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What are the Seven Wonders of the World?: And 100 Other Great Cultural Lists--Fully Explicated Paperback – December 1, 1998

4.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Historic trivia is fascinating stuff. The secret to great trivia reporting is not just in the gathering of the details, however, but in the presentation. Organization is vital, because without an appealing structure, the mind won't grapple with the facts. The human brain needs an inviting presentation to wrap around any new information, and this is what D'Epiro and Pinkowish have done. It's why their compilation of 107 cultural questions is so beguiling.

The elemental secret of their innovative table of contents is the use of numbers. Starting with three and working their way up (with a gap here and there) to 24, they pose a series of intriguing questions which are then answered to everyone's satisfaction on the indicated pages. What are the three Laws of Thermodynamics? Who were the three Furies? and What are the three ages of Vico's historical cycle? These are the sorts of queries they present in the chapter entitled Three. Further chapters inquire after the four properties of a musical tone, the six flavors of quarks, the seven Virtues, the 12 Labors of Heracles, the 14 Points of Woodrow Wilson, and the unofficial Homeric titles of the 18 chapters of Ulysses.

While the questions are appealing in and of themselves, the answers are even better. Going far beyond mere lists, they delve into the histories and texts, the theories and significance of each. The question is the hook, but the answer is the prize, riveting you with more information than you'd anticipated, reminding you of the joy of learning. --Stephanie Gold

Review

A fun read (great for quizzing yourself) and an invaluable resource. Not just for esoteric trivia lovers, this substantial compendium is packed with cultural knowledge--it's all great stuff to know!
--Christie Hall Apicella, Bas Bleu

Do you want to be a genius? Step one is to read this collection. . . This book is a tour de force, one that every home will require . . . to settle domestic squabbles over who's right. --Sandra Murphy, The Irish News

... highly informative catalog of 100 of the greatest cultural and historical lists of all time--along with all the background stories. --Book of the Month Club

This challenging, yet entertaining book acquaints the reader with vast amounts of information on literature, mythology, religion, art, music, and yes--science. --Newsletter of the National Association of Science Writers

A sheer delight.... It is the quality of the writing--the style, the organization, the information included--that makes this book such a pleasure. --The Smoky Mountain News
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1st Anchor Books ed edition (December 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385490623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385490627
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #862,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By audrey frances TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 3, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This fun book contains a hundred and one lists organized by number. For example, the chapter known as "Four" includes the following: What are the four voyages of Lemuel Gulliver? What are the four conic sections? What are the four sections of a symphony orchestra? etc.

Chapters are: Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Eighteen, Twenty and Twenty-Four. What makes the book more than just a quiz generator is the lengthy explanatory text, anywhere from three to eighteen pages. These pithy essays entertain and inform, and add greatly to the volume's enjoyment. Some questions are really obscure -- what were the five rivers of the classical underworld, anyway? -- but even the easier ones can leave you scratching your head and cursing your memory. Didn't I used to know all this stuff? Then, after you knock yourself on the head and shout "Of course!", you will have the pleasure of reading a well-written essay by a co-author or one of a small number of contributors.

There is also a fourteen page suggested reading list, organized by subject, that includes music and URLs. Rounded out with a good index, this is very nicely done and lots of fun.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a clever little volume which, for the most part, I enjoyed. Essentially, it is 101 questions (see the title for an example) with answers provided in short, generally engaging essays. For a triviophile like myself, it provided a lot of interesting stuff, though it's not really a book to be read straight through. Instead, taking a few questions a night should prevent information overload.

In addition, the book does have a few weakness. First, there is the unavoidable one of the selection of questions. Depending on your tastes, some questions will likely be less interesting than others. Also, the authors have the occasional tendency to throw in a judgement with their answers which can rankle, especially in the religious realm. Finally, there is the feeling that some of the questions are a bit of a stretch, shaped to fit the format the authors have chosen.

Still, I don't get the sense that the book is meant to be a reference work. It is meant to be an engaging exploration of a potpourri of interesting questions. In that respect, it works quite well.
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This informative, fascinating and entertaining volume presents, in a question-and-answer format, a compendium of 101 easy-to-memorize lists from the fields of history, mythology, religion, literature, art, music, mathematics and science, which are considered to be of great significance for our culture.
Each question is well-organized according to the number of items in its answer, which can vary from three (Who where the 3 Magi, and what gifts did they bring?) to twenty-four (What are the 24 letter of the ancient Greek alphabet?).
Each precise answer, instead of giving a mere list, is accompanied by an engrossing essay that places the list in its cultural and historical context and details some well-researched facts about it that aid our understanding of its meaning.
As a bonus, for those interested in doing further research in a specific topic, the book offers a list of suggested reading, which includes books as well as Web site addresses. A very thorough index is also offered for those interested in looking for a particular subject.
Overall, this is a practical, charming and pleasurable reference to either consult or flip through, recommended for readers of all ages eager to explore our culture's most captivating lists, series and hierarchies.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar
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Format: Paperback
Among the recent spate of "cultural literacy" books, What are the Seven Wonders of the World? is in a class all its own. It takes a huge chunk of the western tradition and offers it up in easily digestible morsels--and does so (incredibly) without dumbing it down. On almost every page I found things I thought I knew but had forgotten--as well as plenty of others I should have learned but never did.
But don't get me wrong. This book is FUN too. Horace put it best: An effective writer will mix the practical with the pleasurable ("utile dulci"), and entertain the reader at the same time he instructs. D'Epiro and Pinkowish do just that.
If you know a lot about history, literature, or art, check this book out. If you don't, check it out too.
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By Karl on November 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
I found this book absolutely fascinating. Short well written essays filled in details on the history and cultural setting of a wide variety of items from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to the 7 kinds of plane triangles.The topics chosen varied widely over many centuries and many different cultures. While I was familiar slightly with perhaps half of the topics, the essays enriched my understanding of even those about which I thought I was most knowledgeable and informed me on many topics which were previously unknown to me. I could pick up the book and open it to any page and enjoy myself whether I had time for just a single essay or could indulge myself for an hour. Everyone should have fun reading this book.
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