O'Farrell, John "An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2,000 Years of Upper Calls Idiots in Charge" - 2007
I haven't laughed and learned as much in one book as with this one. I read "Things can only get better" by the same author and really liked it. But this is a completely different matter. John O'Farrell makes history hilarious. I learned so much about British history, more than any of my history teachers would have ever imagined for me. From the Romans to World War II, the British Isles have been the place of many upheavals. To learn about all this in such a funny way, pure bliss.
A quote I especially liked: "… history is an infinite flow chart and at every junction only one of a number of possible routes was taken. The exact point at which Britain and Europe and the world have ended up today is only one of a billion, billion possibilities; the incredibly unlikely result of every decision, struggle and accident to have involved all the people who were born before we were. …" Probably the reason why I like alternate history books so much.
Another one I cannot agree with: "Germany was allied to Austria (They still always give each other maximum points in the Eurovision Song Contest) …" Uhm, …. not really, there is a standing joke that Austria gives Germany "zero points" (imagine French accent) every year. Probably sarcasm. ;-)
Definitely want to read the follow-up to this great book: "An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain: or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always"
From the back cover:
"Many of us were put off history by the dry and dreary way it was taught at school. Back then 'The Origins of the Industrial Revolution' somehow seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnson's 'Shatterproof' ruler. But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn all that stuff you feel you really ought to know by now...
In this 'Horrible History for Grown Ups', you can read how Anglo-Saxon liberals struggled to be positive about immigration; 'Look I think we have to try and respect the religious customs of our new Viking friends - oi, he's nicked my bloody ox!' Discover how England's peculiar class system was established by some snobby French nobles whose posh descendants still have wine cellars and second homes in the Dordogne today. And explore the complex socio-economic reasons why Britain's kings were the first in Europe to be brought to heel; (because the Stuarts were such a useless bunch of untalented, incompetent, arrogant, upper-class thickoes that Parliament didn't have much choice.)
A book about then that is also incisive and illuminating about now, '2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge' is a hilarious, informative and cantankerous journey through Britain' fascinating and bizarre history. It is as entertaining as a witch burning, and a lot more laughs."