Gail Selinger with W. Thomas Smith Jr.,
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pirates
(Alpha, 2006)

I tend to avoid any book that calls its readers "idiots" or "dummies."

But I tend to collect books on the Age of Sail the way a wooden frigate collects barnacles in a tropical sea, so somewhere along the way I picked up a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pirates. And for a few years, it collected dust on a shelf with dozens of other books I had the good intentions of reading someday. Eventually, I picked it up, figuring a book like this would make good reading in the upstairs bathroom.

Yes, it was a potty book.

And it was good. Very good.

No, this isn't the epitome of nautical knowledge. It's a stepping stone, a place to get started. But, even so, this guide is full of interesting information about the various ages of piracy, right up to modern times, as well as some of the key figures from its history. You'll learn a lot about sailing in general, too.

As befits its title, this book presents its information in easily digestible chunks. It's a great book to read in small doses, and by the time you finish, you'll have learned more than you expected.

And that's not just good for idiots.

book review by
Tom Knapp

13 June 2015

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