A Year in Books/Day 40: The World’s Most Notorious Women

  • Title: The World’s Most Notorious Women Secrets, lies, murders, and scandals….The Notorious Acts of Women
  • Author: None listed. I cannot say that I blame them (see below).
  • Year Published: 2001/This Edition 2002 (ALVA PRESS)
  • Year Purchased: 2003/2004
  • Source: Via mail/unknown source
  • About: When I bought this book for a dollar or two, my hopes were admittedly pretty low. I thought it would be an easy, quick, silly beach-type read. Little did I know then how wrong I was. This is, without any doubt, the shoddiest book I have ever seen or read. If writing 2,000 words enumerating exactly how awful it is, in every damn way, was not wildly out of proportion to its inherent insignificance, I would probably do so. I’ll try to rein myself in, I promise. The premise is simple: individual biographies of “notorious” women through the ages are offered up for our apparent amusement (thought certainly not enlightenment), tied together neatly within broader categories. That should be a win-win, right? They give us some historical intrigue, we get a few hours of harmless entertainment. No. As pretty much every aspect of the book fails, and fails remarkably, I’ll just go ahead and blame every single person involved with its production. Let’s start with the writing. It’s repetitive, lazy, ungrammatical to the extreme and full of historical holes. When the stories of Livia and Catherine the Great read as boring, you’ve done something wrong. The material for this book was gathered from 10 previously published (and, one can only assume, equally dismal volumes) with titles such as “The World’s Wickedest Women” and “The World’s Wealthiest Losers”. This begs the question: “Exactly how many people wrote this?” That’s a mystery. What I do know is that none of them can write. And they are shockingly shallow in their treatment of the women in question. According to their singularly cheap vision, there have only been 4 motivating factors in the behavior of women. Ever. They are: to be pretty, to be thin, to be wealthy, to make men suffer.  I didn’t expect a shock-value volume like this wade knee-deep into feminist theory. However, a little subtlety of imagination and basic compassion would go a long way to temper this tripe. So would a better print job, proof-readers,and  editors. There are at least 500 misspellings, misplaced punctuation, and other errors. The paper is cheap and the binding is already undone. Also, why do I still own this? I hate the thought of throwing a book out, even such a flat-out failure. The only worthwhile part of this book is the Contents pages, just as a reminder to seek out better studies of these women’s lives.
  • Motivation: See above. I wanted something fast, mindless but not boring. I love history, complex women, outsiders.
  • Times Read: 2 (but only because I wanted to remind myself how horrible it is for this review)
  • Random Excerpt/Page 436: “Miss Margaret Fountaine was a fascinating English spinster who spent all her life falling in love and chasing butterflies.” Oh, I cannot go on, sorry. The entry on this woman-and I have no doubt that she was fascinating-is probably the worst one in the book!
  • Happiness Scale: 2 (but only because I enjoy mocking idiots)

1 thought on “A Year in Books/Day 40: The World’s Most Notorious Women

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