Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea” as Want to Read:
Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  131 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Contrary to popular belief fostered in countless school classrooms the world over, Christopher Columbus did not discover that the earth was round. The idea of a spherical world had been widely accepted in educated circles from as early as the fourth century b.c. Yet, bizarrely, it was not until the supposedly more rational nineteenth century that the notion of a flat earth ...more
Hardcover, 436 pages
Published August 5th 2008 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Flat Earth, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Flat Earth

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  131 ratings  ·  30 reviews

Sort order
Marcus Shepherd
Dec 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: few.
How do you know the Earth is round? No, really. Because you saw a picture? Because you own a globe? What evidence could you throw up right now to prove the globularity of the ground you stand on?

Looking through some of the other reviews, it seems like people focus on the proponents of the Flat Earth model with pity and scorn.
"At times you want to find the people it talks about and slap some sense into them, at others you just feel sorry for them. Seeing the deliberate ignorance people impose on
Sharon A.
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent guide through the surprisingly complex idea of the flat earth

This is the first book I’ve ever read on the Flat Earth idea and it’s a winner - engrossing, so readable, coherent, and enlightening. It’s critical in these days of conspiracy mongering and allegations of “fake news” (real and imagined) that we see the forest for the trees. Otherwise, we’re doomed. I feel so much more well-informed on the subject as a student of science & society. Highly recommended.
Tommy Carlson
So, here's the first book conforming to my 2015 "no books by white men" resolution, Flat Earth by Christine Garwood. It examines fairly recent beliefs in an actual flat Earth. It's an amusing read, in places, but drags most of the time.

It starts out with a couple chapters explaining why we as a culture thought folks back in Columbus' time even thought that the world was flat. (Actually, I didn't think they thought that, nor I suspect do many people today.) Turns out it was evil secularists, tryi
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a bit long winded at times, and bogs down in retoric, but after all how many ways can you sustain a Flat Earth theory. What is amazing that against all odds (science in particular) people can still believe, and justify thier belief. It always good to look at both sides of any story, how else do we make decisions.
Dec 12, 2017 added it
In the Middle Ages people believed that the earth was flat, for which they had at least the evidence of their senses: we believe it to be round, not because as many as one per cent of us could give the physical reasons for so quaint a belief, but because modern science has convinced us that nothing that is obvious is true, and that everything that is magical, improbable, extraordinary, gigantic, microscopic, heartless, or outrageous is scientific.
- George Bernard Shaw
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Amazing expose on the history of flat earth belief, and the complexities involved. At times you want to find the people it talks about and slap some sense into them, at others you just feel sorry for them. Seeing the deliberate ignorance people impose on themselves is both amusing, and terribly frightening.
Jul 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book about the history of the flat earth idea, mainly starting in the early 1800's up to today. It is well written and poses some interesting ideas at the end about why people believe in crazy ideas.
Steven Williams
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fairly interesting, except it kind of seemed like same thing over and over again. Only the names and times seemed to change
Tom Holt
Dec 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea by Christine Garwood (2008)
Cyle Zezotarski
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Garwood shares detailed stories of key people throughout the relatively short history of Flat Earth noise-making. She makes pertinent points throughout, and at the end of the day presents an eye opening read that makes these believers, who are so maligned by society, feel like actual, relatable human beings (though definitely eccentric ones).

Although well researched, it was sometimes my impression that the author didn't read many of her own chapters, which was evidenced by the repetition of fact
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very very thorough and fair look at the various people and groups who have insisted that the Earth is flat. Occasionally the organization is a bit rough, but Garwood had a lot of material to cover, so that's understandable.
fuck flatearth
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
very goood book
Jenni Butler
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Well documented history behind the flat earth theory.
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is more about the lives of the flat earth supporters than the actual idea of a flat earth.
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
When i saw this book at the library I found myself fascinated by the concept. It took me a little bit to get in the swing of it... but it was certainly worth it.

Christine Garwood has done an immaculate job in her research. The book's subject matter lies somewhere between religion and science, following the life of the theory by the people who tried to spread the word. I also learnt a whole lot about the history of science and how people think!

My favourite part was the chapter about the Flat Ear
Susan Wight
The Idea of a spherical world had been widely accepted in educated circles from as early as the fourth century BC. Yet, bizarrely, it was not until the supposedly more rational nineteenth century that the notion of the flat earth really took hold. This book traces the history of the Flat Earth idea.
It has taken me quite a long time to read this book as it is fascinating in parts but the very nature of denialist arguments render it repetitive as different manifestations of the Flat Earth Society
Guy Robinson
A book about people believing in a Flat Earth from ancient times to the 1970s. It corrects the most fundamental errors and documents the most excessive proponents, who often had a most challenging time.

It covers modern misconceptions, the western progression towards the provable shape of the Earth, a Victorian showman, Parallax, his varied disciples, an American religious city that fell under the control of a Flat Earth Bible literalist, the Flat Earth Society that operated during the Apollo spa
Suzy Plows
Feb 23, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was really looking forward to reading this book. However, after the first 10 pages I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it. There are many inaccuracies in the author's attempt to place things into historical context. Bizarrely, for a history book, ideas and people are described using very emotional, petty language, which was off-putting and made it very difficult to take her seriously. It was also a red flag for me that early on I needed to fact check some things that I had doubts on (On a side ...more
Bonnie Samuel
From anti-vaxxers to climate change deniers to anti-evolutionists, the capacity of human beings to hold onto incorrect beliefs despite mountains of evidence proving them wrong is pretty astonishing. Although I found this book to be pretty dry, the characters highlighted demonstrate that when a person desperately wants to believe that something is true, any attempt to change their mind is futile, since they'll always find a way to discredit the evidence either by decrying it as fake, manipulated, ...more
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Nov 30, 2008 marked it as decided-not-to-read
After the introduction, this book, well, went into more detail than I was interested in. Honestly I'm more interested in how this came to be accepted as history than in every crank who has thought the earth was flat. As an aside, though, the book mentions an early example of viral marketing/pseudo-advertising (false missing person notices in newspapers) involving a Washington Irving book. I wonder if this was the first instance.
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Aristotle knew the world was round, as did the vast bulk of ancient and medieval writers in Europe. The flat-earth movement as we know it is a 19th century creature. It started in Victorian England as a strange mix of religious fundamentalism and postmodern skepticism. This book explains how the movemement got started and where it went. Much food for thought in terms of how cults or wacky beliefs can grow even in educated countries.
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Unfortunately, this book tries to be a comprehensive history of its subject instead of an entertaining overview. Boring, unecessary details abound and are – unforgivably – repeated. Give it a skim if, like me, you are fascinated by misguided eccentrics, but don't plan on reading every word.
Aaron Gladki
Apr 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
This was a hard, hard slog and only pigheadedness kept me at it much past page 70. Reads like a PHD thesis, and as for the cover quote about the book being an entertaining an often hilarious read, well, I'm not sure what book they were writing about. It sure wasn't this one....
Dec 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Nonfiction book about various flat earth societies and believers throughout the last several hundred years. The book also spends the first few chapters debunking the idea that ancient (i.e. pre-medieval) people believed the earth was flat.

It's okay.
Feb 20, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Don't waste your time reading this. The author just throws in every "fact" she can find, including a whole chapter on a Flat Earth society that was a hoax.

Properly edited this book would have been a quarter as long and twice as informative.
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history of resistance to the idea of a free-floating Earth in surprisingly modern times. The parallels to the Evolution debate are obvious. Very easy to read and informative.
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great book, lot's of witty humor. It's so dispassionate (objective) that at times you can be fooled into thinking that the author really considered the earth to be flat...
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Caught between pop-history fun and the nitty-gritty facts. Too dull for the former and missing too big of gaps for the latter (too much focus on a few individuals). Meh. Not really worth the time.
Jun 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
Long, boring thesis like writing. Entirely misses the point of church influence by not even discussing the trial of Galileo and its significance.
rated it liked it
Jan 26, 2009
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Secrets of Alchemy
  • Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys
  • A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America
  • Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia
  • The Bonehunters' Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age
  • Natural Theology
  • A Brief History of the Universe
  • Radioactivity: A History of a Mysterious Science
  • The Anglo-Saxon World
  • The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death
  • Cats Are Not Peas: A Calico History of Genetics
  • Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth's Surface
  • What's Science Ever Done For Us: What the Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life, and the Universe
  • A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture
  • Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology and Politics in Science
  • Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction
  • Far As Human Eye Could See
  • Britain Begins