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A World of Curiosities: Surprising, Interesting, and Downright Unbelievable Facts from Every Nation on t he Planet (Who or Why or Which or What?) Paperback – April 24, 2012

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Turn to any page in this compendium of countries and you’ll be surprised and amazed by its vast array of far-flung facts from around the world. Sure to satisfy of the appetite of any lover of trivia.”

—Don Voorhees, author of The Book of Totally Useless Information

 

“An absolute winner! A fascinating and entertaining spin around the world, its oddities and its secrets.”

—Noel Botham, author of The Book of Useless Information

 

“Jam-packed with facts of every description from the horrific to the hilarious. My life has been richer since I read that, in order to cram more showings into the day, one cinema in South Korea made The Sound of Music shorter by cutting out the songs.”

—Caroline Taggart, author of I Used to Know That

About the Author

John Oldale speaks five languages, has outrun knife-wielding brigands (twice), and has been rescued from a sub-Antarctic beach. He lives with his family in a former village pub in Hampshire, England.

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Product Details

  • Series: Who or Why or Which or What?
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; 1 edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452297834
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452297838
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #909,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sam Vaknin on May 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
The classic gazetteer is a numbing compilation of places: their names, their coordinates in an attendant eye-taxing mini-atlas, and some raw data, usually presented in an utterly indecipherable manner. Enough to put one off travel - and reading - for good.

Imagine my surprise then, when I warily stole a peek inside the covers of John Aldale's gazetteer. In decades of avid - nay, compulsive - immersion in reference works dating back three centuries I do not recall having come across a tome remotely similar to this concoction! The author being an adventurer and globe-trotting traveller in the Lawrence of Arabia mold may have something to do with it.

The gazetteer's design is traditional: the countries of the world are arranged alphabetically. But here all resemblance to any geographical dictionary you have ever beheld ends.

Each country has its name written in English and in its own script. This nod to local civilization is followed by a joyous, riotous, and unrestrained train of historical, cultural, social, and political associations, a veritable and delectable cornucopia of anecdotes, facts, factoids, quotes, myths, curiosities, and oddities. It feels like rummaging through an inordinately mysterious and endowed attic in a manor that's 5000 years old. The entire ensemble is handsomely illustrated with photos, diagrams, charts, and drawings.

Two countries I know well and first-hand are Israel and Macedonia. I used these polities to test the validity and relevance of the book's contents.

I was surprised by the author's choice to dedicate a mere 2 pages to Israel, the cradle of all Western and Middle-Eastern religions, and the target of conquering armies from the Babylonians to the Crusades. In comparison, Italy got 5 pages.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By MathildeG on May 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
Very interesting book, full of details a traveler will enjoy. Intellectual sometimes and fun always.Very nice presentation, eye catching. Also, with the maps, you see that, finally, our world is waiting for us, full of discoveries.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Meaghan on June 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a very impressive collection! I have long been a compiler of useless facts and trivia and I've seen it all before, so to speak, but 95% of the information in this book was entirely new to me. (Did you know Genghis Khan was a redhead? That Switzerland "accidentally" invaded Luxembourg with a force of 200 soldiers in 2007 and nobody in Luxembourg noticed? That the Hungarian language has 18 cases, 72 verb forms and no word for "to have"?) This would make good toilet and/or bedside reading, since the entries are short, and there are illustrations.

My only complaint is that I think the book could have been more democratic in terms of page space. The majority of countries got one page, but some got three or four, and in some cases he crammed several countries (almost all the Pacific island nations, for example, like Kiribati and Micronesia) into one or two pages. It would have been nice if each country got equal coverage. I understand that, say, Vanuatu is not as significant as Japan or the United States, but surely Oldale could have come up with enough facts about it to cover a single page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By robert johnston on June 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Oldale, an Englishmen, lawyer scientist and perhaps born 100 years too late tells us in the preface ... "The root of my trouble is that I'm fascinated by every aspect of our planet, and, due to this, am completely unable to think of anything that I could happily leave out."

"Curiosities" is exactly what the title says. The book is completely and wonderfully overstuffed to deliver a 360º reading experience in grey scale block printing on Farmer's Almanac-like paper. It is an information-compendium of curiosities, organized by every country on the planet and utterly fascinating. Here you can find such data as the genetic mutation of 'blondes' from out of Scandinavia or the organizational structure of the Chinese Triads or Global Domination-Best efforts to date by conqueror, populations and land mass ... and 300 more pages of similar data. Oldale organizes his indefatigable flow of facts in an eccentric, beguiling way that reveals as much about his own affections as his selected subjects.

5-Star amazing! This a priority gift to just the right person.
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By JJ Charles on September 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
Decent bathroom book. Worth skimming, but not really worth "reading." What the author did best was peruse thousands of Wikipedia pages and gather up the interesting bits. Sort of a "good parts version." Nothing new in the information or the overall idea, but it's a good effort. If you keep it by the toilet, you shouldn't have any buyer's remorse.
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By Neal on February 17, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a lot of fun and gives short interesting facts on every country in the world. It's almost like a Ripley's Believe it or not, but most of the facts are more interesting and not necessarily weird like Ripley's but still fun. You can stop anywhere in the book and pick it up again whenever.
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