Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Review: 'The Smartest Book in the World' by Greg Proops

When I found out Proops had written a book, I knew I had to read it. Sometimes you have the luck of reading a book that is fun, while also being interesting and amazingly written. Proops' The Smartest Book in the World was that kind of book for me. Thanks to Netgalley and Touchstone for providing me with a copy of this book.

Pub. Date: 05/05/2015
Publisher: Touchstone
From the brazen, bold, and beloved comic and podcast star Greg Proops comes an electrifying, thought-provoking, and unrelenting collection of rapid-fire references, historical name-checking, Satchel Paige bon mots, and genuine wisdom.
Greg Proops is an internationally renowned comedian, best known for starring on the hit improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? and for his popular award-winning podcast, “The Smartest Man in the World,” which Rolling Stone called “some of the boldest comedy on the podcasting frontier right now.” But Proops is also a fountain of historical knowledge, a wealth of pop culture trivia, and a generally charming know-it-all. 
The Smartest Book in the World is based on Proops’s sensational, iTunes Top 10 podcast that has been downloaded more than nine million times, in which his “bold, never-boring voice takes center stage” (The New York Times). The book is a rollicking reference guide to the most essential areas of knowledge in Proops’s universe, from the noteworthy names of the ancient world and baseball, to the movies you must see and the albums you must hear.
Complete with history’s juiciest tales and curious back-stories, Proops expounds on the merits of poetry and proper punctuation, delivering this wealth of information with his signature style and Proopsian panache. An off-beat and exuberant guide to everything, The Smartest Book in the World gives you everything you need to know to always be the smartest person in the room. Well, unless the Proopmaster is there, too.
Proops is hilarious. That is as close to fact as a subjective opinion can get. His writing is amazingly eloquent and a joy to read. I love it when people play with words and with different styles, especially when it is a lexicon-style book like The Smartest Book in the World. I want to be surprised by an author in every sentence, because otherwise it is relatively easy to zone out on a book like this. A lexicon or reference book doesn't automatically lend itself to a read-through. I mean, who has picked up a dictionary and actually read it from A to Z, continuously. It is too easy to simply skip a passage if you don't find a topic especially interesting, unless the author's writing can keep you intrigued. Proops is funny, snarky, opinionated in the best way and, above all, enthusiastic about everything he writes.

An author has won me when, in the first chapter of his book, he states the following:
'Life is confusing and unclear, books are amusing and, at worst, though-provoking.'
The Smartest Book in the World covers a lot of cultural topics, whether it is music, cinema or history. Some of my personal favourites addressed my Proops were the sections on Alexander the Great, Inuit poetry, the bombshells baseball team and his favourite art. He moves between them seamlessly, quoting whole poems by Sappho before spending pages upon pages about Satchel Paige. Most of the references knew, some I didn't and for a few I didn't really care, and yet I didn't want to put The Smartest Book in the World down for a minute. Proops' book is thought-provoking in that it shows how all different kinds of cultures can come together and inspire you, whether it is Mayan art and Russian vodka, or English poetry and Caribbean music.

One of the main things I appreciated about this book was that Proops managed to find a way to talk about everything without being offensive. Whether he is calling out anti-feminist attitudes or discussing the brutal murders perpetrated by those in power the last few centuries, Proops is able to comment because he has informed himself. The whole book is an argument in favour of being informed and interested, because it means you can be part of the discussion. To know things, whether they be always crucial or only occasionally vital, is a good thing, or as Proops would say, is groovy, and means you'll at least always be an interesting dinner guest.

I give this book...

4 Universes.

I tried to think of who I wouldn't recommend this book to and to be honest, I can't think of a single person. Proops doesn't restrict himself to Western culture and history, but rather reaches all over the world and through all of time to find the men and women, happenings and films which he thinks are the smartest, the greatest or the funnest. If I could wish for anything it would be for another, since I'm sure Proops has a lot more to tell us about. in The Smartest Book in the World Proops preaches the truth and I willingly prostrate at the alter of his knowledge.


  1. I love Greg Proops's comedy and when I heard he had a book, I was definitely interested! I'm glad to read your review though since now I have a better idea of what it will be about, and I think I will really enjoy it!

    1. I was also unsure what the book would be about exactly, but it is a book you will love if you like his comedy! Thanks for commenting :)

  2. :) Love your review1 I think I'll have to look for this one!

    1. Thanks! And definitely do, it's hilarious. Thanks for commenting :)

  3. This sounds great. I've added it to my queue!