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In the great tradition of the American almanac, The Areas of My Expertise is a brilliant and hilarious compendium of handy reference tables, fascinating trivia, and sage wisdom on all topics large and small. Although bestsellers such as Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Book of Lists were certainly valuable, they also were largely true. Here is a different kind of handy desk In the great tradition of the American almanac, The Areas of My Expertise is a brilliant and hilarious compendium of handy reference tables, fascinating trivia, and sage wisdom on all topics large and small. Although bestsellers such as Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Book of Lists were certainly valuable, they also were largely true. Here is a different kind of handy desk reference, one in which all of the historical oddities and amazing true facts are sifted through the singular, illuminating imagination of John Hodgman—which is the nice way of saying: He made it all up. John Hodgman brings his considerable expertise to bear in answering all of the questions book buyers have been asking: -What are the mottoes of the 51 United States? THE ANSWER IS PROVIDED -Who were the U.S. presidents who had hooks for hands? THE ANSWER IS PROVIDED -What role does the Yale secret society “Skull and Bones” play in the secret world government? THERE IS NO SECRET WORLD GOVERNMENT -What was the menu at the first Thanksgiving, and did it include eels? Technically, that is two questions, but do not apologize, for John Hodgman shall answer them both... LATER. -Aside from a compendium of fake trivia, what is the best kind of book to write? A SIMPLE TABLE OF THE 55 MOST DRAMATIC LITERARY SITUATIONS PROVIDES THE ANSWER, and John Hodgman is the author of that table. Imagine if The Book of Lists had been rewritten by Peter Cook and Jorge Luis Borges under the pseudonym of “John Hodgman” and then renamed The Areas of My Expertise, and you will only begin to have a sense of the dizzying, uproarious, sublimely weird, and strangely wise journey that is contained within this book (along with all the pages and words). Perfect for anyone who thirsts for knowledge, and especially for collectors of books of fake trivia, The Areas of My Expertise offers through absurdity a better understanding of the world we share—and recognizes that while the truth may be stranger than fiction, it is never as strange as lies...or as true.


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In the great tradition of the American almanac, The Areas of My Expertise is a brilliant and hilarious compendium of handy reference tables, fascinating trivia, and sage wisdom on all topics large and small. Although bestsellers such as Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Book of Lists were certainly valuable, they also were largely true. Here is a different kind of handy desk In the great tradition of the American almanac, The Areas of My Expertise is a brilliant and hilarious compendium of handy reference tables, fascinating trivia, and sage wisdom on all topics large and small. Although bestsellers such as Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Book of Lists were certainly valuable, they also were largely true. Here is a different kind of handy desk reference, one in which all of the historical oddities and amazing true facts are sifted through the singular, illuminating imagination of John Hodgman—which is the nice way of saying: He made it all up. John Hodgman brings his considerable expertise to bear in answering all of the questions book buyers have been asking: -What are the mottoes of the 51 United States? THE ANSWER IS PROVIDED -Who were the U.S. presidents who had hooks for hands? THE ANSWER IS PROVIDED -What role does the Yale secret society “Skull and Bones” play in the secret world government? THERE IS NO SECRET WORLD GOVERNMENT -What was the menu at the first Thanksgiving, and did it include eels? Technically, that is two questions, but do not apologize, for John Hodgman shall answer them both... LATER. -Aside from a compendium of fake trivia, what is the best kind of book to write? A SIMPLE TABLE OF THE 55 MOST DRAMATIC LITERARY SITUATIONS PROVIDES THE ANSWER, and John Hodgman is the author of that table. Imagine if The Book of Lists had been rewritten by Peter Cook and Jorge Luis Borges under the pseudonym of “John Hodgman” and then renamed The Areas of My Expertise, and you will only begin to have a sense of the dizzying, uproarious, sublimely weird, and strangely wise journey that is contained within this book (along with all the pages and words). Perfect for anyone who thirsts for knowledge, and especially for collectors of books of fake trivia, The Areas of My Expertise offers through absurdity a better understanding of the world we share—and recognizes that while the truth may be stranger than fiction, it is never as strange as lies...or as true.

30 review for The Areas of My Expertise

  1. 5 out of 5

    Freyja Quinn

    The audiobook is the only way to truly enjoy Areas of My Expertise. You really have to get this. It's in the audiobook section, misfiled under non-fiction. Notable to the audiobook: * John Hodgman reads the whole book * Jonathan Coulton plays music (incl. State Songs!) * A Bonus CD of John Hodgman reading all 700 hobo names with Jonathan Coulton playing music the entire time. * "Were You Aware Of It?" interludes * Guests * Asides from John Hodgman

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    God. I was fucking bored out of my mind by this book. The only thing that was remotely entertaining was the chapter on hobos, and that's mostly because I think the word "hobo" is hilarious. Too f-ing precious, and, as Katie (who also hated it) said, "Why would I read un-funny fake facts when I could read real facts?"

  3. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    I dunno, maybe I just shouldn't read humour. American humour anyway - British humour I am perfectly capable of sitting down and reading and laughing my ass off. But most American humour, in written form? Not so much. At most, there's a wry smile, a "that was kinda fun." I'm quite sure it would be different if I'd heard this read aloud, which people told me (too late) was the way to read Bossypants. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and e I dunno, maybe I just shouldn't read humour. American humour anyway - British humour I am perfectly capable of sitting down and reading and laughing my ass off. But most American humour, in written form? Not so much. At most, there's a wry smile, a "that was kinda fun." I'm quite sure it would be different if I'd heard this read aloud, which people told me (too late) was the way to read Bossypants. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  4. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    This book has quite a few moments of pure genius, and some moments of not so funny, although pretty clever ideas. In the McSweeney's realm of humor, and like most of the McSweeney's humor when it works it's really funny, but sometimes you feel like your on the outside of an injoke.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Glen Engel-Cox

    I acquired this book through our book club gift exchange and, although I had never heard of it before, thought it would be an interesting read, and it came recommended by some of the members of the club. I tended to read it before going to sleep every night, and perhaps that affected my opinion of it, but in comparison to the other book I was currently reading, the latest novel by Joe Keenan, its humor felt to me either so understated as to be missing or so forced as to be strained. The list of I acquired this book through our book club gift exchange and, although I had never heard of it before, thought it would be an interesting read, and it came recommended by some of the members of the club. I tended to read it before going to sleep every night, and perhaps that affected my opinion of it, but in comparison to the other book I was currently reading, the latest novel by Joe Keenan, its humor felt to me either so understated as to be missing or so forced as to be strained. The list of 700 hobos was probably the best "bit" in the book, and it suffered from what I term Saturday Night Live Syndrome 1: that is, not knowing when or how to end a skit. (For the record, SNL Syndrome 2 is having the people in every skit talk to the camera, typically as if they were on a cable TV talk show. Both of these are more true of 1990s-2000s SNL than the original years. Today's SNL would have John Belushi as the host of a cable TV show called Samurai Fill-in-the-Blank every week. But I digress.) Some would say that the very excess of the hobo names are what makes it humorous, and maybe it's better in the audiobook version, but simply reading the names ad nauseum was more soporific than tickling. What I did find amusing, however, was the "voice" of the book, as Hodgman chose to be the ultimate voice of authority, but for some parallel world in which only he lives. Like Borges's classic short story, "Tlon Uqbar Orbis Tertius," some of what Hodgman describes here is verging so close to the truth, but not quite there, that it doesn't seem too hard to believe, and thus make real. Hodgman seems an ambitious enough humorist, and while I didn't care for this book so much, I'd be willing to give him another try in the future.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    There are very few books that make me laugh out loud. I blame much of this on my sense of humor - since I tend towards nonsense and bizarre humor, most books just leave me cold. And then came John Hodgman. Better known as the 'PC Guy' from Apple commercials, Hodgman gave an interview on NPR several months ago. He was freakin' hilarious. Part of his hilarity stemmed from his combination of entirely serious Pythonesque (well, Chapman and Cleese-esque) delivery, and part stemmed from the seemingly ra There are very few books that make me laugh out loud. I blame much of this on my sense of humor - since I tend towards nonsense and bizarre humor, most books just leave me cold. And then came John Hodgman. Better known as the 'PC Guy' from Apple commercials, Hodgman gave an interview on NPR several months ago. He was freakin' hilarious. Part of his hilarity stemmed from his combination of entirely serious Pythonesque (well, Chapman and Cleese-esque) delivery, and part stemmed from the seemingly random topics of his research. For instance, hobo studies. This book is just chock full of goodness. It's like one of those Bathroom Reader books on drugs. Funny stuff for smart folks, or folks who want to seem smart when they bring up hobo studies at parties.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    I love John Hodgman on The Daily Show. His laid-back manner, dry wit, droll deliverly and ""expert"" schtick are a perfect match for that show. However, I have to say that I can't bring myself to read more than a few pages of ""The Areas of My Expertise"" the book. The humor just doesn't work for me on the printed page. The random-ish juxtapositions come across as forced rather than funny. The repeated references to warewolves and hoboes seem less like Hodgman has a theme and more like he's runn I love John Hodgman on The Daily Show. His laid-back manner, dry wit, droll deliverly and ""expert"" schtick are a perfect match for that show. However, I have to say that I can't bring myself to read more than a few pages of ""The Areas of My Expertise"" the book. The humor just doesn't work for me on the printed page. The random-ish juxtapositions come across as forced rather than funny. The repeated references to warewolves and hoboes seem less like Hodgman has a theme and more like he's running out of material. Who knows, I may pick this book up again in a few months and fall in love with it, but right now it just seems like a waste of time, and i can't bring myself to read much of it. Maybe I can find a copy of the audiobook; hearing Hodgman's droll delivery, I think, might make all the difference.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I remember reading the cover of Areas of My Expertise when it was first released and being skeptical, unsure if I like Hodgman's tone. Not really knowing who he was, I couldn't tell if his snobbiness was serious. But the text on the cover led me inside the book and soon it was clear: Hodgman was my kind of snob, and I fell in love. I read most of it at work and probably should have been fired for my overt laziness, but luckily the economy was slow and I was ostensibly in charge, so I could read I remember reading the cover of Areas of My Expertise when it was first released and being skeptical, unsure if I like Hodgman's tone. Not really knowing who he was, I couldn't tell if his snobbiness was serious. But the text on the cover led me inside the book and soon it was clear: Hodgman was my kind of snob, and I fell in love. I read most of it at work and probably should have been fired for my overt laziness, but luckily the economy was slow and I was ostensibly in charge, so I could read with impunity. And I did. This is the best book of false information I have ever read, and contains some of the funniest tables and charts ever conceived. I have not seen all the comedic charts and tables created throughout human history, but I'm sure I've seen the best. Further, there are parts of the book that are both hilarious and poignant – the story of Ar, our 51st state, and the Woman Ninja Con come to mind. Hodgman might be goofing around, but the method of his goofing is excellent writing. The audiobook edition is all the excellent parts of the "paste and page" edition plus added material like songs by Jonathan Coulton, a guest appearance by Paul Rudd, and banter between Jonathan and John. Hodgman reads his book exactly as it needs to be read, dry and deadpan, with the subtlest pedantic emphasis here and there when the need arises. As vital a purchase as the book itself, and definitely louder.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shauna

    Silly, funny, and not to be taken too seriously. I did get a little bored at some points (a list of 700 hobo nicknames is quite a lot) but I admire the author's commitment to a bit (see: 700 hobo nicknames).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hollowspine

    Of the many books of world knowledge I have read, The Areas of My Expertise was by far the most daring, truthful and also the only book of world knowledge that I have read. Many truths are unveiled, mysteries revealed and forgotten bits of knowledge brought once more into the light. Some of the useful information, which I will no doubt be constantly referring, include, the phases of wolf-man transformation, hobo signs, and state mottos. I have heard that some believe this book to be a hoax, or s Of the many books of world knowledge I have read, The Areas of My Expertise was by far the most daring, truthful and also the only book of world knowledge that I have read. Many truths are unveiled, mysteries revealed and forgotten bits of knowledge brought once more into the light. Some of the useful information, which I will no doubt be constantly referring, include, the phases of wolf-man transformation, hobo signs, and state mottos. I have heard that some believe this book to be a hoax, or some sort of humorous joke. These people, no doubt, are working for those who wish that true world knowledge remain secret. Hodgman himself, may give this impression, and I believe wrote the book to reveal to his hobo comrades that the time to overthrow the government has come once again. This theory was confirmed to me when he signed my book at the Fitzgerald theatre and placed upon the title page the hobo sign signaling that very action. I do not know if Hodgman mistakenly wrote the sign due to weariness or due to my name, Sharky Sharp-Tooth Woodwittler, thought that I was one of his hobo generals. I would recommend this book for anyone who likes history, truth, and books of lists. Also hobos. That is all.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    While I was reading John Hodgman's almanac of made-up trivia, I kept on expecting myself to get tired of the "joke" (man makes up a book of fake trivia, har har har), but I was mildly surprised to find that I never did. On the contrary, I can witness to the fact that The Areas of My Expertise is sustainedly, side-splittingly funny from beginning to end. From the LYCANTHROPIC TRANSFORMATION TIMETABLES at the beginning of every chapter (Second Seventh: the efficacy of the taming love of a pure wom While I was reading John Hodgman's almanac of made-up trivia, I kept on expecting myself to get tired of the "joke" (man makes up a book of fake trivia, har har har), but I was mildly surprised to find that I never did. On the contrary, I can witness to the fact that The Areas of My Expertise is sustainedly, side-splittingly funny from beginning to end. From the LYCANTHROPIC TRANSFORMATION TIMETABLES at the beginning of every chapter (Second Seventh: the efficacy of the taming love of a pure woman is "waning"), to the section on WHAT YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT HOBOES (featuring the secret history of hoboes in America, plus 700 hobo names, plus 100 more in an appendix), to the description of the fifty-first state, Hohoq/Ar (whose substance was used, along with that of Kansas, to produce the state known as Arkansas), there is never a dull moment in the entire book. Fortunately, since one book of this kind could never satisfy (even though, at the time of its publication, it contained COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE), Hodgman is hard at work on its sequel (More Information than You Require) and has promised a third volume as well (That Is All).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mark Rayner

    I learned several important things from The Areas of My Expertise: * it is possible to sell a book of total nonsense * one can put a funny spin on The Great Depression * I should be more suspicious of the large black squirrel population in my home town. I was mildly disappointed that there wasn't more about pirates in this thing encyclopedia of total world knowledge. Apart from that, I would say that this is not a book to be missed, even if it is a little heavy on the hobos. I learned several important things from The Areas of My Expertise: * it is possible to sell a book of total nonsense * one can put a funny spin on The Great Depression * I should be more suspicious of the large black squirrel population in my home town. I was mildly disappointed that there wasn't more about pirates in this thing encyclopedia of total world knowledge. Apart from that, I would say that this is not a book to be missed, even if it is a little heavy on the hobos.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael P. Fertig

    I was really looking forward to reading this book. I was looking forward to the random humor I often enjoy, but found it to be more annoying than anything. It was after the fact that I realized I approached it the wrong way. I thought everything in the book would sort of be connected somehow. But it's really nothing more than a bathroom book. Pick it up when you feel like it, read a random passage about whatever, put it down, wash your hands, and carry on with your day.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Keyton

    Very funny in small doses.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarospice

    If you're interested in all John Hodgeman knows as an expert this will give you a giggle but be warned WAY TOO MUCH hobo stuff.

  16. 4 out of 5

    LeeAnne

    Funny, wordy, bizarre. Also very funny and clever. And funny.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Reed Hansen

    I loved the extensive details about hobo lore and the 700 hobo names. I've been to the Hobo museum in Britt, Iowa!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ericka Clouther

    I read this because my husband owns the book but sadly I didn't think it was as funny as he did. This might be might fault, I think some of the jokes flew right over my head. I like the fictional almanac concept. I always thought almanacs were really weird (though appealing in their weirdness) and Hodgman basically uses roasting the almanac as his humor vehicle here. I especially liked the literature jokes, but the hobo section was extensive, as was the states section. The book relied a lot on ta I read this because my husband owns the book but sadly I didn't think it was as funny as he did. This might be might fault, I think some of the jokes flew right over my head. I like the fictional almanac concept. I always thought almanacs were really weird (though appealing in their weirdness) and Hodgman basically uses roasting the almanac as his humor vehicle here. I especially liked the literature jokes, but the hobo section was extensive, as was the states section. The book relied a lot on tables and long lists (700 hobo names for example). Just wow.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Summerstay

    This was the perfect book to read in bed as it seems to be formatted to entertain squirrels with ADHD. My favourite section was the treatise on common cons. My friends and I have since tried to perform these cons with only scattered successes. Also of note are the 700 hobo names contained herein, my immediate goto for names in any of my writing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pris robichaud

    Random, Fascinating and Utterly Unreliable Information, 22 Oct 2006 "An almanac of random, fascinating and utterly unreliable information -- Hodgman has the gift of being outrageously but quietly convincing. He begins at the absolute outer edge of credibility and, as if he is holding your hand, walks you over the edge into a very funny mix of reality and nonsense. Take hobos, for instance -- or as Hodgman refers to it, the "hobo movement in the United States." He discusses at length hobo hiero Random, Fascinating and Utterly Unreliable Information, 22 Oct 2006 "An almanac of random, fascinating and utterly unreliable information -- Hodgman has the gift of being outrageously but quietly convincing. He begins at the absolute outer edge of credibility and, as if he is holding your hand, walks you over the edge into a very funny mix of reality and nonsense. Take hobos, for instance -- or as Hodgman refers to it, the "hobo movement in the United States." He discusses at length hobo hieroglyphics, the only hobo Cabinet member in U.S. history and Walker Evans, who Hodgman describes as being a secret agent posing as a photographer in order to assassinate prominent hobo leaders." NPR John Hodgman tells us that there has only been one murder in the history of the space shuttle. This took place in 1984. The astronaut, the planner, the engineer, the cocktail waitress and the librarian were all suspects. I cannot tell you who did commit the murder, but it is well known. He discusses hunting and cooking your own polar bear steaks. Julia Child knew this subject well. Also a chapter on Daves Ultra Hot Hot Hot Sauce-which are packaged in little coffins and promises your death. These little known and untrue facts are yours for the asking. These and so many other subjects that would take me all day to discuss are told in amazing detail by John Hodgman. Each chapter has its own charm, or well, its own place. This is not a book for children. There are obscene words and stories and facts that children would not understand. In fact, there were some parts of this book I did not understand, but, all in all, it had me in stitches from one chapter to the next. The author works for television "The Daily Show' and appears on NPR"s "This American Life". John Hodgman is a graduate of Yale, and is a former literary agent. It appears he was so humorous that he needed to take his humor to an audience who would appreciate him. This book is so amusing you may not be able to read it in one sitting; less you disable yourself from being doubled-over with laughter. "And while Hodgman may hope as we leaf through the pages, we will gain a better understanding of the world - "perhaps not the world exactly as it is today, but as it may be someday" - one will undoubtedly come away baffled by how such madness can be spun so clear-headedly. Perhaps, though, the only way to truly describe "The Areas of My Expertise" lies in Hodgman's final words: that is all. " Book Review For those of you who appreciate humour- highly recommended. prisrob 10-21-06

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    John Hodgman, he of the Daily Show and the Mac/PC ads, is a funny guy to be sure. His essay on his home state of Massachusetts in "State by State" is clever and well-written, and when I saw him interviewed by Tom Perrotta at the Boston Book Festival, Hodgman was hilarious, quick-witted and off the cuff. His first book, "The Areas of My Expertise", reflects that sense of humor, although not as well as in person. "Expertise" is itself an odd compendium; it is, as Hodgman puts it, "a collection of f John Hodgman, he of the Daily Show and the Mac/PC ads, is a funny guy to be sure. His essay on his home state of Massachusetts in "State by State" is clever and well-written, and when I saw him interviewed by Tom Perrotta at the Boston Book Festival, Hodgman was hilarious, quick-witted and off the cuff. His first book, "The Areas of My Expertise", reflects that sense of humor, although not as well as in person. "Expertise" is itself an odd compendium; it is, as Hodgman puts it, "a collection of fake trivia". Basically it's a compilation of lists, charts, and short articles of data that Hodgman has made up. As you might expect from the author, the humor is dry and often absurdist, which is typically in my wheelhouse. Unfortunately, it's pretty hit-or-miss. He does well when twisting an old theme; a hotel tipping chart starts off with advice on concierge and bellboy gratuities, and then goes onto magicians, lullabyists, and the differences between regular and 'feral' turn-down service (the latter involves leaves and twigs in place of bedding). He also explains to the reader how to win a fight (including, among other tactics, attack ads in which you accuse your opponent of masturbating out of windows). But for every winning entry, there seems to be a gag that goes on way too long; Hodgman draws out recurrent tangents on werewolves, prophets, and squirrels past their breaking points. And he is positively obsessed with hobos; hobo names like "Illinois Obama" and "Yum Yum Sinclair Snowball Eater" are funny, but do we need 700 of them? This is certainly more of a bathroom reader than a piece to be read straight-through, and I did laugh out loud a few times, but ultimately even a book to be paged through randomly should have a higher ratio of funny bits, especially if it's already on the slender side. Perhaps Hodgman works best in small doses, and perhaps his follow-up book "More Information Than You Require" is stronger. But after seeing the man in person and reading some of his other writing, I was expecting more from this collection.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Hodgman’s book is described as “an almanac of complete world knowledge compiled with instructive annotation and arranged in useful order.” Funny and intelligent, Hodgman plays on the book’s theme and contradicts it considering the one book cannot possible contain all of the world’s information. Not only that, everything in it is absolutely false. Essays concerning topics such as the New World Government being propped by Yale University, the hobo war against United States during Franklin D. Roose Hodgman’s book is described as “an almanac of complete world knowledge compiled with instructive annotation and arranged in useful order.” Funny and intelligent, Hodgman plays on the book’s theme and contradicts it considering the one book cannot possible contain all of the world’s information. Not only that, everything in it is absolutely false. Essays concerning topics such as the New World Government being propped by Yale University, the hobo war against United States during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, and the history of the mysterious 51st state of the U.S. are all incredibly smart and intricately detailed. It is obvious the jokes are based on some semblance of fact and offer tongue-in-cheek in-jokes for people aware of the source material. For example, in an essay detailing the history of each state in the U.S., references to specific locations and figures that aren’t immediately known to a general audience are referenced in absurd and clever ways. The first part of an almanac trilogy, “The Ares of My Expertise” is a delightful introduction to the style and humor of John Hodgman. Hodgman can best be described as a character comedian. I first became aware of Hodgman through his guest spots on “The Daily Show with John Stewart.” During these guest pieces, Hodgman played the role of exceedingly wealthy and eccentric billionaire with no common sense or regard for the common man. His projected lifestyle was both outlandish and cartoonish in a delightful way that satirized the obnoxiously academic and rich members of our society. Published in 2005, “The Areas of My Expertise” is an early incarnation of Hodgman’s comedic persona. In it, Hodgman is a former literary publisher who advises the reader on how to publish a book and what such a book can include. From then, Hodgman present information and anecdotes that suggests he is privy to such valuable and secretive information that he has chosen to publish for a profit. While the current isn’t fleshed out all the way, you can definitely sense the beginning of the character’s development.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Incredulous Harrumpherous

    This was hard to get through at some points. The moments of amusement caused me to giggle a quick, surprised giggle and then I was quickly over it. The book is strange and tries to inject political and geographical humor that would be hard to understand if you weren't somewhat aware of the truths regarding these things. I will probably never listen to it again, well, maybe just the minute long sections on NJ and ME because I can kind of relate to them and they were giggle inducing. Oh yeah, and the This was hard to get through at some points. The moments of amusement caused me to giggle a quick, surprised giggle and then I was quickly over it. The book is strange and tries to inject political and geographical humor that would be hard to understand if you weren't somewhat aware of the truths regarding these things. I will probably never listen to it again, well, maybe just the minute long sections on NJ and ME because I can kind of relate to them and they were giggle inducing. Oh yeah, and there are some bizarrely, slightly amusing parts about exaggerated hobo lore. ~*~*~*~*~ I am listening to the audiobook version of this book, purchased online, not actual compact disc. I understand the compact disc version includes six (6) discs and were I listening to it by those means I would be nearly halfway through the second disc. This piece is comprised of ramblings, untruths staged as researched facts and interesting musical ditties played by another gentleman that has the occasional dialogue with John. The audiobook version is altered, shortened, sometimes seemingly impromptu and, I'm sure, just as strange as the book itself. John will get tired of reading or referencing portions of the book and tell you to refer to it yourself should you feel so inclined/be so interested. It is enjoyable and amusing. I'm interested in how it turns out, what with it having no actual beginning, middle or end. At one point in the beginning John suggests you take all of the discs, throw them in the air and then play them at random as you grab. This is suggested as a means by which to further his insistence that you think for yourself and act on only your impulses... letting fate fall as it may.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Allisonperkel

    I really wanted to like this book. I think Mr Hodgman is hilarious on the Daily Show and I was hoping for some truly side splitting laughs. Plus he has a whole chapter on hobos and seems to have a werewolf fetish, how could this be bad? He even mentions ninjas! Well, let me tell you, it is pretty bad. He makes hobos humorless. The book starts out well enough, but around the middle of the first chapter he states, clearly, that he is going to make almost everything up. Ok, that can work. However if I really wanted to like this book. I think Mr Hodgman is hilarious on the Daily Show and I was hoping for some truly side splitting laughs. Plus he has a whole chapter on hobos and seems to have a werewolf fetish, how could this be bad? He even mentions ninjas! Well, let me tell you, it is pretty bad. He makes hobos humorless. The book starts out well enough, but around the middle of the first chapter he states, clearly, that he is going to make almost everything up. Ok, that can work. However if you are going to make it up, you best have some type of grounding. You need to pull in things that relate but are not quite right. You can't simply pull in the kitchen sink and hope for the best. Simply making up things like the Hobo King and the Hobo war on America aren't inherently funny. Describing hobos as if they were subhumans also isn't helping with the laughter. Nor does saying that FDR put the polio virus into the water in order to stop the hobo army. This really wasn't funny. Making Chicago a mythical city that rises from the water also isn't funny. It makes no sense. If you are lying simply to lie, the humor tends to get lost. I don't think this fact got into the equation for this book. Take for example the funniest line in the book. This line takes place in the last section on the states and talks about how Idaho and Oregon tried to form a super state - Or-Ida. Now that was hilarious since it had some grounding. The ninja section was also funny in a haha kind of way. There were a few funny tables towards the front but the laughs, small as they were, were few and far between. The book was disappointing. I still love Mr Hodgman on TV but I don't think I'll read any more of his written works.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I remember reading the cover of Areas of My Expertise when it was first released and being skeptical, unsure if I liked Hodgman's tone. Not really knowing who he was, I couldn't tell if his snobbiness was serious. But the text on the cover led me inside the book and soon it was clear: Hodgman was my kind of snob, and I fell in love. I read most of it at work and probably should have been fired for my overt laziness, but luckily the economy was slow and I was ostensibly in charge, so I could read I remember reading the cover of Areas of My Expertise when it was first released and being skeptical, unsure if I liked Hodgman's tone. Not really knowing who he was, I couldn't tell if his snobbiness was serious. But the text on the cover led me inside the book and soon it was clear: Hodgman was my kind of snob, and I fell in love. I read most of it at work and probably should have been fired for my overt laziness, but luckily the economy was slow and I was ostensibly in charge, so I could read with impunity. And I did. This is the best book of false information I have ever read, and contains some of the funniest tables and charts ever conceived. I have not seen all the comedic charts and tables created throughout human history, but I'm sure I've seen the best. Further, there are parts of the book that are both hilarious and poignant – the story of Ar, our 51st state, and the Woman Ninja Con come to mind. Hodgman might be goofing around, but the method of his goofing is excellent writing. The audiobook edition is all the excellent parts of the "paste and page" edition plus added material like songs by Jonathan Coulton, a guest appearance by Paul Rudd, and banter between Jonathan and John. Hodgman reads his book exactly as it needs to be read, dry and deadpan, with the subtlest pedantic emphasis here and there when the need arises. As vital a purchase as the book itself, and definitely louder.

  26. 4 out of 5

    James

    John Hodgman is my new hero, and this book pretends to be nothing but what the title tells you. And Hodgman, as anyone who has scene his appearances on the "Daily Show" can attest, is indeed an expert in any field he feels worthy to tell you he is an expert about. I must admire the perfect circular reasoning at play here. In his own description of the book in the introduction, he tells us: "As it is our common destiny to become that which we most loathe, so I have become that most wretched and p John Hodgman is my new hero, and this book pretends to be nothing but what the title tells you. And Hodgman, as anyone who has scene his appearances on the "Daily Show" can attest, is indeed an expert in any field he feels worthy to tell you he is an expert about. I must admire the perfect circular reasoning at play here. In his own description of the book in the introduction, he tells us: "As it is our common destiny to become that which we most loathe, so I have become that most wretched and predictable thing, a PROFESSIONAL WRITER....I have gone and written a book. Believe me, this was the last thing I wanted to do and, I suspect, the last thing you wanted as well. But I think we both knew it was inevitable." Among his expertise listed here is an extensive tract on the habits and history of Hobos, basics of snow and ice warfare, and what you did not know about the past--not to mention the secrets of Yale University. What you do not find here, unfortunately, is wonderful vitriol aimed at Rachel Ray, I person he hates so much she cannot be mentioned between these covers. Some things are best left for loud barrooms and conversations over whiskey.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Clinton

    This is by far one of the most random, bizarre, and yet still funny books I've ever read. Hodgman (the PC from those "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" commercials) has written an almanac, in the old Benjamin Franklin style. The catch is: everything is completely made up. He talks about the discovery of the furry lobster, and recounts how hobos took over the country for several years at the middle of the 19th century. I know, it doesn't sound like it makes any sense, and that's because IT DOESN'T. If you This is by far one of the most random, bizarre, and yet still funny books I've ever read. Hodgman (the PC from those "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" commercials) has written an almanac, in the old Benjamin Franklin style. The catch is: everything is completely made up. He talks about the discovery of the furry lobster, and recounts how hobos took over the country for several years at the middle of the 19th century. I know, it doesn't sound like it makes any sense, and that's because IT DOESN'T. If you could take the randomness of a Douglas Adams book and combine it with the journalistic integrity of Dave Barry, and then somehow make it even more bizarre, you'd have something approaching this book. But here's the catch - it's still kind of funny. You get to reading, and you just sit there and shake your head because none of it makes any sense, but you keep reading, and the sheer ridiculousness starts to get to you. When you're reading his 400-entry list of hobo names, you start giggling once you get past the first hundred. This book is NOT for everyone. You've got to be in a mood for something well-written but completely silly.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This is definitely a case where shelling out for the CD edition pays off. Hodgman's deadpan, uber-serious vocal style transmutes his wickedly funny prose into something magical. Also not to be missed are the song stylings of the great Jonathan Coulton, acting here in his capacity as the audiobook's formerly feral "official troubador" (feel more than free to check out his free songs at www.jonathancoulton.com). Things I learned from this book: ----The hobo sign for "If you hide in the bushes of th This is definitely a case where shelling out for the CD edition pays off. Hodgman's deadpan, uber-serious vocal style transmutes his wickedly funny prose into something magical. Also not to be missed are the song stylings of the great Jonathan Coulton, acting here in his capacity as the audiobook's formerly feral "official troubador" (feel more than free to check out his free songs at www.jonathancoulton.com). Things I learned from this book: ----The hobo sign for "If you hide in the bushes of this house, the dog will rise up on its hind legs and whisper secrets" ----The location of the OTHER Walden Pond, in Minnesota's Mall of America. ----The obscure history of the great, migrating US State of Ar, more properly known as Hohok, parts of which were combined with parts of Kansas to form a new state . . . ----The fact that no such place as the fabled "City of Chicago" does now, nor ever did exist. Give it a listen. If you're anywhere near as tweaked as me, you'll find yourself laughing so hard you collapse to the ground in a spasming puddle of glee.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I've seen this guy on The Daily Show a few times, and every time I nearly soil myself laughing. If you don't know John Hodgman, he's currently playing the PC in the "PC vs Mac" commercials that are all over the airwaves right now. He has a completely guileless face, and delivers his words with a tone that conveys the innocent delivery of common sense wisdom, like he cannot conceive of anyone disbelieving what he's telling us. This is true, even when he says that the state motto of Oregon is "In Or I've seen this guy on The Daily Show a few times, and every time I nearly soil myself laughing. If you don't know John Hodgman, he's currently playing the PC in the "PC vs Mac" commercials that are all over the airwaves right now. He has a completely guileless face, and delivers his words with a tone that conveys the innocent delivery of common sense wisdom, like he cannot conceive of anyone disbelieving what he's telling us. This is true, even when he says that the state motto of Oregon is "In Oregon, Where the Shadows Lie," and that only President Polk's geographimancers were able to wrestle it into its current borders, or that "Man Versus Cyborg" is one of the five fundamental conflicts in literature. This is the kind of book that will make other people quietly get up and leave the room - mostly because of your cackling, but also because you will feel compelled to read aloud sections of the book to anyone in earshot. Trust me on this.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Snowden

    Completely hilarious. Absurd humor built on the author's comprehensive knowledge of American History. Hodgman claims that "Truth may be stranger than fiction, goes the old saw, but it is never as strange as lies. Or for that matter, as true" And proves it. I knew far more about Franz Boas and the Kwakiutl than anyone in my peer group after I read this book, and before I even knew that both of those things were real. The inventions of John Hodgman's mind are not only wildly entertaining, but I wo Completely hilarious. Absurd humor built on the author's comprehensive knowledge of American History. Hodgman claims that "Truth may be stranger than fiction, goes the old saw, but it is never as strange as lies. Or for that matter, as true" And proves it. I knew far more about Franz Boas and the Kwakiutl than anyone in my peer group after I read this book, and before I even knew that both of those things were real. The inventions of John Hodgman's mind are not only wildly entertaining, but I would go so far as to say that they impart a certain understanding of the world that The Areas of My Expertise would be an invaluable supplement to anyone's historical education. As the actor Paul Giamatti once said (paraphrased from memory) "A good conspiracy theory is like good sci-fi. It may not be true, but that's how things are"

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