Wednesday 18 September 2013

Charles Panati, Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things

Charles Panati, Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things

Things are happening slowly in the Bookworm's Cave these days, for which I apologise.  Life has been hectic recently:  new jobs for me and mine, urgent family matters and a new hobby firing up my imagination.  To add insult to injury, I've hit a patch of really boring books, readable but only just. 

Touch wood, it looks like some free time is coming my way so the days of neglect are probably over now. :)

I wish I could start my outburst of blog activity with a rave, but unfortunately Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things does not merit such kudos.

First and foremost, I absolutely hate titles like Someone's Something.  The author's name is already on the cover, goddamnit, why on Earth would you want to put it there twice?  A bloated ego?  Some misguided marketing advice?  Nah, I'm not buying this, Mr Panati. 

The 'extraordinary' part is somewhat exaggerated, too.  What's so extraordinary about inventing a dishwasher?  A lawn mower?  A hand mixer?  An inventor wants to make some money and tinkers away in his garage until he finds something patent-worthy, end of story.  Where's the amazing part?  Sure, the book contains some good anecdotes, but when it comes to the 'wow factor' it's a definitive oversell.

Most of Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things is focused on modern inventions.  Items of ancient or medieval pedigree are far outnumbered by Victorian/early twentieth century innovations.  I'd prefer it the other way round but ok, that's just one girl's opinion. 

As to reliability - ouch.  I've found a good handful of factual mistakes, some of them pretty glaring, without looking too hard.  NOT a serious source of information, please double check every sentence before passing it on as true. 

If I were to pick one word to best describe Panati's creation, it would be 'tabloidish'.  Gossip, sensation, and lots of verbal photoshop. 

Having said all that, the book doesn't read too bad.  Easy on the brain, it's a bit repetitive but smooth.  I can wholeheartedly recommend it for bathroom literature.  One-sitting-size chapters are simply perfect for the job...

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