Friday, August 31, 2012

BC2012: Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes and Other B.S. by Alex Boese

The content of this book is great. Boese has a thorough knowledge of hoaxes (he is curator of the online Museum of Hoaxes and author of a book by the same name). He uses hoax to describe all manner of lies ranging from cons to false news stories to bogus products. The book is organized as a life cycle from birth (fake pregnancy hoaxes) to death ("Elvis is alive" hoaxes). Along the way, Boese declares a number of "reality rules" such as "Just because you read it on the Internet doesn't mean it's true" and "There's nothing real about reality TV." His writing style is entertaining and engaging. Maybe if my grandmother read it, she wouldn't keep forwarding ridiculously false e-mail messages.

Unfortunately, book designer April Ward* sucks eggs. Seriously, this is the most difficult book I have ever read, and that has nothing to do with the writing. Apparently the designer has something against black ink because the entire book is printed with green and brown. I didn't consciously struggle with reading those colors against a white page, but I got awfully tired much more quickly than normal. The sections with white text on brown background also fatigued me. The first page of each chapter was the worst, though -- I could only read the brown text on green background in bright light (I had to stand up and read directly under our ceiling light). Even worse, sometimes the printing was offset a bit, though I can't blame that entirely on Ward.** I know my eyes at 42 aren't what they were at 25 (or even 39), but this book is just horrid. I can recall seeing worse book designs in stores, but this may be the worst that I have ever purchased.

It's a shame because, as I said, the author is smart and funny, and this book deserves to be widely read. By classifying hoaxes and offering rules to judge by, Hippo Eats Dwarf educates readers to more easily recognize b.s. And since most of this stuff gets passed on by people who don't know any better, having more people who do know better should limit the spread of future hoaxes.

* I can't believe she revealed her name, as if she has any reason to be proud of this ugly, almost unreadable lump of crap, but since she did, I'm sharing it with the world. When your design negatively impacts the reader's ability to read the book, you have failed miserably.

** She is still somewhat responsible, though, because she chose ink on ink rather than ink on background, and that printing problem only occurs with the former.


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