Good Girls Don’t Make Pocket Gems Of History
by Fiona Crawford - May 13th, 2010
a) wonder how you didn’t know about sooner;
b) didn’t know you needed until you saw them and now absolutely must have;
c) marvel at the simplicity and effectiveness of the idea behind;
d) wish with every fibre of your being that you had come up with yourself.
I’m currently experiencing those thoughts and emotions about Pier 9’s Pocket History series, six—as the title suggests—pocket-sized, cloth-covered books chock full of quirky and compelling historical goodness:
- Fame & Infamy
- The Clash of History’s Titans
- Turning the Tide of Battle
- The War of Words
- Obscure Events that Shaped the World
- Good Girls don’t make History
Part Penguin classic budget title, part Penguin classic cloth-covered redesign icon, these nifty titles, which endeavour to ‘highlight the influence on history of “the law of unintended consequences”, are the kind you’d be proud to cart around or display on your bookshelf. And at just under $15 each, they’re the kind of books you end up buying all six of (which I did) and can either read from cover to cover or dip in and out of.
Some of the events they cover are well known, but plenty of them are less so but should be. And even the better-known events have been interpreted in a new manner.
The War of Words includes history’s great military speeches, songs, war cries, and final words across the span of time, from such speeches as William the Conqueror’s ‘Be the Avengers of Noble Blood’ to Adolf Hitler’s ‘We Are Merely Interested in Safeguarding Peace’ and George ‘Dubya’ Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’.
With such gold as ‘The Cadaver Synod: The most controversial trial in history’ and ‘Guano Happens: How the world was changed by bird droppings’, Obscure Events that Shaped the World is sure to be an instant, much-quoted hit.
And Good Girls don’t make History contains stories of some exceptional femme fatales and renegades. There’s ‘Shi Xianggu: The greatest pirate who ever lived’, ‘Mary Ann Cotton: The “Black Widow” with a predilection for infanticide’, ‘Leila Khaled: The pin-up terrorist’, and, closer to home, ‘Amy Bock: New Zealand’s cross-dressing con woman’.
I’m off to read them, buff up on some history trivia that I can trot out during witty dinner party repartee (who am I kidding), and continue cursing myself for not coming up with an idea so simple yet so outstanding.