Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race

I haven’t read The Daily Show staff’s other book, America (The Book), but I’ve heard good things about it and also Earth, so when I saw the latter in the library browse area while shelving the other day, and most importantly when it was still there when I was leaving, I felt compelled to snap it up. And, because it was a 7-day loan book, I was even more compelled to read it right away!

Of course, “right away” doesn’t mean “in one sitting,” and so it took me the better part of five days to get through the 240-odd pages of insanity that is Earth. The book and the planet.

Part of that I blame on the conceit of the book — it’s set up as a textbook for use by aliens who come to visit us but find that we’ve already killed ourselves off in some fashion. It’s full of pictures and captions and “educational information” and even, wonderfully and nostalgically, one of those stamps on the inside front cover that we all had to fill out every year for all of our textbooks, with our name and the condition of the book. I had completely forgotten about those. Oh, how wonderful college would have been with free books.

Anyway. The other thing that I was made to remember about my grade-school textbooks is that they can be INTENSELY boring, even if the information is good, because it’s just fact after fact, and in this case joke after joke, and it gets tedious after a while. I might suggest you get this on a 14-day loan, at least. Your brain will thank you.

When taken in the proper dosage, the factoids in this book are delightful and come in several flavors:

Amusing Truths
“This is Barb. She’s the best. If you need to know where anything is, just ask her. Or call or IM her, or just email or send a text. Barb’s great. Oh, but don’t fuck with her yogurt in the shared fridge or she will cut you.”

“It was a sad but universal fact of human life that any technology — no matter how incredible — eventually came to be seen as cumbersome. For instance, the first cordless telephone inspired awe. One year later, using the very same phone could only be seen as an ironic tribute to a time when we were forced to lug around comically giant cordless phones.”

Depressing Truths
“[P]igmentation was a quick and convenient way of judging a person. One of us, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once proposed we instead judge people by the content of their character. He was shot.”

“While millions of us died of starvation and thirst, millions of others were so sated they could afford to use pies — round fruit or cream-filled pastries with enough fat content to sustain a human being for several days — as comedic projectiles, and water as giant slide lubricants.”

Flat-out Lies
[On Monopoly money] “While not legal tender, this $100 bill was still widely used by hats, racecars, thimbles and Scottish terriers to buy property, pay taxes and post bail from the jail in which they were sometimes arbitrarily incarcerated.”

“After winning seven gold medals Geraldo Rivera went on to become one of the world’s most prominent reporters.”

So… basically it’s pretty much like The Daily Show. In book form. And without those “special reports” I dislike so much. If you can get through the pop-culture references and the sarcasm, you might even learn something!

Recommendation: If you like The Daily Show and you like reading very short tidbits of information, this is for you. If you are even slightly ambivalent to the comedy stylings of Jon Stewart et al., you should probably skip right over this.

Rating: 7/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
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Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

2 thoughts on “Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race

  1. raidergirl3 says:

    Mmm, pretty sure I would love this book. Seems like a great Christmas present for me, as I could read it at my leisure. I loved America, also in textbook form. With the cool stamp in the front cover, with the obligatory obnoxious write-ins.

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