Sunday, August 15, 2010

Do Not Open by John Farndon

Do Not Open features secrets from around the world. Inside you'll find everything from A to Z: Abominable Snowman, bacteria, China, diamonds, eavesdropping, Fibonacci Numbers, gunpowder, Holy Grail, Ivan the Terrible, Jack the Ripper, Ku Klux Klan, lost tribes, Mary Queen of Scots, nuclear bombs, optical illusions, Plato, reincarnation, sleepwalking, telepathy, unicorns, vampires, Watergate, Xi'an pyramids, yeti, Fritz Zwicky, and much, much more. There are many ways to read the book: sequentially (like any other book), randomly by opening it at any page, or by starting at the beginning (or anywhere for that matter) and using the directions at the bottom of the pages to go to related articles.

This book blew me away. It's so great that every time I open the book it sucks me in. I can't stop. No wonder it's a New York Times bestseller. The book is filled with information that's new to me. I love learning new things and this book fit right in with that. The material is presented in an unusual, fun and quirky way, which makes the book fun to read. The pages are visually interesting because the text is arranged in a wide variety of formations, using many different fonts and font sizes. Along with the text there's plenty of phenomenal art work. There are collages, photographs, cartoons, flip out pages, flip out tabs, and a few other special effects. Not one boring page in the whole book.

The directions at the bottom of the page (called links) are a feature I particularly enjoy. They make this book different from others I've seen. The linking example given in the introduction goes as follows: Starting at "Hoaxes", the reader can than go to another page to read about "Anastasia: The Lost Princess", then to "Haunted Places", followed by "UFOs", which leads to "Men in Black", then "Surveillance". It goes on and on. This is my favourite way to read the book. Of course, on occasion I've also just picked it up and read a page or two. Either way, it's fun.

It was really hard to come up with some favourite pages. There are so many. Here's a short list of ones I really enjoyed:

  • Atlantis (pages 212-213): Did you know that there are 9 different sites that could be Atlantis?
  • Want a Strawberry Milkshake?(page 164-165): Did you know that a prepared strawberry milkshake gets its flavours from more than 60 chemicals and not a single strawberry? Yum.
  • Vatican (page 88-89): Did you know that the divorce documents of King Henry VIII are stored in the secret archives because of their sensitive nature?
  • Elvis (pages 242-243): Did you know that Elvis's coffin weighed 400kg (900 lb)? What was in there?

The book features a fantastic table of contents with not only a list of secrets, but also an explanation of what the secret is about. That makes it useful and a fascinating read all by itself. The index is equally useful with enough entries to make things easy to find. The glossary is ok and only features a small fraction of the items in the book. Since many of these items have already been explained on their respective pages, it makes me wonder if it is necessary at all. Still, it contains some interesting information in a concise format. It might be helpful to some readers.

I really think this book would be great for a reluctant readers, both young or old(er). I also think it would make a great coffee table book, except when you have company. Your visitors will probably spend more time with the book than they do with you. Lock it away, keep it to yourself and whatever you do, Do Not Open it [unless you want to learn something and have a good time doing it].

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to take a peek inside selected sections, please visit DK Canada's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Do Not Open by John Farndon, DK Publishing (Penguin), ©2007. ISBN 9780756662936(paperback), 256p.


  1. very interesting sounding book. Thanks.

  2. Sounds like a really fun book! Now, I wonder, given the DK Publishers: is this really a book for kids or is it directed towards adults?

    Happy reading!

  3. Thanks Heather. It's really interesting.

    The book is in the kids' catalogue and the description mentions ages 8-17. So, they are marketing it for kids and probably best fits in the kid genre. However, it's a very cool book and I'm sure a lot of adults (like me) will find it interesting. Thanks for stopping by.


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