Monday, August 2, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History by Adam Selzer

Funny, clever, informative, readable, intriguing, irreverent, and fascinating.

Those are a few of the words that come to mind after reading Adam Selzer's Smart Aleck's Guide to American History. From the western discovery of America and more or less successful attempts at colonization to major wars, world history, and the present day, this accessible book is packed full of humor and smart stuff. Debunked myths, new views on historical figures, and more will intrigue even the non-history buff. The narrative is split into manageable section with plenty of photographs, art, lists, facts, and mini-biographies. Each chapter ends with a parody of history textbooks' quizzes and questions, mixing absurd multiple choice quizzes with definitely smart aleck essay questions. The introduction includes a list of all the contributors and there is a detailed index. No further reading or bibliographies are included (unless I had a blank moment and missed them) but there are frequent references to the website,, which is incorporated as a blog. It contains supplementary material and more hilarity, including "assignments" posted in response to the end of chapter quizzes.

Verdict: For every teenager who suspects there may be more to history than what she sees in her textbook. Or anyone who wonders if history is really supposed to be that boring? Reading this book certainly won't endear most high school students to their social studies teachers, but it will certainly get more kids interested in history!

ISBN: 978-0385736503; Published December 2009 by Delacorte; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

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