View Full Version : Book Review - Strange Red Cow

11-06-2006, 05:29 PM
In the interests of providing useful information on this forum (as opposed to the usual bellyaching and moaning between factions), I offer this humble book review -

Book Review: Strange Red Cow And Other Curious Classified Ads From the Past
Author: Sara Bader
American history section
ISBN: 1-4000-5120-7
Pages: 209

A casual toe dip into the swirling jacuzzi of social history.

Sara Bader, the author of Strange Red Cow, provides an introductory look at the fine art of the newspaper classified ad as it was placed in papers between the eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries. Fortunately, most of the ads which are cited in the book are right around the time we portray. A few classifieds from the 1940s and even a few Craigslist ads from today are used for comparison.

The author explains the origins of the book came from her distraction during a documentary research project. The more she used newspapers in her research the more she became intrigued by the classifieds. Classified ads provide unique insights into American culture during the period. Help Wanted, For Sale, Lost and Found, even runaway slave ads are listed. If we are willing to “read between the lines” we can deduce what was important to the writer, and thus acquire a better understanding of the culture we endeavor to portay.

“They had good days and bad days; they got distracted and disorganized and like us, left important things behind. That our collective ancestors forgot their books in carriages, left their capes on battlefields and dropped their keys and cash is oddly reassuring. We are still losing our stuff today, though what we own and wear and carry with us - and what we decide to return and retrieve – inevitably changes over time.”

Sara Bader, Strange Red Cow, page 12.

Fast, easy read. This is no lengthy, pseudo- psychological academic tome. It should only take about a couple of hours to read. It’s fun to read, because it humanizes and personalizes those from the past.

Organized: the different chapters are arranged by category – Help Wanted, Lost and Found, and so on. Any ads listed are arranged in rough chronological order in each chapter.

All the original ads are cited from the original newspaper where they were found. No page citation, though.


Visual layout: Sometimes the pages are hard to read or you can lose your place because the ad samples are sprinkled in with the text in separate boxes. It can get somewhat confusing if you accidentally lose your place on the page.

Price: $18, considering how small it is, and there is no paperback as of this writing.

Overall, this is a good book to have. It’s a pleasant read. It’s a good break from some of the lengthy research projects upon our plates. If anything it makes a great coffee table book.