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The Areas of My Expertise

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The Areas of My Expertise
by John Hodgman
(Dutton)

Often I have said to myself, while reading: "Dear, dear. This book is quite satisfactory, yet I do wish it contained a list of 700 names for hoboes." Such an observation is usually followed by: "Also, why does this book not contain a reference guide for lycanthropic transformations vis-à-vis lunar phases?" Then I usually go back to reading, and sipping my brandy in front of a roaring fire, slightly less content than I was a few moments before.

So thank Christ for John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise, a hilarious "almanac of complete world knowledge." In the tradition of old-timey almanackers Benjamin Franklin and Francis Moore, the brilliant Hodgman provides almost everything you need to know about, well, anything, from "Hints on Building Snow Forts," to "Secrets of the Mall of America," to "How to Raise Rabbits for Food and Fur: The Utopian Method," to "Nine Presidents Who Had Hooks for Hands." And yes. Finally! There are lycanthropic transformation tables! And a list of 700 hobo names—which Hodgman encourages you to steal! ("You should not feel guilty about this. If they were still at large," he writes of the hoboes, "they would steal your name without hesitation. If they could manage it, they'd steal your reflection from the mirror and sell it to the surface of a moonlit pond. And then they would drain the pond out of spite.")

In addition to being crammed full of other suspicious facts and dubious advice ("More Surprising Eponyms," "Jokes That Have Never Produced Laughter," "How to Win a Fight"), Hodgman's almanac has the exhaustive scope of an encyclopedia, the authoritative tone of your drunk uncle, and the attention span of a five-year-old on cocaine. Usually, you see, when I'm sipping brandy and reading in front of a fire, I review solemn historical proceedings and ponder Hegel's most arcane passages. What I don't usually do is start tittering like a schoolgirl, then whoop like a madman, then fall to the floor, weeping with joy and gasping for air with glee and delight. And yet: That is what Hodgman's almanac has done to me, and that is what it will do to you. Enjoy.

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