Customer Reviews: Mental Floss: Scatterbrained
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on July 17, 2006
This book is an immense collection of trivia, loosely related by tangential connecting facts. For example, a story about famous downfalls which recounts Oscar Wilde's end says: "But it's not like Wilde was angry enough to start a hunger strike or anything...." And then we're off into "The Greatest Hunger Strikers Ever." Scatterbrained is much like "The Areas of My Expertise" (John Hodgman), except not made-up. And with fewer hobo facts.

The Scatterbrained approach to trivia is very readable, like a talkative dinner guest who goes on endless factual tangents. It's amusing and fun, and offers you plenty of chances to bail out when you've had enough (for example, when you've completed your business in the, uh, bathroom). This would also make a nice (albeit small) coffee-table book, as it's the sort of thing your guests can leaf through and call out interesting, often bizarre anecdotes.

Nerdy note: this book was co-edited by noted Young Adult author John Green. Fans of "Looking for Alaska" will appreciate "Fond Farewells: The Best and Worst of Famous People's Last Words" on page 125, and fans of "An Abundance of Katherines" will enjoy "Math Nerds Gone Wild (And by Wild, We Mean Nuts)" on page 132.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon September 28, 2006
Marcus Chown's recent book, "The Quantum Zoo: A Tourist's Guide to a Never-Ending Universe" deals with quantum physics in a way that effectively uses popular culture references as a means toward understanding the world around us through scientific theory. Surprisingly, this book covers similar ground but from a completely non-scientific perspective by interconnecting seemingly unrelated trivia facts toward another view of the world. As you can assess, both books provide value to their respective audiences.

"Scatterbrained" is another slim volume from the editors of Mental Floss Magazine, a bimonthly launched in 2001 and targeted to aspiring Trivial Pursuit masters. This one takes nine isolated threads of facts to show how you could possibly make sense of the world. Granted, the connections can be rather tenuous, sometimes like an unending broken record on the turntable, but they are fun simply to track just to see where the lines of thought will go. It's a bit like playing a more expansive version of the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game except anything, no matter how trivial, is up for grabs.

A prototypical example is Chapter 4, "Humpty Dumpty to Having a Great Fall to Getting Put Back Together Again" You see the links between the fairy tale character, hunger strikes, celebrity trials, disasters that occur in autumn, diamonds, pseudonyms, the periodic table, trivia about the Web, the history of tattoos, and historic reunions. It's definitely a meandering journey for a less receptive mind but one that makes sense for any world-class trivia expert who can connect anything with anything. And for them, it's quite a fun read.
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on December 10, 2015
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it for anyone who wants a break from their usual 'heavy' reading list (like mine). I found it to be very entertaining, a good reason to read any book!
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on March 16, 2015
Lot's of fun trivia, but I caught a few factual errors, common popular myths, in the first 1/4 of the book. OK, it sure is clever editing, but a popular myth here and there ruins the fun if I can't trust the facts. Oh well. It is trivia after all.
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VINE VOICEon December 15, 2012
So, off the bat, to be completely honest, I only read this book because it had Hank and John Green's names attached to it. It was really cool to hear so many things that have been referenced in vlogbrothers videos, like famous last words, Hodel the serial killer, child prodigies, using math textbooks as bully defense mechanisms, and most egregiously of all to me, "some infinities are bigger than others", which we now see come full circle in John's 2012 publication of The Fault in Our Stars. These little tidbits made the book a cool read (a friend also brought up the idea that this book may have been the one referenced in John's wedding toast to Hank) for any fan of the vlogbrothers, but beyond the references, it did have its instances where it dragged. Then again, there is something in this book for everyone, so there will be parts where you couldn't care less, but other parts where you'll be completely engrossed in the bits of trivia. But ultimately, I read it because of Hank and John, and they are the ones who I'd like to hear more from in regards to this book. I want to know who was responsible for which parts and what it was like for them to collaborate in this medium and all of the backstory! After learning so much, there's still so much story behind the story that I want to learn.
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on April 23, 2013
After I read this it made me feel like a giant smarty pants. I actually plan to read it again. It was fun to read and interesting. This is a great book for a car or plane trip because as you are reading you can share the information with the other people you are with. Really, a good read.
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on August 27, 2013
Hey... we all want our kids to ace those SAT's... and we're tired of nagging them to study/learn more..... and we freak out in the middle of the night wondering..... will my child get in??? I ordered a bunch of these types of books-- they are delightful. And... they make the necessary SAT learning -- FUN. Invest in this fun stuff -- while they prep for their SAT's...Invest in the hard core SAT prep stuff too.... but at least this is fun!
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on May 2, 2013
This isn't a terrible book, but most of the material is a repetition of material already presented in the magazine. Disappointing.
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on September 28, 2006
An excellent compendium of oddball factoids, sharply designed and smartly written, c/o the fine folks at Mental_floss. I don't know how long it must have taken to compile all this stuff, but you can easily spend a weekend or more tearing through it. Good stuff -- I couldn't have enjoyed it more had I co-written it myself.
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on September 2, 2012
I bought this book on a whim as I am very fond of what I guess you would call trivia books, though the information itself is NOT trivial.

This book is clever, insightful, funny, and a blast to read. GUYS: buy this book and put it in the bathroom and read a chapter (they're short) while taking care of business. Ladies: keep a copy on the nightstand next to 50 Shades of Gray to keep things in perspective.

There are a number of these books and I plan on getting a couple more.
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