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The Book of General Ignorance Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 7, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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—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.”
“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).”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“This UK bestseller redefines ‘common knowledge’ with factoids that will inform and entertain (or at least liven up your next cocktail party).”
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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. By admitting this, one is then motivated to ask questions that matter, for everything can be interesting when looked at in the right way . . . it's just that most people fail to look.
But it goes further than that. "The Book of General Ignorance" is just one piece of a cultural phenomenon that has its roots in Britain. It was originally written as a textual accompaniment to the hugely-popular television show "QI", which operates under the philosophy that curiosity--for its own sake--is worthwhile. The show is unlike anything broadcast on American screens, featuring panelists who try desperately to claw their way to the answers to questions they are posed (questions not unlike those appearing in the book). While they're rarely correct from the off, it's the mere delight in discovering the truth that ends up being, unfailingly, uproariously funny. The show's a joyful celebration of the fact that questioning the world around us need not be an impenetrably erudite or boring endeavor. [...]
In the meantime, pick up this book, and once you've been thoroughly impressed, buy it for your friends as well. It'd make a lovely gift for birthdays and the holiday season, assured to please scholar and dilettante alike. Recommended with cherries on top.