The Areas of My Expertise

I have, in recent times, completed the book The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman, or as it is called with the title fully expanded:

An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by Me, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in the Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical; Matters Literary; Matters Cryptozoological; Hobo Matters; Food, Drink, & Cheese (a Kind of Food); Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels; Haircuts; Utopia; What Will Happen in the Future; and Most Other Subjects; Illustrated with a Reasonable Number of Tables and Figures, and Featuring the Best of “Were You Aware of It?”, John Hodgman’s Long-Running Newspaper Novelty Column of Strange Facts and Oddities of the Bizarre.

It was an interesting book indeed. Actually, perhaps it is not fair to call it a book. John Hodgman himself refers to it as an almanac. Now we all know John Hodgman from the Apple commercials. He’s the “Hi, I’m a PC” guy. And we all know him from Comedy Central on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Safe to say he’s a funny guy, though his humor is not a direct joke-telling-and-making-you-laugh kind of humor. His humor is subtle and witty and quite clever, if I say so myself. And he starts out with it right away in this book. He even starts out by talking about everything he will talk about in the book and concluding it all by adding, “and I’ve made it all up.” Brilliant.

I “read” this book as an audiobook from Audible.com, as I read most books. The audiobook was narrated by Hodgman himself with the added bonus of Jonathan Coulton for comical additions and musical accompaniment. Jonathan Coulton, you may know, is the brilliant mind who brought us such great musical hits as Code Monkey. His addition to the audio recording was just great and really made listening even more fun.

As for the actual content of the almanac, never in my life could I have imagined the vast wealth of knowledge contained in the mind of Mr Hodgman. Never could I have grasped the complexities of the seedy side of the back-stage areas of the Mall of America. Never could I have understood the legendary stories of the hobos and their monarchs. Neither would I have possibly imagined the rich true history of the 51 United States and it’s Presidents. And if it weren’t for this book, I would never have known the sad story of the Furry Old Lobster (song by Jonathan Coulton). And there is so much more useful world knowledge to take in, I fear I would not do it justice to try to describe it all in blog-form.

If you want a fun book describing a completely alternate reality form of the world you know, you just may be looking for John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise. I highly recommend the audiobook version as John’s wit and candor really bring the words to life, and Johnathan Coulton’s musical accompaniment provide for some great fun.

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