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Life's imponderables: The answers to civilization's most perplexing questions

1 rating: -2.0
A collecton of trivial questions by David Feldman
1 review about Life's imponderables: The answers to civilization's...

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  • Jul 19, 2014
Other than the fact that I review every book I read, I might have skipped writing a review of this omnibus collection of "Imponderables.". But I do review everything, and I also realized this review would provide a good opportunity to remind my review readers what makes a classic.

Feldman had established a pretty profitable niche in the reference section of your local bookstore and library with a series of books answering odd and inconsequential questions that seem either because of obscurity or tradition to be unanswerable.  When I saw this collection of three of the books under one cover at a book sale for $2 I picked it up.

And was instantly reminded of how much the world of information and technology has changed in less than a generation.  What were questions that made you go "Hmmmm" then are now things you google without thinking twice.  Are the answers from Google or Wikipedia searches  better than the ones here?  Maybe, due to the much broader reach of possible expertise (crowdsourcing being the popular technical term for that phenomenon), but one thing for sure the questions can be asked and answered far faster on a vastly larger range of questions than on any ink and paper format.  There are perhaps 500 questions answered in the 800 pages of the volume I just read, and Feldman acknowledges contributions and input from probably several thousand people.  Google records that many searches every nanosecond, and Wikipedia is build on the input of millions of contributors (and even the validation and verification of their contributions are crowdsourced).

A quick search of my local library system's catalog (in seconds from my tablet sitting on my front porch where I am writing this review) found that the most recent publication in Feldman's series was 2004.  Which would have been right about the time when my kids along with a whole generation would start to quickly answer any random question my wife or I would ask about trivia, history, or other "imponderables", not because they were suddenly smart, but because they instantly and seemingly instinctively understood the power of immediate information through an internet search.  Overnight the market for books like Feldman's was gone so that within less than 20 years the book sitting on the stand beside me is literally a waste of paper, which is my lowest book review rating reserved for the worst of the worst.

But I can't be so harsh on Imponderables.  I gave it a "waste of time" rating because while I really will throw it away (shelf space being too valuable here at home unlike at my local library system which still retains several of the series at some local branches) it did serve to remind me that I have read, kept, and cherished many books written decades and even centuries ago that are more timely than yesterday's newspaper.  Technology may quickly out date the sources of our information or how it is delivered, but technology can not create or out date  the information and ideas that make us human.  Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus, the Apostle Paul, Cervantes, De foe, Shakespeare, Cooper, Melville, Dumas, Hugo, Tolstoy, Dickens, Hardy, Dos Passos, Twain, writing from the perspectives of millienia and centuries and decades ago tell me more about who I am and why things are as they are than anything written yesterday or last week or last year.  These truly are classics and deserve every five star rating readers like myself post to lunch.com.

And they deserve your time and attention.  Find that copy of Moby Dick you never finished in English 101 and read it the whole way through this time.  You might find it is deep, and interesting, and even funny at times.    I wouldn't be surprised if you go to a book sale or used book store or the clearance table at your local Barnes and Noble you will find a copy of Moby Dick alongside of Life's Imponderables.  Buy them both.  Spend a few minutes with Imponderables.  The true classic will stay with you for life.

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July 21, 2014
I agree.
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