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Book Review: Pick Me Up by Jeremy Leslie and David Roberts

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Pick Me Up is an incredible reference geared towards helping people answer those pressing questions like, “How are things related?” and what exactly is an “emirp”?

The book is divided up into eight areas of expertise, color-coded for convenience. The book suggests that you start anywhere, so I did. I opened up to a page at random (pg. 186-187) where I read about religion, specifically “Religion: Islam to India” which covered Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. There were brief descriptions that comprised the bottom third of the pages. The top portion was taken up by pictures which included images of holy sites such as Mecca, The Golden Temple in Amritsar and the River Ganges as well as photographs of items of importance/interest to the different religions.

From there, I followed a reference to “forever” in the book that took me to page 249 which asked the question, “What time is it?” This section had a number of questions that it answered in the same blurby style as before, with a brief description and some small illustrations. There was more said on this page than on the religion page, but then, with “time,” what sort of illustrations could you show? (Sundials, clocks and calendars, if you were curious.) There was a bit about “when time began” which briefly discussed the different calendars that have been in use. This contained a reference to Latin, so I jumped to page 54.

Here I found interesting little tidbits on some of the world’s languages. For example, Ecclesiastical Latin is an official Language in Vatican City, even if everyone uses Italian. I did not know that. From there, I went to page 96 on colonization (not surprisingly referenced in a blurb on the English language). I then spent the next hour and a half surfing through the 352-page book, moving from one topic to the next, covering everything from numbers to art, then to how to tell stories, the ancient Greeks, democracy, I Ching, and world literature. (I am more than a little embarrassed to admit, having graduated from high school one town away from the National Czech and Slovak Museum, that I did not know where Franz Kafka was from.) A few more hours with this volume, and I will be queen of the pub quiz.

The eight areas of expertise that the book is divided up into are: Science, technology and space, society, places and beliefs, history, the natural world, people who made the world, arts, entertainment, and media, you and your body, and planet earth. In a table of contents of sorts there is a list of all the things that you’ll find in each of these sections, including page numbers. And, as always there is an index at the back of the book.

Each page has a bar that is color-coded on it that includes some text that explains what you’ll find on the pages as well what section the page belongs to. Each set of pages is not necessarily connected to what precedes or follows them, so this is not your standard encyclopedia. It’s a little like a hard copy of a website complete with reference links, a more colorful Wikipedia, if you will.

Because each of the pages has small boxes of text that describe whatever the topic on those pages are, nothing is described in great detail. However, what is there is interesting. There was typically only one link per blurb, so there were things that could have been linked to other pages, but were not. But, there is always the index if you’ve read something that you feel should be linked to something.

The format of the book lends itself to amused browsing, taking you from interesting snippet to interesting snippet without dragging you down into a load of information you might not understand/be interested in. It is handy to have a reference book that hits the highlights and saves you from having to wade through an entire Encyclopedia Britannica entry. This book is definitely geared toward the younger set – junior high and high school students – but I found it interesting nevertheless. In short, Pick Me Up is something that you’ll not only want to pick up, but that you’ll loath to put down.

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About Katharine Donelson

  • http://philobiblon.co.uk Natalie Bennett

    This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!