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mental flossLately, I’ve been extremely busy at work where it just feels like I’m putting out fires and not really getting any work done.  We are overworked and understaffed, and I’ve got a bunch of things that are overdue.  When I’m anxious, even the little things seem insurmountable.

I put aside Dangerous Liaisons for the Mental Floss History of the World.  I wasn’t really expecting a lot, but I was pleasantly surprised that it helped me unwind and de-stress.

There’s nothing like reading about the rise and fall of empires to put one’s problems in perspective.  Toss in some stuff on wars, plagues, assassination and all of a sudden, my problems seem downright silly compared to the worries of those poor Christians who found themselves in Rome‘s Colosseum or the Circus Maximus. 

Besides all the interesting topics, I like how this book lends itself to short bursts of reading.   I can pick it up and read a couple of pages while waiting to pick up my son from school.  The book is divided into chapters, topics and subtopics to help the reader process all the information.

The authors have a flamboyant and cheeky style that I really enjoyed.  History need not be dry and unpalatable.  Humor goes a long way, something I wish more of my college professors remembered.

After reading the first few chapters, I may pick up more books on Greek and Roman times.  Were the Spartans that hard-core about fighting? (Yeah, probably).  Did the Romans really like throwing all those decadent banquets? (The Mental Floss authors say yes).

Here are some quick facts you might find interesting:

  1. At the time of Christ, the estimated population of Rome was 1,000,000.
  2. The seating capacity of Rome’s Circus Maximus arena by the fifth century was 250,000.
  3. The Romans built 52,000 miles of road.
Ancient Rome

I always wondered why there was that saying “All roads lead to Rome.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not done with the book yet, but I’ve already ordered The Mental Floss History of the United States.  I don’t remember a lot of history from school, so I had better read up in case I’m ever on one of those shows about being smarter than a third grader.

What do you like to read to help you de-stress?