Chock-full of surprises, insight, and learning opportunities.



A collection features oddities from around the world and bizarre facts amassed during the last 100 years.

Readers with a penchant for unusual things will find a bevy of them in this oversized, full-color collection compiled by Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (Odd Is Art, 2018, etc.). The book is divided into broad categories that frequently merge, including animals, pop culture, and people. An extensive index, however, can point readers to more specific subjects, like fashion or rooster snake killer. Many of the tidbits in the volume are food-related. A resort in Mexico, for example, offers a primo taco with caviar, lobster, and more for patrons willing to shell out $25,000. In Palau, Micronesia, fruit bat soup comes with broth and the entire creature. And in 2017, a no-hands, yak yogurt drinking contest took place in China. But the assemblage by the 100-year-old Ripley franchise also showcases remarkable people and animals. Short, intermittent interviews spotlight individuals such as Alabamian Lucy Gafford, who dabbles in shower-hair art, and Laetitia Ky of Abidjan, Africa, who sculpts her hair into shapes or hand gestures. Other species are curious as well: Officials in Bangkok put a wild macaque monkey on a strict diet after tourists’ leftover junk food precipitated his obesity; and mantis shrimp have a punch that’s faster than humans can blink. Even pop culture often astounds: A honey bun resembles the titular alien of the 1982 film E.T.; and William Moulton Marston, inventor of the polygraph machine, also created Wonder Woman. The educational value of this collection is without question. While details on animals, culture, etc. come in brief, singular paragraphs, they are informative and will surely send readers, young and old alike, to the internet to learn more. The prose is particularly respectful of the variety of cultures and figures throughout but is occasionally tongue-in-cheek. For instance, a write-up on open-air urinals in Chongqing, China, warns readers to “Pee afraid. Pee very afraid.” Similarly, the story of World War II spy Virginia Hall, who had a prosthetic leg, stresses that she escaped Nazi-occupied France on foot. Despite a good deal of contemporary trivia (from the previous year or two), much of the material, as the title implies, covers the last century. Information on the Towers of Silence, where Zoroastrians in Iran and India have long placed their dead for vultures to pick apart, is even accompanied by a 1926 sketch by company founder, Robert Ripley. There’s little wasted space on the pages of the coffee-table book, which boasts an abundance of vibrant photographs. Sometimes they’re shocking, like making a spiderlike fly larger than life or offering a close-up of an Ethiopian tribe’s annual stick fight, particularly the pre-event consumption of cow blood. But the pictures are more often astonishingly beautiful: A two-page display of the Kite Festival in Guatemala is a veritable explosion of giant, multicolored kites. The volume likewise takes advantage of new media. Some stories focus on YouTubers and Instagrammers while a recurring section, “Your Uploads,” are tales that readers have submitted.

Chock-full of surprises, insight, and learning opportunities.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60991-217-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ripley Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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