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An Underground Education: The Unauthorized and Outrageous Supplement to Everything You Thought You Knew About Art, Sex, Business, Crime, Science, Medicine, and Other Fields of Human Knowledge
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An Underground Education: The Unauthorized and Outrageous Supplement to Everything You Thought You Knew About Art, Sex, Business, Crime, Science, Medicine, and Other Fields of Human Knowledge

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,185 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
The Unauthorized and Outrageous Supplement to Everything You Thought You Knew About Art, Sex, Business, Crime, Science, Medicine, and Other Fields of Human

Forget the history you were taught in school; Richard Zacks's version is crueler and funnier than anything you might have learned in seventh-grade civics--and much more of a gross-out, too. Described on the book jacket a
...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 20th 1999 by Anchor (first published January 1st 1997)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Melki
Jan 30, 2015 Melki rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating look at some little known historical tidbits from the worlds of literature, medicine, science, business, religion, and oolala, sex.

Here's a list of stuff YOU may already know, but I sure as heck didn't:

~ Moby-Dick; or, The Whale sold less than 4,000 copies in its first 36 years in print.

~ President James Polk's term ended on Sunday March 4, 1849; his Vice President had already resigned. The incoming President Zachary Taylor refused to be sworn in on a Sunday, so technicall
...more
lola
Jul 24, 2008 lola rated it really liked it
Let me tell you: the first story I told out of this book, about the KKK originally being a pyramid scheme to bilk racists out of their $$$ while also cleverly holding major interests in custom white sheet manufacturers, was flatly disbelieved by a bunch of the most revisionist-beliefy people. The "Lies My Teacher Told Me" guy would probably ask to switch his airplane seat away from this guy--the marks of a truly excellent book of facts.
Raven
May 06, 2007 Raven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who thinks they know anything about, well, anything.
This book is filled with all the dirty laundry that never gets aired in the history of our ignoble species. Did you know the pope once endorsed a cocaine-laced wine? Just say no, man. A donkey was once charged with seducing a man into sexual congress, don't worry, she got off. --Oh, that was bad.
Alright, just read it, that way you can speak on a variety of subjects as though you're smarter than everyone else. Except me.
Arthur Graham
Mar 25, 2015 Arthur Graham rated it really liked it
Just how many foreskins could Jesus have possibly had? Inquiring minds want to know.
David Withun
Jun 10, 2012 David Withun rated it liked it
Shelves: history
It is what it is: a collection of strange and/or unseemly facts (and a few not-so-facts) about the history of nearly everything. It was an entertaining and interesting read and there was quite a bit I wasn't familiar with that is great supplemental information to my other knowledge of history. But, Zacks gets 3/5 for his obsession with sexual perversion (surely there's more interesting and unknown information in history than just weird sex acts?), for his constant negative references to some vag ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Feb 08, 2014 Jill Hutchinson rated it it was ok
Shelves: world-history
This book didn't do a thing for me. First, much of the things that "we didn't know" about history, we already knew such as why President Garfield really died or the trials and tribulation of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion. Second, the sources the author uses are sometimes less than scholarly and turn out to be books that are similar to this one, such as The Dictionary of Misinformation which also used less than learned source material. Third, the author appears to have ...more
Melissa
Jun 25, 2008 Melissa rated it really liked it
This book has as much information as an encyclopedia and really can't be read all at once (though I pretty much did). I learned all kinds of weird, fascinating - and sometimes disturbing - historical tidbits about all kinds of things: from the real stories behind popular fairy tales (creepy and violent plots that have been significantly watered down through the ages) to how toilet paper was invented.

An entry that stood out (and gave me an "a ha!" moment) was about Vincent Van Gogh and other "cr
...more
Matt
Sep 05, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing
Most interesting book I've ever read. It contains all the stuff they are too embarrased to tell you about in school. It's a collection of information, so it's a great book to pick up and read at short intervals since you don't have to read it in any order and there are short enough sections to finish in a small amount of time. You've heard of the quest for the holy grail, but did you ever hear about the great quests for Jesus' foreskin? I had never really thought of it before, but if you believe ...more
Mike Feher
Zacks does a fine job here of cataloging the lubriciously perverse, the brazenly grotesque, and the downright bizarre and largely glossed-over true history of our humanity from the dawn of civilization onward. He punctures the common heartwarming myths and fairy tales still taught to countless school children while dutifully acknowledging the whitewashing we receive growing up (owing largely to the saccharine and protective "think of the children" meme). This book is low culture and high enterta ...more
Mandee Forehand
Aug 09, 2013 Mandee Forehand rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not one for reading "history" books, but this one made me actually pay attention. Too bad most texts remove the colorful parts that help you remember the factual ones. In a nutshell, this was a delightful, easy read that became a great resource to other interesting finds (like The Selected Letters of James Joyce, with which I am currently obsessed). I recommend it for when your brain needs a break from Ulysses or say, The Art of the Personal Essay...
Tim Parkinson
Jun 15, 2008 Tim Parkinson rated it it was amazing
An interesting, amusing, and sometimes horrifying collection of bizarre stories, anecdotes and factoids. As the title suggests, this is the stuff that you probably wont learn in history or science class (unless your teacher happened to have read this book). Read it from cover to cover, or flip through it on your lunch break, either way you will never been short on an entertaining anecdote again.
lyndsay ortiz
Apr 30, 2008 lyndsay ortiz rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who like history, especially the weird parts you don't learn in school.
We own three copies of this book for a reason. It is a reference guide to weird historical facts that kick-start great party conversations and we loan it out to friends we deem worthy. One of those books you can open up to, any where, any time. Fascinating.

Andrew
Jan 15, 2014 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I cannot quite decide upon - there is the fact it tells short anecdotal facts about what you think are well know events and stories from real life history to the original telling of famous fairy stories - all with a level and moderate tone regardless of how outlandish or sensational the item. This makes it a fascinating book full of fun trivia.
But then there is the second side, there is the sly mocking tone - set up in the authors own introduction where he explains how he mocked
...more
Roland
Mar 24, 2008 Roland rated it it was amazing
A collection of some of the most bizarre bits of trivia imaginable. This gets five stars because it tells you how to get your hands on those James Joyce sex letters, though you can probably easily find them on the internet now.
Ash Crowe
Feb 28, 2008 Ash Crowe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
One of the most entertaining books full of random historical facts and stories that I've ever read. A great read for when you only want to read a page or ten & surprisingly readable in 50 page chunks as well.
Buck
Newspaper style articles on a variety of unusual historical subjects and events. A thoroughly enjoyable read and a great place to get some ideas for further exploration.
Graham Polando
Mar 08, 2014 Graham Polando rated it really liked it
A very fun read, particularly because it’s less “everything you know is wrong” than “everything you know is incomplete,” which makes it more credible. Its credibility is, of course, key to enjoying it, and there are potential errors (particularly references to “trials” in front of Supreme Court “judges”) that call that credibility into question. But if even a percentage of the hundreds of anecdotes are true, they add up to a valuable “education,” particularly in fighting the narrative that says ...more
Brandy
Feb 07, 2016 Brandy rated it really liked it
Very fascinating book of assorted history. Some of the information is probably already known among history buffs but other facts are quite surprising. I wish some sections were slightly more in depth but the length for each topic is mostly just right. The presentation is easy to understand and interesting, it flows between pieces nicely.

About the only thing keeping me from a full 5 stars is the author's need to interrupt several otherwise good sections to warn you he's not "politically correct".
...more
Outerspace Andrea
Nov 10, 2012 Outerspace Andrea rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lover's of raunchy history and weird facts
I don’t want to be a goober and get all gushy, but dude, I LOVE this book! I have probably read it 4 times, and have lent it out to a ton of friends. Never was a history book so much fun to read! It is hilarious, disgusting, disturbing, as well as jam packed full of interesting trivia and tidbits guaranteed to lead to some weird conversations later with others. Richard Zacks truly captures the under-belly of history- whether about weird sexual perversions, debauched papal behavior, scary middle ...more
Maddy
Feb 17, 2012 Maddy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history/trivia buffs
Shelves: nonfiction, humor, history
Fun. Took a while to read because when I read for too long in one sitting the names and facts started to run together (information overload). Best partaken of in bits. Good bathroom book, or something a college freshman should read to enliven their History class discussions. I glossed over some parts about American history and scandals of American presidents, however, because, well, I didn't care. But the rest is good reading. The chapters on Medicine and Sex, I imagine, would be great supplemen ...more
Sherry
May 21, 2014 Sherry rated it it was amazing
I am just finishing up this very long book. I'll have to say I am truly sorry it is over. I have LOVED IT. I've learned so much stuff from it. Some very interesting, some cool, some unbelievable, some gross, some gruesome.

I've loved every paragraph. It is in short snippets so it is easy to just pick up when you have a short time to read. But I'll warn you, you'll be reading it for long sessions at a time.

I'd recommend it to anyone with any curiosity at all.
Sarah-Anne
Forget the history you were taught in school; Richard Zacks's version is crueler and funnier than anything you might have learned in seventh-grade civics--and much more of a gross-out, too. Described on the book jacket as an "autodidact extraordinaire," Zacks is also the author of History Laid Bare, making him something of an expert guide through history's back alleys and side streets. There's no fact too seamy or perverse for Zacks to drag out into the light of day, from matters scatological an ...more
Rachel
This book was absolutely insane. If you love politically incorrect history (so the non-churched up "real" history) like I do, you'll love this book. I learned so much that I wouldn't have been able to fathom beforehand. I had no clue that Puritans tortured and maimed Quakers for being "heretics." I was aghast at the medical procedures that took place in the middle ages. I was perturbed when I found out that the Catholic church was against the use of forks, yeah, the eating utensil, because it "r ...more
jack
Nov 29, 2008 jack rated it did not like it
good criminy! this book is so poorly written! and i do not really care about "101 amazing things you didn't know about the dead white men of a hundred years ago!"

ok. i quit. i give up. this book is totally dumb. i mean, i might throw it in the reading rack in the bathroom for a bit before i sell it but i basically could not give less of a fuck about it. i thought it was going to be much more subversive but instead it's just irritating. i hate bad editing. like, this guy writes like he's on cocai
...more
Paul
Sep 26, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing
Wonderful and refreshing! After reading this I found myself telling people all about these strange facts!! Shit-Pills??? Yeah, they prescribed those to people back in the day....all that and more!! A fun and engrossing read that I've actually come back to from time to time!! If you like interesting facts, pick this one up!!
Carol
Jul 18, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it
This has very interesting stories of things like the real back ground stories of fairytales facts about barbers and old times stuff you probably don't need to know but what enjoyed to read.
40 Forte
Feb 22, 2010 40 Forte rated it liked it
There are plenty of interesting tidbits in this book. History is a pretty dirty muddled overview of legends, coverups, and just plain mistakes.

Half of this book was not new to me...but I am an avid history buff, I suppose most of it would be new to many many people. What is new to me is very interesting, and this book is great as a "quick" reference....

But, entries are somewhat poorly written-almost an encloypedia style, and in some cases the reference materials are unclear.

It's a good start to
...more
Daminica
May 21, 2014 Daminica rated it it was amazing
This book is perfectly full of dark, grim, hilarious, & useless knowledge. I loved it so much that I bought 2! Perhaps I should buy another!
Mike Feher
Zacks does a fine job here of cataloging the lubriciously perverse, the brazenly grotesque, and the downright bizarre and largely glossed-over true history of our humanity from the dawn of civilization onward. He punctures the common heartwarming myths and fairy tales still taught to countless school children while dutifully acknowledging the whitewashing we receive growing up (owing largely to the saccharine and protective "think of the children" meme). This book is low culture and high enterta ...more
Jason
Aug 03, 2015 Jason rated it liked it
An interesting collection of facts and some pretty funny histories are included in this book, i can remember using things i learnt about the history of underwear in real life conversations, all i got were odd looks and not crowned King of All as I expected.

Unfortunately the book does start to get a bit dull, the momentum of reading started to fall as I got into the last third of the book, i kept finding other distractions so I could put the book down for a few days. I made it to the end though.
...more
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Richard Zacks (1955-?) was born in Savannah, Georgia but grew up in New York City. He was a Classical Greek major at the University of Michigan and studied Arabic in Cairo, Italian in Perugia, and French in the vineyards of France.. After completing Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, he wrote a syndicated column for four years carried by the NY Daily News, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News ...more
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