Ask the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice from Yesteryear

Ask the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice from Yesteryear - Elizabeth P. Archibald

Thank you to Hachette Books for providing me with an egalley copy of the book to review.


I consider myself to be a collector of the bizarre and intriguing, of bits of information that most people would overlook because they find it useless. It is much to my delight that I stumbled across “Ask the Past” by Elizabeth P. Archibald as it compiled the kinds of things that I love, and usually struggle to keep track of as these little gems of knowledge are written on scraps of paper that end up who knows where. Luckily, this one book houses a vast array of humorous and unusual bits of wisdom from the past that can only be found by digging through lost or forgotten manuscripts in archives and libraries, ever so conveniently laid out for the reader.


This is a book that’s easy to plow through in an hour or two, but it brings with it such enjoyment and humour, the kind that reminds you of what nice, leisurely reading is. Over the course of the book it was easy to think that some of the advice was ridiculous beyond belief, but given the time frame and circumstances it makes it easier to take them with a grain of salt. Equally funny are Archibald’s own little snippets and comments after every single “How to” piece. Albeit, some were funnier than others, and others seemed like too much of a stretch in an attempt to be funny. But it was the genuinely comical ones that caused me to laugh out loud, at times even more than the actual advice. They also served as a good explanation in the cases where an ‘older’ English spelling was used for some words, making the definition more difficult. The pictures also added a nice touch in illustrating what the main idea of the advice piece was.


Overall it was a delightful and entertaining book that was at the same time educational, successfully giving insight into the past without making it a dull, textbook-like lesson. A must-read for history lovers and comedy lovers alike, or just as a quick pick-me-up during the day when you’re looking for a less serious but equally enjoyable read.