I've made no secret of the fact that I love to read. I've been an avid reader ever since I was a child holed up in my room for the summer with the entire Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys collections sitting before me. Usually, I like reading novels, but sometimes it's fun to branch out and read other kinds of books -- especially those that I can just browse through instead of reading in chronological order. What Are The Seven Wonders of the World (subtitled And 100 Other Great Cultural Lists - Fully Explicated) by Peter D'Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish is just such a book whose chapters can be read entirely at random.
What Are the Seven Wonders of the World is basically an in-depth look at some of the most famous "numbered" items from a wide range of topics, including history, science, literature, art, and mathematics. In other words, this book takes a question, such as that found in the title (what are the seven wonders of the world), and then lists the answers for the reader along with a detailed explanation of each particular item in the list.
The book starts off with the number three. So some of the first questions that the reader encounters are: Who were the 3 sons of Adam and Eve? Who were the 3 Furies (from ancient mythology)? What are the 3 Laws of Thermodynamics? And What were the 3 temptations of Christ. As you can see, these are some very common and very interesting questions that are nevertheless quite difficult to answer.
In all, the book contains 101 of these questions, and covers numbers ranging from 3 to 15, then 18, 20, and 24. You'll be able to answer some of the questions right off the bat (what are the seven deadly sins?), but others will leave you scratching your head (which were the 15 decisive battles of the world according to historian Edward Creasy in 1851?).
As I mentioned above, this is the kind of book that can be thumbed through at random. You can view the table of contents and then just read any sections that sound interesting to you. Or, you can read the book straight through if you like. What I've discovered is that I often just pick a random place in the book, and then get caught up in everything and start reading straight through from that point. As a result, I read the entire book in just a couple of days.
What Are the Seven Wonders of the World is meant to be a reference book. I have to admit that I haven't really used it as such though. After all, if I really needed to determine what the 14 Points of Woodrow Wilson's famous speech were, I could find the information from the Internet just as (or even more) quickly than I could leafing through the book. Nevertheless, I like to keep the book near my desk and pull it down once in a while to refresh my memory about some of the more famous numbered lists in the world.
Although I can't claim to remember every single thing that I've read in What Are the Seven Wonders of the World, I will say that I've learned a great deal of new information, which has come in handy on many occasions. For example, I have been able to answer a few extra crossword puzzle questions due to the knowledge I've picked up from the book. I've also been able to answer several Jeopardy! questions, and I've been able to start some really great conversations with friends and co-workers. I won't go so far as to say that I bring up the information I've gleaned from the book when I'm at parties or anything, but the I guess that's always a possibility as well!
Overall, I recommend purchasing What Are the Seven Wonders of the World (and 100 Other Great Cultural Lists - Fully Explicated) by Peter D'Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish. It will make a wonderfully informative addition to your home reference library and is a book that you will actually enjoy reading. It also makes a terrific gift for those readers on your list that have read just about everything else you can think of.