take hobos, for instance -- or as Hodgman refers to it, the "hobo movement in the United States." He discusses at length hobo hierog
I really wanted to like this book. I think Mr Hodgman is hilarious on the Daily Show and I was hoping for some truly side splitting laughs. Plus he has a whole chapter on hobos and seems to have a werewolf fetish, how could this be bad? He even mentions ninjas!

Well, let me tell you, it is pretty bad. He makes hobos humorless. The book starts out well enough, but around the middle of the first chapter he states, clearly, that he is going to make almost everything up. Ok, that can work. However if
Of the many books of world knowledge I have read, The Areas of My Expertise was by far the most daring, truthful and also the only book of world knowledge that I have read. Many truths are unveiled, mysteries revealed and forgotten bits of knowledge brought once more into the light.

Some of the useful information, which I will no doubt be constantly referring, include, the phases of wolf-man transformation, hobo signs, and state mottos.

I have heard that some believe this book to be a hoax, or s
John Hodgman, he of the Daily Show and the Mac/PC ads, is a funny guy to be sure. His essay on his home state of Massachusetts in "State by State" is clever and well-written, and when I saw him interviewed by Tom Perrotta at the Boston Book Festival, Hodgman was hilarious, quick-witted and off the cuff. His first book, "The Areas of My Expertise", reflects that sense of humor, although not as well as in person.

"Expertise" is itself an odd compendium; it is, as Hodgman puts it, "a collection of f
Jul 17, 2007 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone in the Entire Universe, Ever.
This is definitely a case where shelling out for the CD edition pays off. Hodgman's deadpan, uber-serious vocal style transmutes his wickedly funny prose into something magical. Also not to be missed are the song stylings of the great Jonathan Coulton, acting here in his capacity as the audiobook's formerly feral "official troubador" (feel more than free to check out his free songs at

Things I learned from this book:

----The hobo sign for "If you hide in the bushes of th
I remember reading the cover of Areas of My Expertise when it was first released and being skeptical, unsure if I liked Hodgman's tone. Not really knowing who he was, I couldn't tell if his snobbiness was serious. But the text on the cover led me inside the book and soon it was clear: Hodgman was my kind of snob, and I fell in love. I read most of it at work and probably should have been fired for my overt laziness, but luckily the economy was slow and I was ostensibly in charge, so I could read ...more
Aug 07, 2007 James rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Schott's Miscellany and other fake almanacs
John Hodgman is my new hero, and this book pretends to be nothing but what the title tells you. And Hodgman, as anyone who has scene his appearances on the "Daily Show" can attest, is indeed an expert in any field he feels worthy to tell you he is an expert about. I must admire the perfect circular reasoning at play here. In his own description of the book in the introduction, he tells us: "As it is our common destiny to become that which we most loathe, so I have become that most wretched and p ...more
Incredulous Harrumpherous
Jan 04, 2009 Incredulous Harrumpherous rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: you, only if you were bored
Shelves: et-cetera
This was hard to get through at some points. The moments of amusement caused me to giggle a quick, surprised giggle and then I was quickly over it.

The book is strange and tries to inject political and geographical humor that would be hard to understand if you weren't somewhat aware of the truths regarding these things.

I will probably never listen to it again, well, maybe just the minute long sections on NJ and ME because I can kind of relate to them and they were giggle inducing.

Oh yeah, and the
I've seen this guy on The Daily Show a few times, and every time I nearly soil myself laughing. If you don't know John Hodgman, he's currently playing the PC in the "PC vs Mac" commercials that are all over the airwaves right now.

He has a completely guileless face, and delivers his words with a tone that conveys the innocent delivery of common sense wisdom, like he cannot conceive of anyone disbelieving what he's telling us.

This is true, even when he says that the state motto of Oregon is "In Or
Completely hilarious. Absurd humor built on the author's comprehensive knowledge of American History. Hodgman claims that "Truth may be stranger than fiction, goes the old saw, but it is never as strange as lies. Or for that matter, as true" And proves it. I knew far more about Franz Boas and the Kwakiutl than anyone in my peer group after I read this book, and before I even knew that both of those things were real. The inventions of John Hodgman's mind are not only wildly entertaining, but I wo ...more
Vin Forte
Hodgman will always be one of my favorite humorists and this book is exhibit A. Broadly speaking, not since the early days of guys like John Swartzwelder and Conan O'Brien writing for The Simpsons have a mixture of straight-faced absurdity and revisionist colloquialisms meshed to form something that hits a specific type of spot this well.
Dec 25, 2007 Nathan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Reference Librarians with a grudge.
Shelves: humor, reference
Ever wondered how many U.S. Presidents had hooks for hands? Do you wish you had easy access to a list of 700 hobo names? NPR commentator John Hodgman has, and he's written the funniest, silliest and possibly smartest reference book ever penned. Structured like an almanac that has nothing but contempt for almanacs, The Areas of my Expertise is a treat for anyone who has spent too much time in the reference section of their local library. Whether Hodgman is delivering a blistering commentary on th ...more
Aug 16, 2007 Cody rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: humor
John Hodgman is possessed of a rare and strange genius. The abilities of said genius: the invention of outright lies that are so earnest and specific that they are entirely plausible, coupled with an extremely smart, deadpan sense of humor. The purpose of this book is either nothing or everything, depending on how you use it. But at the very least, you have to admit a curiosity about which presidents secretly had hooks for hands, and the lycanthropic transformation tables always come in handy. O ...more
I really wanted to like this book because I love Hodgman's work on The Daily Show. However, I think his brand of humor just isn't made for print. Upon reading other reviews, it looks like the audio book is the way to go. I think I gave it a good honest effort by reading the first 70 pages, but it was just too random and weird to keep going. And believe me, I'm not usually a person who uses the words "random" and "weird" in a negative manner. I just didn't find it funny at all.
I enjoyed Hodgman's creative way of translating his book into audiobook form. Whimsical and ridiculous, very dry nonfacts about random tidbits of life. Amusingly, the CD set I got was scrambled, so I listened to the first disc, then the fifth disc, then the third disc, and so on. Hodgman suggests this in the audio, but I did this completely by accident. I particularly enjoyed his rundown of the states, and the songs his assistant came up with.
I had read the print version a few years ago and found it a joke too clever by half, spread too thin over too many pages. What a difference the audiobook makes.

Still, it's probably best consumed in small doses, such as a brief morning/afternoon commute. I'd probably reestablish a 2-star rating had I been forced to listen to the whole thing in one sitting.
I had to read this book in tiny snatches. Although he is funny and inventive, I can only take so much of fake graphs and made up stuff. Stupid practical streak. Made me laugh out loud numerous times though. If I believed in keeping books in the bathroom, this would be perfect for that purpose - quick dips in and out of funny, funny stuff.
Love John Hodgeman on the Daily Show, but I didn't like the audiobook of this one. Maybe I'll skim the hard copy some other time, but even though he put a lot of work into the production and performance of the audio version, I never really enjoyed it. I'll stick to him being the resident expert on the Daily Show, I think.
Josh Brett
The tragic history of the Furry Old Lobster finally chronicled in song. As well as the rest of complete world knowledge. Hilarious satirical almanac, I love Hodgman's extremely dry wit, this book also offers a fascinating sort of bizarro alternate history of the United States (Have you heard of the floating 51st state of "Ar," populated by shapeshifting Thunderbirds,and first explored by Franz Boas in 1920?). I listened to the audio edition, and probably looked like I was insane, uncontrollably ...more
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BOOKD: Wouldn't Read It Like a Novel 1 6 Dec 12, 2012 08:05AM  
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Before he went on television, JOHN HODGMAN was a humble writer, expert, and Former Professional Literary Agent living in New York City. In this capacity, he has served as the Humor Editor for the New York Times Magazine, Occasional Flight vs. Invisibility Consultant on “This American Life,” Advice Columnist for McSweeney’s, Comic Book Reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, and a Freelance Jo ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Complete World Knowledge (3 books)
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