By Keith Staskiewicz
September 08, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Earth (The Book)

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Has it really been a full six years since Jon Stewart and the writers of The Daily Show released their last book? Well, the delay’s understandable. It’s a daunting task to cover the history of a 4.5 billion-year-old planet (including the entirety of human existence) in 244 pages.

You’ll recognize Earth‘s faux-textbook design and irreverent tone from America (The Book), and some gags recur nearly unchanged — the terrifyingly nude bodies of the Supreme Court justices are replaced here with the terrifyingly nude body of Larry King. But the subject’s bigger, and the high concept higher. Earth is written as a Baedeker for the aliens who will eventually discover our planet after our species has expired, likely by our own hand. All the entries, hitting topics like love (”liking another person very very very very very very much”) and work (”that which we didn’t want to do, but had to, if we didn’t want to eat dirt”), are written in the past tense. It’s the ultimate gallows humor: We had it pretty good, and now we’re all dead.

Earth is The Devil’s Dictionary for a new generation, twisting our lives in the light and bringing mordant humor to the commonplace. Despite the timelessness of most topics, the writers manage to be pretty lively at times, such as when they refer to the Grand Canyon as ”the biggest rift in Arizona not involving Mexicans.”

Earth isn’t meant to be read straight through. It’s designed to be perused, so you can discover at your leisure all the fun gags and wordplay crammed into its nooks and crannies. Because there are a lot. Enough, in fact, to make you believe this would actually be a fairly comprehensive guide for extraterrestrial visitors, just so long as they have a sense of humor. A–

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Earth (The Book)

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