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

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  2,154 ratings  ·  381 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
Kindle Edition, 434 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Crown Archetype
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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 ·  2,154 ratings  ·  381 reviews

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May 18, 2015 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
I'm glad I went into this book with neutral feelings on Ripley because I believe that if I had liked him this book would have been upsetting. He was a very talented and fairly generous person, but man was he a terrible racist and sexist. Even for the time period the things he does is awful. The man had a harem living with him forcing the girls to vie for top position. That's just so messed up.
May 26, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason Vigorito
Jul 25, 2014 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
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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)
Elise Noorda
Interesting man. Interesting life. I would have enjoyed the book more, if it were less. Just so much information.
Christopher Gudgeon
Ughhhhh. Facile, halting bio of a complex, curious and rather awful fellow. Bio almost devoid of any meaningful analysis
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
During my childhood, my older brother had a copy of Ripley's "Believe It or Not" book that was originally published in 1929. This copy was probably one dated 1946 because I remember it had one item in it about Franklin Roosevelt's death. I was always fascinated by the book and its pages of cartoons and essays by Ripley about the strange and unimaginable. Such things as a man with horns growing out of his head, a two-tongued woman, how dead bodies were fed to vultures in India, a man committing ...more
Kate McVaugh
Recently, while in a 3rd grade classroom, I ran across a kid's biography of Ripley which I read during recess and lunch. I found it so intriguing, I looked at the bibliography where "A Curious Man" was listed. The next day I checked it out from the library.

Although I found the story full of well researched, interesting details about Robert Ripley's life, I was a bit put off by the style of the writing. More than once I had the feeling that the author was making fun of/putting down Mr. Ripley.
Mar 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I’m giving this book three stars. I read this book over a few days while I was in the middle of jury selection. There were some parts I found interesting so me parts not so much but if you want to learn more about Ripley's believe it or not I would pick up this book.
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 ...more
An entertaining and for the most part lighthearted biography of a cultural icon, one that most Americans are familiar with as a brand name – “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” – but not as a person. I’d never stopped to wonder just who the Ripley behind the cartoon series was, which betrays a lack of curiosity that the ever-curious Ripley never would have had. I imagined the author, Neal Thompson, practically rubbing his hands together in glee at finding such a rich and hitherto unmined trove of ...more
Scott Klemm
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it

“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
Sep 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...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,
Leah K
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 attention
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 11, 2014 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
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
Joy H.
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
Charlotte Klein
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
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.

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