Book Reviews

The United States of Absurdity by Dave Anthony & Gareth Reynolds

The United States of Absurdity cover

If you enjoy reading about odd and ridiculous events in history, then this is the book for you. Let’s face it: the history we learn in school isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. All those events that happened throughout the centuries—while important to know about—are decidedly lacking in the humor department. This book has many funny anecdotes, but it’s not exactly the sort of history that would find its way into a school textbook.

What you will find are stories about such notable moments as:

  • The 14-year-old boy who made nitroglycerin in an improvised “lab”, who eventually built a breeder reactor in his parent’s backyard.
  • Henry Heimlich’s campaign to make the Heimlich maneuver the preferred way to save someone from choking to death, followed by his attempts to prove malaria could cure cancer… and Lyme disease… and AIDS.
  • Harry Smolinski’s attempt to create a flying car… using a Ford Pinto.
  • A cheese wheel that was gifted to Andrew Jackson, which was four feet in diameter, two feet thick, and weighed a whipping 1400 pounds.
  • The Straw Hat Riots of 1922, which began because some men were absolute heathens and wore their straw hats past the acceptable dates of May 15th to September 15th.

Some of the stories were more interesting than others (as would be the case with any collection such as this), and I was aware of a few—such as the story of the “Radium Girls”. I was in need of a light read, and this fit the bill nicely.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Ten Speed Press via Netgalley.

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Authors: Dave Anthony & Gareth Reynolds
Title: The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History
Genre: History, Humor, Nonfiction
Publication Date: May 9, 2017 by Ten Speed Press
Rating: 3 stars

About the Book

Discover illustrated profiles of the weird, outrageous (and true!) tales from American history that don’t appear in school textbooks.

From the creators of the comedy/history podcast “The Dollop,” “The United States of Absurdity” presents short, informative, and hilarious stories of the most outlandish (but true) people, events, and more from United States history. Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds cover the weird stories you didn’t learn in history class, such as 10-Cent Beer Night, the Jackson Cheese, and the Kentucky Meat Shower, each accompanied by a full-page illustration that brings these historical “milestones” to life in full-color. Adding to the giftable history/comedy package, each story is accompanied by tongue-in-cheek trivia and timelines that help place the stories in context with the more well-known historical events that occurred around them.