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on October 7, 2004
Personally, I enjoyed the book. There was much I learned from this book. I knew very little of the Galveston Hurricane. I did not realize that "New Coke" is still made in certain parts of the country. I never realized that Napoleon's big mistake at Waterloo was in having the wrong adjutant in charge. Or how the Kaiser's hatred for his mother helped in causing World War 1. This and many more interesting tidbits are top be found in this book. The only problem with this book is that most of the entries are fairly modern.
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on September 23, 2004
Reading this terribly uneven book was the most irritating experience I've had in a long time. Its title seemed to indicate a tongue-in-cheek approach to history's gaffes and goofs, in the vein of "The Darwin Awards". Instead, the reader was often treated to rather ordinary recititations of history. The tale of Watergate was told in a straightforward style without entertainment value. The barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire were a dull, unfunny and undetailed summary (in only 7 pages !) of 400 years of Roman history. Other stories held my interest better, not due to the writing but because of the unfamiliar subject matter. The story of Ferdinand de Lesseps' first attempt to build the Panama Canal was an example. But even this tale, which tried to poke fun at de Lesseps' folly, just wasn't funny.

The book, subtitled "Mad Plans and Great Historical Disasters," is less about the folly of human beings than about the unexpected (but not mad) turns that human activities take. Who knew ahead of time that aspirin would have value while heroin would become a social scourge?

I'll say this for the book: as annoying as it was, I kept coming back to it until I finished it. That's worth 3 stars.
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on July 17, 2005
"You Did What?" is a collection of tales of decisions that were at best foolhardy and at worst disastrous. Various authors contribute to this work, and the quality of the chapters varies as a result (there are quite a few examples of bad grammar and poor sentence structure throughout the book). Overall, the book is entertaining. Different subjects of varied historical significance are covered, from the Trojan Horse debacle and President Harrison's refusal to wear a coat at his frigid inaugural, to the "Heidi Bowl" and the bad career decisions of several TV actors. This is a quirky book that's rather light on any deep historical information or insight, and the mistakes in writing can be disconcerting. Overall, though, it's worth checking out for some lighthearted reading.
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on January 29, 2005
On page 219, Thomsen writes that Ronald Reagan divorced Jane Wyman, "everyone's favorite mother from 'Father Knows Best'."

Maybe he meant Jane Wyatt, who WAS the mother on 'Father Knows Best' or maybe he misplaced Jane Wyman, who was certainly no one's favorite mother on 'Falcon Crest'. The similarity of these actresses ends with the similarity of their names. Their appearance and acting would not be confused by even a casual inspection. This is an error which could easily have been avoided with only the slightest effort at research, which was evidently not done.

I found the book quite entertaining and enlightening until I got to that page. A simple, avoidable error like that one makes me question the credibility of the rest of the book.
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on December 24, 2013
Many of the stories are interesting, though the writing varies from author to author. However, for some inexplicable reason, in the middle there is a collection of essays grouped into "Africa" - wheras all the previous ones were about one particular problem or series of related bad decisions. Unbelievably subtitled "Why Darwin was wrong" it's a group of jokes mixed with real stories of dictators all interspersed with commentary that only people in Africa could be that stupid. The editors and publishers should include them letting that section into this book if they publish sequel.
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on December 17, 2010
This is one of a series of books with similar theme - historic tidbits that are funny, amazing and 'in theory at least' true! Great fun to read and perfect book to keep on hand as you can pick it up, read a chapter in a few minutes, and put it down without having to follow some great thread of storyline (each chapter is stand alone)
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on November 20, 2004
The book makes a mistake about Mr. Stevenson (Blake on MASH). The book says MS left MASH and in no time was on hello Larry. Excuse me! Hello Larry began about four years after MS left MASH.
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