Encyclopedia Idiotica: History's Worst Decisions and the People Who Made Them

Overview

The 64 A.D. burning of Rome during the reign of Nero . . . Winston Churchill's ill-conceived and disastrous World War I plan to invade Turkey at Gallipoli . . . the Maginot Line, built in France in 1929-34 in a foolhardy effort to prevent the feared German invasion . . . the 1950s thalidomide pharmaceutical disaster that resulted in at least 20,000 babies born with deformities . . . the 1989-91 misappropriation of company funds by publishing executive Robert Maxwell, and the collapse of his financial empire . . ....

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Overview

The 64 A.D. burning of Rome during the reign of Nero . . . Winston Churchill's ill-conceived and disastrous World War I plan to invade Turkey at Gallipoli . . . the Maginot Line, built in France in 1929-34 in a foolhardy effort to prevent the feared German invasion . . . the 1950s thalidomide pharmaceutical disaster that resulted in at least 20,000 babies born with deformities . . . the 1989-91 misappropriation of company funds by publishing executive Robert Maxwell, and the collapse of his financial empire . . . the Enron scandal of 2000 that brought down a yet larger business empire. Chronicled in these pages are stories of corporate chicanery, poor military decisions, engineering disasters, diplomatic blunders, and other appalling, large-scale mistakes that resulted in ruin and misery for countless innocent bystanders. Here are baleful tales motivated by false hope, anger, greed, pride, lust, and many other instances of erratic human behavior. A selection of approximately 50 disastrous decisions are presented, each grim account summarized in a report of roughly a half-dozen pages and enhanced with sidebars and thumbnail-sized cartoon-style illustrations. Each account opens with its cast of characters, then sets the story's background before reporting the grim details and concluding with the unhappy moral. Here is a page-turner of a book that recounts some of history's most dramatic-but also catastrophic-moments.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
From Adam and Eve committing the original sin to South Asian governments skimping on ocean sensors that could have saved 50,000 lives during the December 2004 tsunami, this encyclopedia is an interesting and often humorous look at history's worst decisions. Weir's foolish decision hall of fame includes Hannibal causing an Avalanche that killed more than half of his army, Nero burning down his own city, Thomas Austin's imported rabbits leading to a huge rabbit infestation that destroyed millions of acres in Australia, NASA's missing hyphen that caused the Mariner Rocket to burn too soon, the Titanic, Agent Orange, Chernobyl, AIDS, Y2K, and Enron. The book informs and entertains its readers and is perfect for classroom discussions. At the beginning of each chapter, Weir lists which of the Seven Deadly Sins and Cardinal Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity are the motivations behind each dumb decision. He also lists the "main culprit," the "damage done," and "why" each idiotic decision was made. It is a wonderful browsing book with short chapters, quotes, and illustrations. A lengthy further readings section is broken down by chapter and includes reference books, periodicals, and Web sites. If the packaging looked less like a bland encyclopedia, teens might pick this one up on their own. Although geared toward an adult audience, the historical contents make it a perfect addition to either middle or high school classroom discussions. Unfortunately if librarians are not deliberate about remembering this book, it will probably get lost on the shelf. 2005, Barron's, 256p.; Illus. Further Reading., PLB . Ages 11 to Adult.
—Sarah Cofer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764159176
  • Publisher: Barron's Educational Series, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,322,303
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Weir has worked on three continents as a book publisher and author, and writers he has worked with have included National Book Award winners. Among his past editorial positions was that of director of Northwestern University Press. He lives in New York.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2010

    Avoid this book due to basic fundamental flaws.

    Avoid buying this book if you are looking for factual information. I'm very familar with one of the events in one of the chapers (Ch 46, p232) and there are fundamental flaws. The author mixes several failures together and presents them as a single error. The acronym for the satellite mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, and its purpose is wrong. It even stated that NASA lost contact with the Mars rovers, "Spirit" and "Opporunity" which is not correct as NASA still collect data to this day.

    Basic internet research would have confirmed the basic facts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2006

    Witty and Informative

    The best aspect of this book is its dry wit, and entertaining and informative perspective on history. The 50 vignettes in this book each describe one of history¿s most dangerously boneheaded moments. Teachers of history, debate coaches, and many others should take note: you could well assign these as topics. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Weir, these morsels should kick-start some truly entertaining and thought- provoking discussions. And what an encouragement to further reading and research!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2005

    Sad but true

    Weir recounts many tales of blunders throughout world history in a humourous yet reverent style. 'EI' is readable by the general public, as well as by historians, and gives great launching points for discussions in a classroom.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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