|How to Sound Cultured by Thomas W Hodgkinson and Hubert van den Bergh|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: An eclectic mix of characters from history feature in this fun book of essential and random facts so you can keep up with the culture vultures.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: November 2015|
|Publisher: Icon Books Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
Sometimes it can be hard to run with the big dogs, and while I know the names to drop in my field of work, some wider cultural references can pass me by. This is especially true for those from before my time and so I was delighted to find icons from all decades and centuries featured in this book. Badged as the 250 names that intellectuals love to drop into conversation this book features quotes and biographical titbits covering big names from every sector – science, the arts, philosophy.
From my background, it was a bit of a mixed bag. I'd heard of Peggy Gugenheim and Goethe, of course, but I didn't know about her nose or his penchant for teenagers. Nijinsky was a name I knew but not one I ever expected to feature, but he's there, pirouetting around page 201, and I learnt from that page that there was much more to him that his dancing.
Another thing this book helped me with was putting some context to words and phrases I regularly use but hadn't necessarily though about the origin of. It's probably a little embarrassing that I'd never connected Plato to platonic although in my defence it's not as blatantly obvious as the origin of Dickensian. Unless that's just me.
This book is highly readable and neatly structured so you can go straight to a certain person if you need to, or alternatively simply browse by theme. There will clearly be much more to these characters than can fit in a page or two, but the authors have done an excellent job in highlighting the most pertinent information, topped up with some obscure facts that will really help you cheat your way to an impressive throw-away comment or two.
Part of the idea behind the book is that if you were, say, at a dinner party and found another guest was dropping names in an explicit or inadvertent way to alienate people, you would be able to keep up. I don't think I go to the right kind of dinner parties. At the last two get-togethers we have thrown or attended the topics of conversation included winter pressures in the NHS and the perils of Christmas trees in houses with toddlers and/or cats. We certainly haven't had to put up with anyone spouting such wisdom as So, you're an Emersonian Transcendentalist but you never know. Maybe one day this will be my life, and this book will suddenly become my bible. In the meantime, it was a really interesting read, albeit one I dipped into and out of rather than ploughing through continuously.
I'd like to thank the publishers for supplying this book. Once you've matched their cultural references you'll feel invincible. How to Win Every Argument by Madsen Pirie will help take you to the next level.
You can read more book reviews or buy How to Sound Cultured by Thomas W Hodgkinson and Hubert van den Bergh at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy How to Sound Cultured by Thomas W Hodgkinson and Hubert van den Bergh at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.