Random Guides

In addition to the acclaimed Smart Aleck's Guide to US History (random house 2009), we have branched into the realm of ebooks, starting with two off-the-wall guides below to go with a few Shakespeare guides.

Only 2.99 on:


Marietta: Or, The Students - the wicked Victorian grave-robbing melodrama (get the pdf; the two-column format makes the other versions a bit wonky)

"Grave Robbing in Lincoln Park" - our "Chicago Unbelievable" Podcast with Daniel Kraus

Hey, kids....wanna see a dead body?

In this out-of-left-field follow-up to the acclaimed SMART ALECK'S GUIDE TO AMERICAN HISTORY (Random House, 2009), the Smart Aleck Staff delves into the history, theory and practice of robbing graves. It's everything you need to launch YOUR career as a 19th century resurrection man - the Smart Aleck way!

With their trademark humor somehow staying (mostly) in the bounds of good taste, the staff delves the days when anyone who came into possession of a dead body could trade it for cash or valuable prizes at medical schools, no questions asked. They investigate the history of mummy "unwrapping parties"  and conduct interviews with horror novelists and archaeologists, and retell stories of  murderers who found that simply killing a person to sell the remains to colleges saved them a lot of digging. 

THE SMART ALECK'S GUIDE TO GRAVE ROBBING is fascinating, disgusting, and entertaining. 

 As a text book, it comes complete with quizzes, assignments, and experiments to try at home.  It even includes a handy set of rhymes to help you remember whether "coffin liquor" is safe to drink based on the color and texture! 

Not for the faint of heart, but horror fans, trivia buffs, and the historically inclined will find much to enjoy (albeit not before dinner).  This full-length ebook  contains an active table of contents and lots of illustrations. The new ibook edition is newly-formatted for iPads.


Only 2.99 on:
Kindle (coming sept)

The staff who brought you the acclaimed SMART ALECK'S GUIDE TO AMERICAN HISTORY (Random House 2009) is back with a look at the history of the songs and jokes you repeated when the teacher wasn't around, from Miss Suzy and her steam boat to the numerous songs about killing teachers, eating underwear, and coming down with the case of diarrhea, with an additional look at the dirty jokes, ghost stories, pranks and customs that have been passed from kid to kid for generations. Tracing many songs back hundreds of years (while debunking myths about the "origins" of others) using data from their popular PLAYGROUND JUNGLE blog, the guide is fascinating, hilarious, and will bring back memories for everyone. Those jokes are older than you thought! 

With their usual "brainy but lighthearted" approach, theSmart Aleck Staff's latest guide includes fascinating looks at the history and mythology surrounding "Miss Mary Mack," "Miss Suzy Had a Steamboat," "Me Chinese," "A Boy's Occupation," "Ring Around the Rosie" (which was not about the plague, but may have been about a prostitute), and dozens more, examining their variations, evolution, and origins in soldier slang, 18th century tavern songs and ancient folk ballads.

In addition to rhymes, songs, and jokes, the staff delves into customs like "Jinx," "Light as a Feather Stiff as a Board," and "Cooties," as well as section on "wicked four square moves," with side trips along the way into the evolution of the word "poop," the various synonyms for "level" used by video game players in the '80s, and the history of fart jokes, plus the staff's trademark hilarious "assignments" and "experiments to try at home." A fascinating history lesson and a great nostalgia trip for children of the 80s, in particular, though it' will surely bring back memories for anyone who ever spent any time at a school or camp.

This full-length (over 50,000 words) ebook contains an active table of contents, active internal links, and a handy active index of first lines, as well as an appendix full of original songs such as "Drink Your Juice (or You'll Get Scurvy)" and "Glumpy, The Elf Who Sawed His Leg Off." A wonderful resource for writers - or anyone who wants to be the hit of their next party.

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