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An Incomplete Education, Revised Edition Hardcover – October 17, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

You'll find everything you forgot from school--as well as plenty you never even learned--in this all-purpose reference book, an instant classic when it first appeared in 1987. The updated version takes a whirlwind tour through 12 different disciplines, from American studies to philosophy to world history. Along the way, Judy Jones and William Wilson provide a plethora of useful information, from the plot of Othello to the difference between fission and fusion. It's not a shortcut to cultural literacy, the authors write in their introduction, but it's an excellent "way in" to the building blocks of Western civilization: the "books, music, art, philosophy, and discoveries that have, for one reason or another, managed to endure." Think of it as finishing school for your brain; study up and you'll gain a lifetime's worth of cocktail conversation--as well as a new list of books you simply must read.

From Library Journal

The current emphasis on cultural literacy and the first edition's popularity (LJ 6/1/87) induced an update of this fascinating refresher course of core curriculum subjects. Two freelance writers, aided by several contributors, cover in bite-sized portions some "essentials" for an educated person. The treatment of 12 disciplines is au courant, sometimes irreverent and cynical, but substantially reliable, helping the authors achieve their purpose?to provide an entertaining invitation to information that has inspired and/or confused us over the years. While some topics, e.g., American studies and art history, are only slightly revised from the 1987 edition, coverage in science and political science is updated or new. One of the most successful chapters treats in a novel approach the culture, history, and geopolitics of 18 countries. Not strictly for the reference collection, this book can be profitably read by people of widely different age groups who may approach its contents selectively. An excellent layout with numerous photos and illustrations adds to the overall appeal.?Stanley P. Hodge, Ball State Univ. Lib., Muncie, Ind.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Revised edition (October 17, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345391373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345391377
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #697,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

165 of 168 people found the following review helpful By yarden on June 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The thing I most remember from ALL my college courses is this book. AN INCOMPLETE EDUCATION is truly a wonderful supplement to any person's knowledge.
This book is basically an intellectual history overview with a lot of helpful charts and guides. It's written in a very humorous tone, and it hits the humor target more often than not. If you feel that you lack knowledge, this is the book for you. It's not in depth, but it does tell you what you SHOULD know in all areas, including history, philosophy, music, art, and even film. My personal favorite features are the Latin abbreviations and the "Words you pronounce wrong but if you pronounced them right, you'd be considered a pretentious snob" feature.
For a good time (and to increase your IQ), read this book. It's tongue-in-cheek, but it's a wealth of information.
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134 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Caponsacchi HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After giving this book to my daughter upon her graduation, I found I couldn't resist buying another copy for myself. Whether you're interested in a "refresher" or in a quick briefing on an academic area you never had time for--film studies, for example--or structuralist and post-structuralist criticism--you're likely to find the field treated in this lively, fascinating, edifying volume. The authors provide definitions, canons of the essential works, profiles of major contributors to the field, and judicious evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of each major thinker or artist. When an individual, text or movement is overrated or becoming passe, the authors are not afraid to say so. And unlike similar collections--the "Dummies" books, for example--this text is far more than an accumulation of trivia. The authors manage to provide narrative continuity to each academic area and, above all, a sense of perspective. Since their judgements strike me as on target in the areas with which I'm familiar, I'm inclined to trust them in those disciplines I don't know much about. The only reason not to pick up the book right away is the possibility that a new edition is just around the corner.
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99 of 103 people found the following review helpful By doc peterson VINE VOICE on January 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I first ran across this book on a friend's coffee table. After thumbing through it, I knew I had to have a copy of my own. It is witty, humorous and surprisingly accurate. The authors intentionally don't take the subject matter seriously in deference to those legions of name droppers and intellectuals who do.
Each chapter covers a specific subject area ("Art history", "Film", "Music", etc.) which is further broken down into essential "need-to-know" sections like "A Trio of Geographical Clarifications for a Nation that, Frankly Would Rather Skateboard" or "A Night at the Opera: manners and morals for the MTV Generation." The writing itself is similarly tongue-in-cheek. In a section titled "How to Tell Keats from Shelly" the authors write, "Keats is the one you'd play racquetball with. He wasn't happy, exactly, but he was better adjusted and less the outcast then Shelly and it shows."
I certainly got a kick out of reading it. If you are searching for a good laugh that is also enlightening, (and will fill the holes in your college education), this is the book for you. But PLEASE don't take this book too seriously.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book was given to me as a gift upon completion of my MBA to "round out" my education. I read it cover to cover and enjoyed it very much (I am ordering a new copy because a friend "borrowed" it). I had great fun with the witty commentary. In fact, at times, I thought that absurd analogies actually helped explain esoteric and abstract concepts in a more simple and understandable manner (maybe my philosophy prof should consider these methods). I understand the criticism of many people who claim that the book is a shallow and "incomplete" coverage of the topics - it absolutely is. Reading the section on opera by no means makes one an expert or replaces the experience, nor does it intend to. Instead, I think it either gives a novice a fun introduction or presents the expert with a funny perspective on what they already know. So, having been to both Wagner and Mozart operas, I enjoyed reading how they could contrast the two in layman's terms (a great chapter, I might add). Simply put: If you are capable of not taking it too seriously, you'll love this book. If not, don't take yourself too seriously, and then buy it!
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The people here who gave this book a negative review clearly just didn't get it. This book is not intended as an education itself (hence the title), but as an introduction and overview that will hopefully send you off to learn more. But the best thing about this book is its wit. Saying that the authors should have dispensed with the comments and gotten down to information misses the whole point! I love this book, and recommend it to all my friends.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I'm buying this book to replace the 2 copies that were "borrowed" by "friends" who "forgot" to return them. I've learned my lesson -- I'm going to hide this copy. Simply put, I love this book. I don't understand the customer reviewers who didn't appreciate the fact that this isn't simply a dry compendium of facts. There are plenty of books out there (can you say encyclopedia?) that fit that bill. In fact, this book is specifically designed for people who don't like to read serious books full of dry information because, well, think about it; if you liked serious books full of dry information, you wouldn't be reading this book because you'd already know all the stuff that's in it. Does that make sense? No? O.K, try his: buy the book. You'll like it.
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