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 bar. For me there is nothing greater than being able to throw out random bits of crap information that undoubtedly none of your friends know about. These little bits of information are a major part of why my friends assume that I am absolutely brilliant, but that isn't the only reason why I do it. The main reasoning behind it is that I truly love to learn. I love to know how everything works, how it came to be, what the origin of a specific word is, things of that nature. This is why I spend a great deal of time after work or before bed watching Discovery Channel, History Channel, and of course my favorite The Science Channel. To me there is nothing better than educational programming, but sometimes you just can't beat a good book. One of my favorite books that I ended up purchasing after several trips to the bookstore reading it was John Llod and John Mitchinson's book of General Ignorance.
The Concept The Book of General Ignorance is a rather large collection of numerous questions that you will probably never ask or come up with. The authors then take the questions, find out the answer through a great deal of research and answer it for you. The strange thing about the book is that even though the book features nothing but pointless questions that most likely will never come up in conversation or in personal thought, they are quite interesting to read about.
While the book has very few tiny illustrations, the book flows quite well with the majority of the stories within the book being short enough that it makes an excellent toilet or coffee table reader. I find that I just pick it up off of my coffee table and read random questions and answers throughout the day. I bring it to work quite a bit because of this. The problem now is that I have read so many random ones that I have no idea whether I have gone through all of them or not yet. I think I have, but I am not completely sure. But that is one of the many great things about the book is your ability to bounce around without a bookmark.
Some of the questions What was the first animal in space? What are guinea pigs used for? Which country has the highest suicide rate? What type of music charms snakes most? What did Nero do while Rome burned? Is French Toast from France? Was Jesus born in a stable? How many sheep were there on Noah's Ark? How do lemmings die?
The Answers While the answers are obviously researched thoroughly, they are definitely much different than you would expect in many instances. For example, the storming of Bastille I thought was a much more complicated process that involved many more people but I came to find out that only 7 prisoners were freed in the process. And I also discovered that Marie Antoinette did not come up with the expression "let them eat cake" during the French Revolution when the poor were rioting because they have no bread saying that they should eat cake instead. The first recollection of the comment was from Queen Marie-Therese wife of Louis XIV, however it is unconfirmed as to who really did say it first.
There are numerous stories such as those above that show that we just make assumptions of history based upon what we are told without thinking of doing our own research to find out the true reality. This of course is just our nature to believe everything that we are taught through school. I'm sure that the majority of the questions, regardless of how stupid some may be really have interesting answers that are somewhat unexpected.
Organization While the book isn't really broken down in the Table of Contents into sections, it definitely is divided so that you can easily find all of the questions pertaining to animals in one area, all those about religion in another, and so on. The book sort of flows right from the first question into the next. I found myself reading one after another and then just flipping a few pages at random and reading a few more. I'm sure you'll find that organization truly doesn't matter in this particular book at all.
Overall This is a great book that really brings to light the true aspects of history and science. I think far too often we take history for granted and just make assumptions based up on popular assertion and the reality is that what we think to be true could ultimately be substantially different. The questions that are asked often times allow for an answer that leads into something that has nothing to do with the original question as well. This really adds to the information that you are learning as you find out other related information that is related to other topics presented in the answer to the question.
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
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 … more