Review: A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Ripleys Entertainment, Inc.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You ever see the movie BIG FISH? You know what this book reminds me of? Yeah, BIG FISH, only Ripley actually did those weird things and met those odd people, as he described them, even from the beginning. Instead of a baby popping out and sliding across the floor, Ripley’s birth was no less unusual. His dad up and left Appalachia, swam solo across the Ohio River, went across country, and tried his hand in the California gold rush.

Neal Thompson brings this book to life with his adjectively descriptive and curiously captivating writing style. Sure, the subject matter helps, but Thompson keeps you engaged throughout. I particularly enjoyed the “Believe It or Not” segments he spreads throughout. He’ll break the narrative to offer an interesting factoid regarding Ripley’s history. You’ll learn the origins of the phrase “for crying out loud”, how Babe Ruth was called “The Sultan of Swat”, the beginning of yellow journalism, and what happened when Mr. Walt Disney didn’t achieve his dream of becoming a newspaper cartoonist. And that’s just the first ten-percent or so of the book!

As you may already tell, this book features more Ripley himself than what you’ll find on his shows or museums. There are plenty of resources for that, but you’ll still get a tease for it here. This book also features an ODDScan feature with a phone app (sadly, my Windows Phone doesn’t get much love with these things) where you can scan the book’s pictures and see extra content. You can also find this content on the author’s site at

This book was a bit larger for my tastes, but many will still be interested. It covers important time periods of America’s history, including both World Wars and the Great Depression, and Ripley’s involvement during it all. So, yes, it does take some time to get through, but there’s a reason Leroy “Robert” Ripley was voted “America’s Most Popular Man” by the New York Times.

Thanks Three Rivers Press and Random House for sending this to me. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

You can find this book, its preview, and other reviews at Amazon: A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley

Or, you can find this book at the independent book store Powell’s:



9 thoughts on “Review: A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley

    1. ryandejonghe Post author

      It really is. If a book came out about the stories of each weird item he found, I may like that better, but this was a still an interesting book about an interesting man. Thanks for swinging by.

      1. flygirl140

        you’ve never been to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not?! that was a staple part of my childhood; it was one of the many museums we’d visit during the summer.

      2. flygirl140

        I definitely recommend it, especially for the kids. Its unique, gross, and somewhat mind boggling but might be more corny for adults. I never saw the TV show.

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