- Paperback: 232 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 26, 1985)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0688048307
- ISBN-13: 978-0688048303
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Big Secrets Paperback – June 26, 1985
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Top Customer Reviews
A Shriner may pledge that if he divulges the secrets of his order, he may incur "the penalty of having my eyeballs pierced to the center with a three-edged blade." But Poundstone discovered a Masonic supply house ("The Geo. Lauterer Corporation") that works by mail order and doesn't check ID, ordered a selection of titles, and tells us all of the inside skinny on IAOM and Tubal-Cain.
"Big Secrets" tells as much as Poundstone could find out about the secret formula for Coca-Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken. It tells how the Rorschach test works and how to cheat on it. It tells several methods by which magicians saw a woman in two (you see, one of them is patented, so if you write the patent office and ask for patent #1,458,575...)
"Bigger Secrets" is equally good, maybe better. I think my favorite is his description of what the Rosicrucians are really like, but his explanation of how David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty Vanish and his analysis of backward and "subliminal" messages in records and movies are also excellent.
The "big secrets" that Poundstone reveals are, in large part, not that difficult to discover on one's own. With all of the Masons walking around, there are bound to be a few that will blab about the sooper-seekrit initiation ceremonies. With all of the minimum-wage fast food workers, it has to be pretty easy to get a sample of the KFC chicken coating for analysis. With all of the magic books that have been written and published... you get the idea.
The real secret that Poundstone reveals in these instances is that they really aren't secrets, but have been promoted as such by those who benefit from the illusion of secrecy. The whole myth behind Coca-Cola, for example--that the formula is secret, that there's a secret ingredient "7X", that only two people know the formula, and they each only know part of it, and that they can't travel on the same plane--is pure corporate hogwash. The recipe for the syrup has been part of the public legal record for decades. The centuries-old initiation rites of the Masons are pretty much like the ones that you made up for your neighborhood "No Gurls Alowd" clubhouse when you were eight, only with somewhat better props. Stage magicians are still flogging the same tired tricks that were old when Houdini was a kid in Appleton, Wisconsin. And so on.Read more ›
The sections were mostly short, quick reads which allowed me to pick it up and put it down without a heavy time commitment. I liked that because the topics lend themselves to that formatting. This isn't the Roswell "conspiracy", this is fun and weird topics that can be discussed without sounding like one of those people that everyone crosses the street to avoid.
I suppose the modern equivalent of this series would be, at least in book format, be the Uncle John's bathroom books. So, maybe that gives you an idea of what to expect. Sure, you could find out most of these "secrets" on the internet nowadays. That doesn't make this any less fun, especially if you're old enough to remember the pre-internet era when you actually had to search for information on something other than your phone.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
well, so what ? If this is educational, you've been under a rock for too long.Published 3 months ago by danger
The first volume in William Poundstone's fun series of Big Secrets is still a fun read, even after all this time. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Rich M.
Secrets about many things: eye tests, lie detectors, appearing to saw women in half, card tricks, marked cards, KFC formula....Published 20 months ago by Bernardo
Interesting and fun to read. Some subjects may not thrill everyone but it's a good read for when one wants light reading.Published on January 4, 2014 by hazel
Pretty skimpy book, very outdated, I would recommend buying later editions instead; not many surprises here for sure; too badPublished on November 27, 2013 by Arthur P. Moser
I was expecting more intriguing subjects, although I did enjoy some of the entries. Some were overly analytical; some were not interesting at all. Read morePublished on October 20, 2011 by AvidReader