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Book Review: Mental Floss

Laura Cococcia

Laura Cococcia

This is a guest post from Laura Cococcia from The Journal Of Cultural Conversation. Laura is a genius who used to work for Google. Today she has saved you from the unformed half-wittery I was about to publish this morning. Someone please ask her about her singing group. I wasn’t brave enough.


Mental Floss Presents Condensed Knowledge: A Deliciously Irreverent Guide to Feeling Smart Again


At my singing group last week, one of my fellow singers said that The Police was his favorite band until he found out that the song “Every Breath You Take” is really a song about a guy stalking his ex-girlfriend. And that Sting admitted it.

Source? Mental Floss Presents Condensed Knowledge: A Deliciously Irreverent Guide to Feeling Smart Again. And all this time I thought it was a love song.

As I get older, my brain gets mushier. It was high time I brushed up on something to stay useful in this world.

But, I’d be lying if I said that Mental Floss is a veritable encyclopedia.

It’s even better.

In summary, it lists 15 categories of information (from performing arts to geography to economics), that include short summaries of accurate knowledge in a flippant tone.

Condensed Knowledge is what I call a Coffee Table book.

But don’t just leave it on the coffee table. Pick it up and read something new once a day. Invite friends over and quiz each other. Or if you have no friends, you can quiz yourself.

Here are a few fun facts that I learned by reading the book:

1. Sigmund Freud was an unabashed cocaine advocate who regularly shared it with his sisters, friends and patients (page 295).

2. There are as many chess games as particles in the universe (page 92).

3. Somalia isn’t really a country; its classification as one is a mistake on most world maps (page 108).

4. A human is born with 300 bones, but the number of bones you have as an adult is 206. (where did they go?) (page 96).

5. The jaw breaking, multi-syllabic word “anacephaleaosis” simply means “recap.” (page 162).

There you have it. Maybe you guys are smarter than me and knew this stuff already. If not, now you know five new things to impress your friends and dates.

If you want to know more, you’ll have to get the book. Hopefully we can all be collectively smarter in the next few months.

Laura Cococcia works in global advertising and is the editor of The Journal of Cultural Conversation. An NYC resident, she is a voracious reader, obsessed traveler, committed foodie, and aspiring author. You can follow Laura and TJCC on Twitter.


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Laura Cococcia August 13, 2009, 8:00 am

    Who’s better than you? Hardly a genius compared to to you 🙂 Love your site, Josh – I think I come over here at least 3 times a day. Does that qualify as an addiction?

    • Josh Hanagarne August 13, 2009, 8:08 am

      Laura, it is a superior addiction. Congrats to us two enlightened junkies.

  • Casey August 13, 2009, 10:17 am

    Laura, so is the MentalFloss book related to the website? aka where I spend my lunch breaks?

  • Jessica Marie August 13, 2009, 10:42 am

    Somalia isn’t a country? That’s it; I am forced to find this book for myself.

    On another note, when is the next post in the “How to Have Tourette’s” series? I’m still waiting for the post about meeting and dating your wife.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 13, 2009, 10:45 am

      Jessica Marie, “How To Have Tourette’s” is on hiatus while my agent tries to sell the book proposal. The model online is “give everything away for free and watch the goodwill pour in!” Publishers aren’t looking at it quite the same way. Soon!

  • Laura Cococcia August 13, 2009, 11:18 am

    Hey Casey – yep, that’s the right Mental Floss – I literally could get sucked into that site for hours. If you love those folks, you’ll love this book – I promise.

    Hi Jessica Marie – yes, it isn’t, but I had no idea! Definitely amazed at the things I learned (and I did use a couple of those nuggets on a date once to look really smart). I don’t think he cared, but I tried 🙂

  • Daisy August 13, 2009, 7:41 pm

    Hm. This would be a major step up from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.

    As for Sting, I read that tidbit (the stalker aspect) in his autobiography. It’s a great read, by the way!

  • Laura Cococcia August 13, 2009, 8:05 pm

    Hey Daisy! Definitely a step up – and I’m glad someone else knew about Sting! I guess I might have been living under a rock for awhile, but learning something new every day. Thanks for commenting!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 13, 2009, 9:02 pm

      Laura and Daisy. The other thing I know about that song is that it mentions Nabokov by way of Lolita. Are there any other songs in the world that mention Nabokov? Or that don’t rhyme it with cough if so?

      • Josh Hanagarne August 13, 2009, 9:02 pm

        Rose, I’m going to tell my wife about the cookbook journal. She will absolutely love that. My sister too, she manages a kitchen store and thinks of nothing but recipes and spices, to the neglect of their husbands and brothers:)