QI: The Third Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin and Andrew Hunter Murray

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QI: The Third Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin and Andrew Hunter Murray

Category: Trivia
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Part three of this trilogy of quite remarkable and utterly interesting books about the quite remarkable and utterly interesting. (You have to wonder if a fourth book would refer to itself…)
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: October 2015
Publisher: Faber and Faber
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780571308989

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Well done, Hartlepool. You didn't put on trial and kill a shipwrecked monkey thinking it a Napoleonic spy – any more than the several other places thusly accused ever did. Well done, Italy, for making the ciabatta such a global phenomenon it seems like a traditional foodstuff, even if it was invented in 1982. And well done to that famous ice hockey player, Charles Darwin – who was probably playing it, seeing as it was a British invention, long before the Canadians ever realised they might be good at it. Yes, for a book that spends a lot of its time saying 'this didn’t happen,' 'hoojamaflip didn't do this,' and 'that was never thus', it's one that's incredibly easy to be most positive about.

I'd be even more positive if I wasn't aware that the past QI books of this form have all had an expanded edition somewhere along the line, but being aware of trivialities is what this book is all about and that caveat is just that – a triviality. This is one of the more pleasurable books to dip into. For one thing, it's nowhere near as negative as all those corrective statements would appear to be. For every one sentence ('liquorice doesn't mostly end up in all-sorts…', 'on the whole cuckoos actually hatch cuckoo eggs,' 'Sherlock Holmes didn't really use deductive logic, but something else…' to paraphrase) you get up to two pages of add-on material, which allows the authors the chance to claim this book conceals more than 2,000 discrete pieces of information with it being one of the least eye-opening claims herein.

And pretty much all those pieces are a tiny nugget. Barrie didn't invent the name Wendy – and Queen Victoria didn't use her first name. While on names, some of the contents are actually getting to be pretty well known (see the urban myth regarding the TV Pugwash nomenclature), but that's a tiny shaft of the obvious and predictable in amongst the forest of surprising delights. As for familiarity, there was only one section here I have ever seen on the television programme – the oddly-named Paris-Dakar Rally, which touches on neither city. But then, I have always been slightly fonder of the idea of QI on TV than the annoyingly smug yet at the same time quite beery reality. Perhaps the departure, announced the week I write this, of Stephen Fry after the now-current series M, will change things, although I doubt that.

And for being smug, here's where I'll have the creators of this book up – even if one of them has the same name as myself*. The world's tallest trees are here, flagged as even being loftier than Big Ben – I should bloody well think so, as it's a bell not a tower. Walking races wouldn't come part of the Olympics movement in 1906 – the same movement doesn't recognise the global games that year, as they weren't part of the routine schedule. Or fully global. And to state that something is rarer than pandas is just meaningless, considering how many types there are.

That fact was probably in a different edition in this series. And that's another remarkable fact – the manner in which a trivia book with such erudition and breadth has spread to a full trilogy of titles has to be a superlative. There is so much variety here, and each page really is a joy. It's utterly quotable, eminently share-down-the-pub-able, and just gives great pleasure. I read it all very eagerly – even if the makers had me at witches' knickers.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

  • No, believe it or not we are different people – I cannot lay claim to inventing QI. Or producing Spitting Image. Or Blackadder. Or even being a tennis player hardly anyone remembers. In fact I only chose this book to bugger up our search engine. [Editor's note: you failed.]

We met with the first in the series here.

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Buy QI: The Third Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin and Andrew Hunter Murray at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy QI: The Third Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin and Andrew Hunter Murray at Amazon.com.


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