Monday, June 16, 2014

History's scandals

I love history. Not textbook history, but the seedy underbelly of history that my teachers never talked about. That’s the interesting stuff. When I find a book that promises to give me historical gossip and scandals I just can’t resist.

History Decoded held the promise of being just such a book. The author chose ten things conspiracy theorists love to talk about and tried very hard to find the facts, sometimes debunking the conspiracy theories and sometimes admitting that he just didn’t know. Overall I enjoyed the book. It was very readable (listen-able), the topics were interesting and obviously well-researched, and I learned things about history that I didn’t know. For instance:

da Vinci’s design for the ornothopter flying device was the inspiration for Batman’s cape in the original 1930’s comics.

The vault at Fort Knox, which may or may not still contain gold, once held the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and medical pharmaceuticals.

However, I also had issues with the reader’s voice, the conversational, casual writing style, and the catchphrases that were repeated over and over and drove me bananas. In order to look up some of the snippets I had heard I found the print copy of this book at my library. It surprised me. Each chapter (conspiracy theory) is accompanied by an envelope (bound into the seam) of completely needless pieces of paper. These pages of document reproductions were difficult to get in and out of the envelope and, for me, added nothing to the book.

If you enjoy history, scandal, gossip, and knowing secrets, you’ll like this book. I recommend reading it over listening to it, though. And just ignore the envelopes.

In case you were wondering, here are the ten conspiracies included:
John Wilkes Booth’s life after the Lincoln assassination
Stolen Confederate gold
Who built the Georgia guidestones and why?
DB Cooper
The White House cornerstone disappearance
The Spear of Destiny’s real history and possible location
Was da Vinci psychic?
Is Fort Knox empty?
The government cover up of UFO visits
The Kennedy Assassination

Meltzer, Brad with Keith Ferrell. History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time. New York: Workman Publishing Group, 2013. (read by Scott Brick)

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