Cecil Adams is someone who probably would have along with Leonardo Da Vinci quite well, assuming that Da Vinci enjoyed sarcasm. Is Adams a polymath? I have no idea, but if his Straight Dope columns–collected from his newspaper columns–are any indication, he’s pretty damn smart.
The Straight Dope books are books of trivia in Q&A format. Someone would write to Adams with a question like “What does the H in Jesus H. Christ stand for?” or “Why do hot dogs come 10 to a pack while buns come 8 to a pack?” and he would answer them, or do his best to answer them. He typically addresses his responses to the members of the “teeming masses.”
The tagline for the Straight Dope website is “fighting ignorance since 1973 (it’s taking longer than we thought.”
I think it’s fun to learn things, but it’s even better when the answers come in a way that makes me laugh. That’s what Adams does for me that so few people can: I find just about everything he says funny. Or at least, the things I see him say in the columns.
The most interesting part of his abilities, for me, is that he has been doing it for so long. Meaning, he didn’t have the Internet on his phone to help him out back in 1973. But he could find answers. How? Well, by knowing where to look. I imagine he could put any librarian I know to absolute shame as a fact-finding machine.
If you like trivia, I think you’ll like these books. If you want to know how to learn more trivia and you have a hard time making it stick, Straight Dope might be for you. The answers are made more memorable to me because of the way they are presented, wrapped in stories and drenched in sarcasm by the curmudegeonly Adams.
Oh, and the books are illustrated. The illustrator often draws Adams as a turkey with a mortarboard.
Strength training for body and mind.