Friday, April 04, 2008

The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson

Lloyd is the co-author of The Book of Liff (with the late Douglas Adams; it was a collection of humorous definitions for place-names) and a well-known UK television producer (Not the Nine O'Clock News, Blackadder, QI, and so on). Mitchinson is apparently his colleague on QI.

This is yet another book of odd facts and little-known information, organized in the time-honored "you thought X, but the real truth is Y!" format. As you can see from the bookshot to the left, the subtitle is "Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong." (Many of us recognize the thought: in its pithier form, "Everything You Know Is Wrong!" has been the tag-line for a thousand comic book issues and TV episodes over the past several decades.)

The point of reading a book like this is to learn new things, but the only way to evaluate these books is by checking the facts you already know. So a book that tells you entirely things you didn't know before could be absolutely amazing...or utter crap. And a book can be completely accurate, and still useless, if it only tells you the things you already know. General Ignorance only had a few facts that I already knew, thus allowing me to test it, and I don't recall anything in it that I knew was false. So, by that completely personal and idiosyncratic measure, this is a very good collection of little-known facts. But your mileage may vary.

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