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Monday, October 26, 2009

Shelf Life: One Million by Hendrik Hertzberg

One Million by Hendrik Hertzberg
GENRE: Random trivia with a not-so-hidden message from one of today's most influential liberal journalists.

THE PITCH: In an effort to make an inconceivable number more palpable, Hendrick Hertzberg shows you one million dots. Five thousand dots per page means you get 200 pages of mind-boggling, eye-crossing circles about the size of a pin head. Each page has statistics that correlate with one of those tiny spots. Individually, the facts seem arbitrary, but collectively generate a weighty conception of a mil.

AUTHORIAL PEDIGREE: Hertzberg's a senior editor and staff writer at the New Yorker and one of the most audible voices in U.S. media. Since his start at the Harvard Crimson, his expertise has been local and national politics.  The one-time speech writer for Jimmy Carter is also the author of Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004, and the recently released ¡Obámanos!.

INTERESTINGLY: Hertzberg originally published this concept in 1970. This edition is fully updated and revised.

ADDED BONUS: Flipping the pages produces a dizzying psychedelic effect without the trouble of  a dizzying psychedelic substance.

BUMMER: The book doesn't have any  of these.

STAT SUPERLATIVES: Most obscure stat: "426,525 – Kittens it would take to weigh as much as one blue whale."

Most glaring "Did they fact-check that?" stat: "483 – Americans killed in the Revolutionary War."

Best contrasting stats: " 720,700 – Dollars, sales per minute by Wal-Mart (February 2008 figure)." and "722,800 – Dollars, cost of the Iraq war every two minutes."

SHELF WORTH: A seemingly inane concept at first, One Million's intention becomes evident after a few casual flip-throughs and makes for interesting enough coffee table fodder. ...Or maybe that's just the brainwashing effect of the minuscule dots talking. Either way, it's kinda cool to see  a million of something.

One Million by Hendrik Hertzberg. Abrams Image. $15.95. 208 pp.

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