"No way, you didn't just put a dictionary on your reading list, did you?"

Oh, yes, I did. And I read the whole thing straight through, too. Well, not the huge 50+page chapter on world geography.

I had heard about this book through some Reasons to Believe podcasts, where one person gets teased a bit because he reads things like this dictionary on vacation. Essentially, it's a collection of terms, people, and places that every American should at least know about in order to communicate effectively. At first, I thought I was going to be Mr. Super-Smart and keep a list of only the entries I didn't know or recognize. I had about 4-5 in the Bible section and a few more in Proverbs and Idioms. But then Mythology and Folklore hit, and I knew I was in trouble. I didn't know half of these things. Then we get to history (both World and US), of which I'm knowingly quite deficient. Whew, there was a lot to learn! At least the book ended with 'Technology' and I was back again up to 90-95% familiarity. In fact, I had some beef with some of his entries (for example, a megabyte is not a million bytes), which, I suppose, should make me question some of the rest of the dictionary. But it's not like I memorized it, or treat it as Gospel Truth. While I certainly couldn't go back through the book and say, "yeah, I know what all of those are now," I definitely did pick up quite a few new terms and names, as well as an extensive list of books / writings of which I'd like to familiarize myself with (some of which I've already written reviews for on here).

I'd really like to pick this up on a digital version (Kindle, likely), but since this edition is from 2002, I'm waiting until a next edition is hopefully published. Then it can get rid of some of these silly outdated expressions like "handheld computer" and get with the times (new roman!).