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The Book of General Ignorance Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 7, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If you think you're a trivia expert, British TV men Lloyd (producer of the hit comedy shows Spitting Image and Black Adder) and Mitchinson (writer for Quite Interesting) may disabuse you of the notion that you're a true scholar of random facts-and quickly. Their surprisingly lengthy tome is jam-packed with real answers to a number of less-than-burning questions-camels store fat, not water, in their humps; only five out of every 100,000 paper clips are used to clip papers; the first American president was in fact Peyton Randolph-that you nevertheless may be embarrassed to have completely wrong. Although some of the entries rely on technicality more than actual excavation of obscure fact (Honolulu is technically the world's largest city, despite the fact that 72% of its 2,127 square miles is underwater), these page-length entries prove entertaining and informative, perfect for trivia buffs and know-it-alls; it also makes a fine coffee table conversation piece and a handy resource for prepping clever cocktail party banter.
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“Trivia buffs and know-it-alls alike will exult to find so much repeatable wisdom gathered in one place.”
New York Times

The Book of General Ignorance won’t make you feel dumb. It’s really a call to be more curious.”
The Associated Press

“Ignorance may be bliss, but so is learning surprising information.”
Hartford Courant

“You, too, can banish social awdwardness by having its endless count of facts and factoids at the ready. Or you could just read it and keep what you learned to yourself. Betcha can’t.”
New York Daily News

“To impress friends with your cleverness, beg, borrow or buy John Lloyd and John Mitchinson’s The Book of General Ignorance, an extraordinary collection of 230 common misperceptions compiled for the BBC panel game QI (Quite Interesting).”
Financial Times

“This book would make even Edison feel small and silly, for it offers answers to questions you never thought to ask or had no need of asking as you already knew, or thought you knew, the answer.”
The Economist

“Trivia books, like any kind of mental or physical addiction, are both irresistible and unsatisfying. By the standards of the genre, this one has something approaching the force of revelation. Answering silly questions suddenly seems less important than taking the trouble to ask a few.”
—Melbourne Age

“Eye-watering, eyebrow-raising, terrific . . . moving slightly faster than your brain does, so that you haven’t quite absorbed the full import of one blissful item of trivial information before two or three more come along. Such fine and creative research genuinely deserves to be captured in print.”
Daily Mail

“This UK bestseller redefines ‘common knowledge’ with factoids that will inform and entertain (or at least liven up your next cocktail party).”
OK! Magazine

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307394913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307394910
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

224 of 233 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on August 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"This book is for the people who know they don't know very much." This comment, in the introduction of The Book of General Ignorance, sets the stage and presents the authors' challenge. I started reading it with a "Who do they think they are fooling" attitude.

They made me a convert. This book only gets more interesting as you continue reading it.

Some of the knowledge nuggets aren't big secrets, and in fact read as "trick questions," like "What is the tallest mountain in the world?" The trick is, "tallest," not "highest." Got it? Mauna Kea in Hawaii, not Mt. Everest.

Then, what is the most dangerous animal that has ever lived? Answer? A mosquito, responsible, the authors say, for the deaths of about 45 billion humans. Of course (and they know this), one mosquito isn't responsible for these deaths, there are many species of mosquitos, and mosquitos really don't (directly) kill anybody.

Trick question again.

Then there were the questions that didn't hold any surprise at all: "What is the main ingredient of air?" Answer: nitrogen.

But it got more interesting. What man-made objects are visible from the moon? None. Many are visible from "space" (a mere 60 miles above the surface of the Earth), but the moon is too far away. What is the biggest thing that a blue whale can swallow? What are violin strings made of?

There are so many questions answered, that there is something here for everybody.

This is better than Trivial Pursuit, because of the explanations given. This should be an entertaining book on CD to listen to on a long trip, and can easily be turned into a game for adults and kids.

So I started reading it with a chip on my shoulder, and the authors made me a believer. Interesting, indeed. The book just kept getting better.

And my favorite factoid? What is the longest animal alive today?

Hint... it is not a blue whale.
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86 of 88 people found the following review helpful By S. N. Falk on August 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At last, the American release of what is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating books you could ever hope to delve into! Whereas most trivia books contain "facts" of dubious origin and little consequence, it's clear that the authors of this book have gone through great pains to dig out and verify the most interesting tidbits from the realms of history, nature, science, and culture. Let's go for a few examples (edited heavily for space; the book is far more detailed).

Q: How many words do Eskimos have for snow?
A: Actually, no more than four. Although it's often said that Eskimos have dozens or even hundreds of words for snow, there are at most only four root-words for it, and that's drawing from all Eskimo languages. (They do, however, have more than thirty words for demonstrative pronouns, where speakers of English only have four.)

Q: Who invented the telephone?
A: Contrary to what you've been taught, it was not the famous A. Graham Bell! Credit goes to Antonio Meucci, a brilliant but ailing Italian inventor, whose patent fell into the hands of Bell, a young Scottish engineer. Meucci died before his case against Bell could come to fruition.

There are hundreds of more questions to the end of fascinating and delighting the reader. However much you think you know, there will be mountains of information in here to surprise you--and that's quite the point. In the words of co-writer John Lloyd, "This book is for the people who know they don't know very much." As the authors hope you will come to understand, one's best hope in life is to recognize that one is generally ignorant, for it is simply impossible to know any but a sliver of the wealth of knowledge contained in and about the world.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on December 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
_The Book of General Ignorance_ by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson is a remarkably fun book to read, essentially a collection of questions followed by an essay answer for each one, not organized really into any significant way (though questions dealing with the same subject might follow one another).

This book would be fun for any lovers of trivia and deal often with questions that people think they might know the answer to but really don't. What's the tallest mountain in the world? Think you know right, Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet? Nope, it is Mauna Kea. Though it is a modest 13,799 above sea level, measured from its seabed base to its summit, it is a whopping 33,465 feet in height, almost three-quarters of a mile higher than Mount Everest. What's the driest place in the world? The Sahara right? It is dry alright, getting just one inch of rain a year but it is the third driest place on Earth. The driest in fact is Antarctica, as some areas of the continent have not seen rain for two million years. The second driest is the Atacama Desert in Chile, which averages 0.004 inch of rain a year, and some areas have not seen rain for four hundred years. You have been told that Eskimo is a rude term right, that the preferred term now is Inuit? True, Inuit is the preferred term in Canada, but Alaskan Eskimos are perfectly happy with the name as they "are emphatically not Inuit, a people who live mainly in northern Canada and parts of Greenland." In fact there are many types of Eskimo, of which the Inuit are just one type (the others include the Kalaallit of Greenland and the Yupiget and the Alutiit of Alaska). Think the first turkeys eaten by English-speaking peoples were the Pilgrims?
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