Did you know Thomas Jefferson’s grandson was an ax murderer? Don’t you delight in knowing some dinosaurs were teeny tiny as hens? How about an ailment so surreal it’s named after Alice in Wonderland? Truly trivia you can’t live without, RANDOM OBSESSIONS: TRIVIA YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT from VIVA EDITIONS is filled with facts, lists, definitions, and astonishing information guaranteed to provide you with the best cocktail conversation for many years to come!
Nick gives an overview of the book:
Random Obsessions chapter one intro "Amassed from the Past: Curious and Fantastic Facts from the Archives of History."
Examining the past, one must understand whether history comprises “everything that happened,” as philosopher R.G. Collingwood once wrote, or just whatever the written record illuminates. Dr. Oliver Rink, a professor of early Dutch America, once explained history as a drunk man searching for his lost keys under a lamppost. When the man was asked why he was searching near the lamppost while his car was a block away, in the dark, Rink imagined the drunkard saying, “Because there’s light over here.” If history is the light cast by that streetlamp, how much of the past is left to be illuminated and discovered?
The ever-changing prism of perspectives that defines our present also transforms long-discovered details of the past. That’s because historians are always experimenting with new approaches to reinterpret wars, peoples, culture, economics, and politics. History is under constant pressure in the present to shake the dustrags of past interpretations and reexamine what’s underneath. But, of course, that only leads to more questions and further mystery.
In “Amassed from the Past” you will get a look at many topics, including a peek at witchcraft in early America (“To Burn or Not to Burn”). Don’t even begin to think historians are done examining the Puritan obsession with the idea of Satanic people in their midst. You will read an account of a bizarre sighting by the maidservant Tituba. In “Did Napoleon’s Gastric Secret Cost Him Waterloo?” I examine the idea that an ailment affecting one man could have a great impact on the outcome of history. In “Why Obama Was Sworn In as President in Washington, D.C.” I look at the how yellow fever epidemics in the 1790s could have prevented the construction of the capital in the most enlightened city in America. Perhaps you didn’t know that Philadelphia was once called the federal city? Many wanted the capital there.
One of the greatest American mysteries revolves around what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke Island in North Carolina in the late 1500s. Did the colony perish at the hands of hostile natives? What were the cryptic tree carvings found at the site? We’ll look at an original source document that reveals more in “The Strange Fires of Roanoke.” In “September 11, 1775” I reveal a connection between tragic historical events and the idea of government betrayal. You’ll find even more enigmatic history in sections on Christopher Columbus’s ship’s log, Thomas Jefferson’s mental state and ax murderer grandson, the apocalypse of 2012, a note from the Kennedy assassination hearings, and a letter doubting President Abraham Lincoln. In reading this chapter you’ll find that while history constantly presents itself as fact, it really may be only a fuzzy glimpse of time past and just an elusive grab at the idea of truth.