- 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: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,077,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A World of Curiosities: Surprising, Interesting, and Downright Unbelievable Facts from Every Nation on the Planet (Who or Why or Which or What?) 1st Edition
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“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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Top customer reviews
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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. I was also somewhat puzzled by the author's selection of trivia which I did not think captured Israel's spirit or its history. But when I turned the leaf to Macedonia, I was rewarded with a timely exposition of all the issues that characterize the territory and its complex relations with its neighbours, including its current overwhelming identity crisis.
"I couldn't put the book down" is by now a trite cliché used in every book review. But I really couldn't: this book is an enchantment, a time travel, an adventure park, and a rounded education all wrapped into one and doused in dollops of wry humor and compassion. I learned, I laughed, I felt provoked and comforted, it sent me searching furiously for answers online and in other books, it made me daydream, or sit up startled. It is the kind of book that keeps on giving long after its perusal is over.
DISCLAIMER: The book was provided to me, as a review copy, courtesy Penguin Group.
"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.
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.