The Devil’s Dictionary, written by Ambrose Bierce in 1911, is book #1 and it only took a day or so to read. It is nothing more than a long list of words with alternative definitions. The definitions are excessively cynical and snide. Here are my ten favorites:
PHILOSOPHY, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
RATIONAL, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.
FUTURE, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.
POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.
OCEAN, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man—who has no gills.
LIFE, n. A spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay. We live in daily apprehension of its loss; yet when lost it is not missed. The question, "Is life worth living?" has been much discussed; particularly by those who think it is not, many of whom have written at great length in support of their view and by careful observance of the laws of health enjoyed for long terms of years the honors of successful controversy.
PAST, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the Future. These two grand divisions of Eternity, of which the one is continually effacing the other, are entirely unlike. The one is dark with sorrow and disappointment, the other bright with prosperity and joy. The Past is the region of sobs, the Future is the realm of song. In the one crouches Memory, clad in sackcloth and ashes, mumbling penitential prayer; in the sunshine of the other Hope flies with a free wing, beckoning to temples of success and bowers of ease. Yet the Past is the Future of yesterday, the Future is the Past of to-morrow. They are one—the knowledge and the dream.
RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.