The British panel game-show "QI" is, I think, the best show on television, even given the sad fact that it *isn't* on television in the US, and could well be runner-up to the fabled "Mystery Science Theater 3000" for the best show in the history of television. That sets a pretty high standard, therefore, for books associated with the series, and "The Book of General Ignorance" by and large stands up to the pressure.
Drawing from the TV program's custom of giving large negative-point penalties to contestants who give answers that "everyone knows" are true but are in fact incorrect, Johns Lloyd and Mitchinson list a bunch of questions that have conventional-wisdom answers (Who invented the theory of relativity? Why is a marathon the distance it is?) or have popular urban legends attached to them (What did Thomas Crapper invent? What man-made objects can be seen from the moon?) and show why "everything you think you know is wrong." Some of their information is debatable (for example, in response to the question "How many states does the USA have?" they answer 46, saying that Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts are technically not "states" but commonwealths), but even the most educated reader would probably come away from these pages having learned a few things.
More to the point, she'd also come away entertained. While this book doesn't have the outright comedy of the TV show (granted, it's not meant to), the pedigree is still evident, which puts this a step ahead of much of the raft of "interesting stuff you probably never knew" books out there. Combine this with a series of Cecil Adams books, and I bet the connoisseur of obscure knowledge and shooter-down of urban legends will come out very well armed indeed.
Pros: excellent writing, interesting topics Cons: pictures could make it more interesting The Bottom Line: Really interesting book regardless of just how unusual the questions may be, but lots of good information that you wouldn't expect. One thing that I have always enjoyed about going to the local bookstore is just going through random books trying to find out information that I can later share with my friends at the … more
It's hard to say if this is a factual book, there are no footnotes/endnotes. Overall this book is an easy read and will make you think and at the least you'll learn something you most likely never knew. I'm also quite sure that the authors made a few mistakes throughout this book which is again why footnotes/endnotes would have come in handy. The one mistake I noticed and know for a fact is a mistake is when speaking of the "thumbs up." The authors contend that this is interpreted in Russia as a … more