Angel 's Reviews > Secrets of the Sideshows

Secrets of the Sideshows by Joe Nickell
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's review
Apr 11, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: history, pop-culture, trivia-and-miscellaneous
Recommended for: carnival and sideshows fans, history readers
Read from May 02 to 04, 2012

I would have rated this book higher, but I think that its strength is also a bit a of a weakness. The book is extremely comprehensive. Nickell, an experienced performer himself, packs a lot of stories, biographies and details into this book. He looks at every angle and every type of sideshow. He provides history from ancient times to the present. That is good. However, it is a lot, an awful lot for the casual reader. If you are expecting a nice, easy historical narrative, this is not it. On the other hand, if you want a book that be described as encyclopedic in nature, then this may be the book for you. I do no think it is a book to read from cover to cover. Read the introduction, and like in any carnival or midway, pick out the items that interest you. Do remember to make your way to the egress as well. I tried to read it cover to cover, and I did find it a bit overwhelming. This is more of a book to browse and explore. Also, the book is written in a very academic tone. It feels more like I am reading a series of academic papers, including in-text citations (which as a reader I found annoying. Those should have been end-notes).

Having said that, it does cover a very interesting topic, and it looks at a craft that is almost extinct. It does so with respect, dignity, good research, and thoroughness. There are also some very good photos and illustrations featured in the book.

So overall, a book that may be a bit more for academics than lay readers. It is still worth reading, or at least skimming and finding the types of shows that interest you and learning about those. Also, I think it may encourage folks to want to read more on specific topics. And that is always a good thing.

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Reading Progress

05/03/2012 page 18
05/03/2012 page 80
20.0% "Some of the book is interesting, but it is also a very technical book. Lots of trivia, but also a lot of technical detail, which may be much for some casual readers. Also, very academic tone; citations should have been made endnotes and kept at back of book for better flow."

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