An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn't by Judy JonesAn Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn't by Judy Jones

An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn't

byJudy Jones, William Wilson

Hardcover | April 25, 2006

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When it was originally published in 1987, An Incomplete Education became a surprise bestseller. Now this instant classic has been completely updated, outfitted with a whole new arsenal of indispensable knowledge on global affairs, popular culture, economic trends, scientific principles, and modern arts. Here’s your chance to brush up on all those subjects you slept through in school, reacquaint yourself with all the facts you once knew (then promptly forgot), catch up on major developments in the world today, and become the Renaissance man or woman you always knew you could be!

How do you tell the Balkans from the Caucasus? What’s the difference between fission and fusion? Whigs and Tories? Shiites and Sunnis? Deduction and induction? Why aren’t all Shakespearean comedies necessarily thigh-slappers? What are transcendental numbers and what are they good for? What really happened in Plato’s cave? Is postmodernism dead or just having a bad hair day? And for extra credit, when should you use the adjective continual and when should you use continuous?

An Incomplete Education answers these and thousands of other questions with incomparable wit, style, and clarity. American Studies, Art History, Economics, Film, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Science, and World History: Here’s the bottom line on each of these major disciplines, distilled to its essence and served up with consummate flair.

In this revised edition you’ll find a vitally expanded treatment of international issues, reflecting the seismic geopolitical upheavals of the past decade, from economic free-fall in South America to Central Africa’s world war, and from violent radicalization in the Muslim world to the crucial trade agreements that are defining globalization for the twenty-first century. And don’t forget to read the section A Nervous American’s Guide to Living and Loving on Five Continents before you answer a personal ad in the International Herald Tribune.

As delightful as it is illuminating, An Incomplete Education packs ten thousand years of culture into a single superbly readable volume. This is a book to celebrate, to share, to give and receive, to pore over and browse through, and to return to again and again.
Judy Jones is a freelance writer who lives in Princeton, New Jersey. William Wilson was also a freelance writer. Wilson went to Yale and Jones to Smith, but both have maintained that they got their real educations in the process of writing this book. William Wilson died in 1999.
Title:An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn'tFormat:HardcoverDimensions:720 pages, 9.6 × 7.8 × 1.7 inPublished:April 25, 2006Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345468902

ISBN - 13:9780345468901

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Read from the Book

American Literature 101     You signed up for it thinking it would be a breeze. After all, you’d read most of the stuff back in high school, hadn’t you?   Or had you? As it turned out, the thing you remembered best about Moby-Dick was the expression on Gregory Peck’s face as he and the whale went down for the last time. And was it really The Scarlet Letter you liked so much? Or was it the Classics Illustrated version of The Scarlet Letter? Of course, you weren’t the only one who overestimated your familiarity with your literary heritage; your professor was busy making the same mistake.   Then there was the material itself, much of it so bad it made you wish you’d signed up for The Nineteenth Century French Novel: Stendhal to Zola instead. Now that you’re older, though, you may be willing to make allowances. After all, the literary figures you were most likely to encounter the first semester were by and large only moonlighting as writers. They had to spend the bulk of their time building a nation, framing a constitution, carving a civilization out of the wilderness, or simply busting their chops trying to make a living. In those days, no one was about to fork over six figures so some Puritan could lie around Malibu polishing a screenplay.   Try, then, to think only kind and patriotic thoughts as, with the help of this chart, you refresh your memory on all those things you were asked to face—or to face again—in your freshman introduction to American Lit.   JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758)   Product of: Northampton, Massachusetts, where he ruled from the pulpit for thirty years; Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he became an Indian missionary after the townspeople of Northampton got fed up with him.   Earned a Living as a: Clergyman, theologian.   High-School Reading List: The sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (1741), the most famous example of “the preaching of terror.”   College Reading List: Any number of sermons, notably “God Glorified in the Work of Redemption by the Greatness of Man’s Dependence on Him in the Whole of It” (1731), Edwards’ first sermon, in which he pinpoints the moral failings of New Englanders; and “A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God” (1737), describing various types and stages of religious conversion. Also, if your college professor was a fundamentalist, a New Englander, or simply sadistic, one or two of the treatises, e.g., “A Careful and Strict Enquiry into the Freedom of the Will” (1754), or the “Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended” (1758). Not to be missed: a dip into Edwards’ Personal Narrative, which suggests the psychological connection between being America’s number-one Puritan clergyman and the only son in a family with eleven children.   What You Were Supposed to Have Learned in High School: Edwards’ historical importance as quintessential Puritan thinker and hero of the Great Awakening, the religious revival that swept New England from the late 1730s to 1750.   What You Didn’t Find Out Until College: What Edwards thought about, namely, the need to get back to the old-fashioned Calvinist belief in man’s basic depravity and in his total dependence on God’s goodwill for salvation. (Forget about the “covenant” theory of Protestantism; according to Edwards, God doesn’t bother cutting deals with humans.) Also, his insistence that faith and conversion be emotional, not just intellectual.   BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1706-1790)   Product of: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.   Earned a Living as a: Printer, promoter, inventor, diplomat, statesman.   High-School Reading List: The Declaration of Independence (1776), which he helped draft.   College Reading List: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1771– 1788), considered one of the greatest autobiographies ever written; sample maxims from Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732–1757), mostly on how to make money or keep from spending it; any number of articles and essays on topics of historical interest, ranging from “Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One,” and “An Edict by the King of Prussia” (both 1773), about the colonies’ Great Britain problem, to “Experiments and Observations on Electricity” (1751), all of which are quite painless.   What You Were Supposed to Have Learned in High School: Not a thing. But back in grade school you presumably learned that Franklin invented a stove, bifocal glasses, and the lightning rod; that he established the first, or almost the first, library, fire department, hospital, and insurance company; that he helped negotiate the treaty with France that allowed America to win independence; that he was a member of the Constitutional Convention; that he was the most famous American of the eighteenth century (after George Washington) and the closest thing we’ve ever had to a Renaissance man.     What You Didn’t Find Out Until College: That Franklin had as many detractors as admirers, for whom his shrewdness, pettiness, hypocrisy, and nonstop philandering embodied all the worst traits of the American character, of American capitalism, and of the Protestant ethic.   WASHINGTON IRVING (1783-1859)   Product of: New York City and Tarrytown, New York.   Earned a Living as a: Writer; also, briefly, a diplomat.   High-School Reading List: “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” both contained in The Sketch Book (1820).   College Reading List: Other more or less interchangeable selections from The Sketch Book, Bracebridge Hall (1822), Tales of a Traveller (1824), or The Legends of the Alhambra (1832), none of which stuck in anyone’s memory for more than ten minutes.   What You Were Supposed to Have Learned in High School: That Irving was the first to prove that Americans could write as well as Europeans; that Ichabod Crane and Rip Van Winkle’s wife both got what they deserved.   What You Didn’t Find Out Until College: That Irving’s grace as a stylist didn’t quite make up for his utter lack of originality, insight, or depth.   JAMES FENIMORE COOPER (1789-1851)   Product of: Cooperstown, New York.   Earned a Living as a: Gentleman farmer.   High-School Reading List: Probably none; The Leatherstocking Tales, i.e., The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840), and The Deerslayer (1841) are considered grade-school material.   College Reading List: Social criticism, such as Notions of the Americans (1828), a defense of America against the sniping of foreign visitors; or “Letter to his Countrymen” (1834), a diatribe written in response to bad reviews of his latest novel.   What You Were Supposed to Have Learned in High School: That Cooper was America’s first successful novelist and that Natty Bumppo was one of the all-time most popular characters in world literature. Also that The Leatherstocking Tales portrayed the conflicting values of the vanishing wilderness and encroaching civilization.   What You Didn’t Find Out Until College: That the closest Cooper ever got to the vanishing wilderness was Scarsdale, and that, in his day, he was considered an insufferable snob, a reactionary, a grouch, and a troublemaker known for defending slavery and opposing suffrage for everyone but male landowners. That eventually, everyone decided the writing in The Leatherstocking Tales was abominable, but that during the 1920s Cooper’s social criticism began to seem important and his thinking pretty much representative of American conservatism.   RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-1882)   Product of: Concord, Massachusetts.   Earned a Living as a: Unitarian minister, lecturer.   High-School Reading List: A few passages from Nature (1836), Emerson’s paean to individualism, and a couple of the Essays (1841), one of which was undoubtedly the early, optimistic “Self-Reliance.” If you were spending a few days on Transcendentalism, you probably also had to read “The Over-Soul.” If, on the other hand, your English teacher swung toward an essay like “The Poet,” it was, no doubt, accompanied by a snatch of Emersonian verse— most likely “Brahma” or “Days.” (You already knew Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” from grade-school history lessons, although you probably didn’t know who wrote it.)   College Reading List: Essays and more essays, including “Experience,” a tough one. Also the lecture “The American Scholar,” in which Emerson called for a proper American literature, freed from European domination.   What You Were Supposed to Have Learned in High School: That Emerson was the most important figure of the Transcendentalist movement, whatever that was, the friend and benefactor of Thoreau, and a legend in his own time; also, that he was a great thinker, a staunch individualist, an unshakable optimist, and a first-class human being, even if you wouldn’t have wanted to know him yourself.   What You Didn’t Find Out Until College: That you’d probably be a better person if you had known him yourself and that almost any one of his essays could see you through an identity crisis, if not a nervous breakdown.  

Editorial Reviews

Praise for An Incomplete Education“AN ASTONISHING AMOUNT OF INFORMATION.”–The New York Times“IT IS PRECISELY THE BOOK THAT I’VE ALWAYS WANTED WITHOUT KNOWING THAT I ALWAYS WANTED IT. . . . It’s for people who have huge gaps in their knowledge of specific areas of culture and intellectual history. . . . Cheerfully, subversively anti-academic.”–Jon Carrol, San Francisco Chronicle“MEMORIZE THIS BOOK AND YOU CAN DROP NAMES, ALLUSIONS, AND ARCANE TERMS WITH THE BEST OF THEM, whether you (or they) know what they’re talking about. . . . The book will rekindle warm memories of your favorite courses, favorite professors, favorite books, favorite theories, favorite philosophical paradoxes.”–Chicago Tribune“RUSH TO YOUR NEAREST BOOKSTORE AND BUY An Incomplete Education. . . . [It] brings you 10,000 years of information. Imagine the power of knowing where Watteau went when the lights went out!”–New York Daily News“ARTICULATE AND IRREVERENT, crammed with facts, figures, drawings, definitions, and historic information sufficient to fill your every gap. . . . Judy Jones and William Wilson . . . tell you everything you should’ve learned but didn’t.–Esquire“THIS BOOK GETS AN A+.”–The Atlanta Journal-Constitution