The Knowledge Book: Everything You Need to Know to Get by in the 21st Century Paperback – Sep 15 2009
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"...in its exuberance, design and coverage, more like a well-designed website than a traditional reference...feels remarkably complete."Kirkus
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Anyways, the content below addresses all of the issues raised by F.J. Logan in his review, as well as a couple of his own ERRORS, and points out other areas where the book has been MASSIVELY OVERHAULED. As it now stands, the Knowledge Book is truly one of National Geographic's best reference volumes, and well worth the purchase price. It's also a fair bit smaller dimensionally than it's predecessor, which is a boon to extended armchair enjoyment of the contents!
So, as I was saying to F.J. Logan (who'll likely never read it anyways):
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Having owned the hardcover for some time, and now the REVISED paperback edition, it absolutely MUST be stated that the paperback edition corrects many of the errors posted in F.J. Logan's smug review as well as in the the previous comments. It's unfortunate that Amazon, in one of their more egregious habits, attaches existing reviews for one book to ALL subsequent editions of that book, as they've done with this review and the 13 others that were posted for the original hardcover. Shame, really.
As to the errors (NONE of which make the book worthy of the 1-star review, and some of which aren't actually errors), here's some examples:
1. F.J. Logan says the book states "panda bears are predators although they are herbivores". In actuality, the taxonomic classification for the panda bear is CARNIVORAN, in spite of the fact that it's diet is PRIMARILY (though not entirely) herbivorous. Despite what F.J. Logan believes, the panda HAS THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM OF A CARNIVORE, as well as genes SPECIFIC TO CARNIVORES. The bears get little value out of all the bamboo they eat, which is why they tend to eat so much of it and avoid activity that would strain their unhealthy bodies. SCORE ONE FOR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.
2. In the paperback Knowledge Book, the "Lisbon" sentence now reads, simply, "After a violent earthquake in 1755, Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, faced the onslaught of a tsunami and the city was submerged." It's been fixed, alright? End of story.
3. F.J. Logan's gripes about the inclusion of Diddy (Sean Coombs) in the hardcover edition are specious at best. What he didn't tell us was that the text is simply a cutline under a picture of Diddy in the final chapter of the hardcover, which is called -- wait for it -- "Modern Life". This section was FILLED with pictures of 20th century celebrities, pop culture figures, politicians, healthy foods, authors, fads, you name it, all in an attempt to contextualize the transition from the 20th century into the 21st in terms of social trends. This chapter was perfectly understandable within the framework of the book, but it also had the highest potential of all the chapters for becoming outdated in future editions. Thus, F.J. Logan will be happy to know that the entire "Modern Life" Chapter -- all 25 pages -- has been EXCISED from the paperback edition (as have others -- more on this later). The book now concludes with the chapter on Film. No more Diddy, no more reason for aesthetes to snipe. ;)
4. F.J. Logan gripes that on Page 66 of the hardcover edition, we learn that "EVERY SINGLE THING [my emphasis] that occurs throughout Earth history leaves its traces behind in rocks." It's true that this sentence appears in the original book, though he does paraphrase it a bit. HOWEVER, in the paperback edition, the box containing this information (titled "The Golden Nail") now begins with the following sentence: "Mass extinctions, new species and volcanic eruptions are all events that have the potential to leave behind traces in the formation of rock." Much nicer, and much less open to argument.
I'll give F.J. Logan credit on SOME of the errors he spotted, but as my own research proves above, he's himself INCORRECT on at least a couple of points, and his claims that the book is a "carnival of blunders" should therefore have been taken under advisement. Granted, the book did include unnecessary errors, including the ones Logan identified correctly, but it's now exceedingly clear to me that National Geographic had their editors take a long, hard look at the hardcover -- after it was on the market, unfortunately -- and they decided it needed enough adjustments to warrant the printing of the paperback. You'll notice many other National Geographic books never get paperback editions, but this one did. The reason is because they FIXED it.
The old, hardcover edition is 512 pages (including the rear index pages). The REVISED paperback edition is 400 pages (including the index). The excision of the "Modern Life" chapter accounts for 25 pages, but the equivalent of another 87 pages of material has also been eliminated, either through deletion or revision (editing and/or rewriting). A quick glance through the table of contents reveals that subsections in many chapters have been deleted (the forward is also gone).
For example, in the chapter on "Visual Arts", the first subsection--"Prehistoric and Indigenous Art"-- has been deleted. Whether this was a necessary deletion will depend on your appreciation for those art forms, but the book isn't necessarily the worse off for the loss.
Another example: in the chapter on "Literature", again the first subsection--"The Beginning-Myths and Images" has been deleted.
Another one: the fourth subsection of the "Economics and Social Topics" chapter in the hardcover--"The Business of Business"--has also been deleted. In fact, this entire chapter has been merged with the preceding one--"Society, Politics and Law" into the much more streamlined chapter "Social Life: Politics, Law and Economy." My suspicion, then, is that material from at least some of the deleted subsections--and there are more than just those I've listed--has been worked into the chapters that remain in the paperback, although I can't prove this as I haven't done a page-by-page comparison. Again, the decision to delete the chapters on ancient history, ancient art, etc. is hardly heresy in a book designed to help people "get by" in the 21st century, and besides, much of the content within those missing chapters is better covered in other books by National Geographic.
Finally, having read a few random chapters of the paperback edition, I've yet to find any glaring errors of the magnitude of those spotted by F.J. Logan (well, the ones he got right, anyways).
National Geographic does indeed deserve a black eye for putting the hardcover edition on the market without performing editorial due diligence, but they also deserve applause for rectifying the problem within a reasonable amount of time (less than two years) and putting the superior paperback edition on the market.
Incidentally, the "error" (LOL) about the "parents feed the chicks" actually appears on page 107 of the original hardcover, NOT page 106. I'm surprised F.J. Logan would make such an egregious error in his reportage. :)
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IN CONCLUSION: Buy this book.
I decided to get one for a gift, and found the "Most Helpful Customer Review" from F.J. Logan from somewhere new on the planet (New Zeakand).
I just couldn't understand why there are so many bad reviews.
I started to read my copy and compare it to those listed. I might have a revised copy, but the date is 2007.
In part as a response to FJ, my page 106 is titled "Reptiles", and 107 is titled "Birds" so, even though I don't have the same "when THEY hatch, THE PARENTS feed the chicks . . . ." in my copy... I can figure that the page is all about birds.
Also, as FJ points out "we learn (p. 114) that panda bears are predators although they are herbivores." I think he may be confusing the term predator with carnivore.
Last one from FJ - Page 66: ("EVERY SINGLE THING [my emphasis] that occurs throughout Earth history leaves its traces behind in rocks." This last pronouncement, were it not almost too stupid to comment on, might earn a sharp contradiction by any competent)
FJ seems to be keen on stopping mid sentence. It continues, and leaves no question to my mind.
All in all, this is a 500 page book that can't compare to volumes of encyclopedias, but for a current price of $23.10 for HC, this book is a bargain.
Anyone that doesn't buy it based on any review is missing out on something great.
Little things: grammar, punctuation, diction, and sentence structure are very shaky indeed. For example, we learn (p. 74) that Lisbon had the misfortune to be hit by a tsunami and consequently was, not just submerged, but "submerged UNDER WATER" [my emphases]. For example (p. 106), we learn that, "when THEY hatch, THE PARENTS feed the chicks . . . ." [my emphases: who's hatching?] We encounter this sort of carelessness on almost every page. Also, the wealth of spell-checker betrayals demonstrates that the writers don't know and maybe don't care about the meanings of the words they use ("affect" and "effect," e.g., are obviously deep mysteries to them). As a result of this general sloppiness, the reader is greeted by redundancies and ambiguities and instances of vagueness on nearly every page, and must try to ignore this gnat-swarm as he or she slogs along.
Medium-sized things: mistakes in matters of fact and matters of logic abound. For example, we learn (p. 108) that ALL mammals bear live young but that SOME (the monotremes) do not. For example, we learn (p. 114) that panda bears are predators although they are herbivores. For example, we learn (p. 66) that "EVERY SINGLE THING [my emphasis] that occurs throughout Earth history leaves its traces behind in rocks." This last pronouncement, were it not almost too stupid to comment on, might earn a sharp contradiction by any competent paleontologist; the fossil record is anything but comprehensive and complete.
Big things: many points of information which should be there aren't; conversely, many points of absurd nano-trivia, which should not have been included here (or maybe anywhere), were. For example, nowhere is there mention of Eratosthenes of Alexandria, the genius who first computed the Earth's circumference. On the other hand, we learn (p. 503), about "Diddy's business ventures into fashion and television." Is this something that we "need to know to get by in the 21st Century?" (Permit me to doubt it.) Or is this and much else besides mere pathetic attempts at trendiness? You decide.
Really, this fat slick volume is a carnival of blunders. One would have expected better of the National Geographic Society. Anyone who had anything to do with the production of this book--and especially the editorial team--should be ashamed to have been part of such a botched endeavour. The book does, however, illustrate one important bit of 21st Century knowledge, and that is our currently declining interest in the written word.
It's actually amazing how much information is packed into this attractive book. There are about 500 glossy pages with small font, and each page is devoted to more than one topic. The range of topics covered, therefore, is phenomenal, but, as might be expected, there isn't time to say much about each topic.
But the real appeal of the book is that it's what I call a "curiosity factory." That is, it presents a smorgasbord of different topics with enough tantalizing information to either make you aware of a subject or fact or, hopefully, curious enough to go and explore that topic in greater detail. The wonderful, abundant, color photographs help transform what could have looked like a boring book into a virtual explosion of information before your very eyes. While the text is geared toward older readers, the photographs will suck in younger readers and entice them into worlds previously unknown to them.
With a special emphasis on the latest technology, science, and developments, the book nearly lives up to its subtitle, at least in a small way. And that, in itself, is a pretty significant achievement. If you're looking for an in-depth book on various topics, this isn't the book for you: you have to understand the genre of the book to appreciate it and its place in the home library.
So go ahead and buy the book: who knows who may find the book in your house and be inspired by this beautiful book. It's worth its price (which is amazingly low for its quality) for all of the colorful photographs alone!