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on 30 November 2010
This new offering is another piece of wry loveliness from the guys at QI (whose lunchtime chat is a fearsome thing to imagine). It's teeming with lots of genuinely interesting snippets, some of the more disgusting - I'll be honest - I wish I hadn't read, and some of which still make me giggle days after I've read them.

What it manages really well - surprisingly so in a book that's essentially, well, about facts - is to maintain a rip-rattling pace, even while shifting topic with such frequency. It's very easy, for example, to get sucked into a bit about, say, how elephants get drunk, and not emerge until you've been firmly put in your place about the effect cracking your knuckles really has (if you're thinking arthritis you're - surprise surprise - wrong). For me, it also achieves the rare feat of making scientific stuff interesting ... if only my biology teacher at school had used this as a textbook.

The writing is superb, striking a note somewhere between authoritative and gently mocking. One of my favourite bits is from the article on absinthe:

"The active ingredient in wormwood is thujone .... [it] can be dangerous in high doses and does have a mild psychoactive effect, but not at the 10 milligrams per litre concentration that most absinthe contains. Sage, tarragon and Vicks VapoRub all contain similar levels of thujone, but no one has yet linked them to depraved behaviour."

Brilliant. If that raised a giggle - even a slight one - you'll love this book.
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on 8 October 2010
The QI Second book of general Ignorance is fantastic! a great follow-up to the 1st one. Its packed with more ignorance and has funny little quotes from the series as well! a great read!
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on 30 November 2010
As Stephen Fry explains in the preface, this book isn't about becoming a smug little know-it-all at social functions. It's a celebration of the greatest human quality there is - curiosity. Except that of course, once you have pocketed a handful of the nuggets inside, however quenched your curiousness is, you do also feel a little smug. And why not.

Intricately researched, and penned in a fluffy, yet cerebral tone, The Second Book Of General Ignorance is brilliant. Considering its richness in facts, it's amazing how quickly you can get through it, and this is in no small way due to the masterly writing style of Messrs. Lloyd and Mitchinson. A clever little trick they've employed is to link seemingly tenuous facts, so that you can be taken from a section about Genghis Khan, to one on nosebleeds, without feeling you've jumped anywhere at all.

One more thing that's great about it is that I was reading the whole thing with the voice of Stephen Fry in my head. Whether this is intentional or not, I don't know. But it certainly worked for me.

I Can't recommend this book enough. Get it as a Christmas present for people. Or if the only people you know are 'dull torpid acedia', buy it for yourself.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've a dinner party of people to inform that Steamboat Willie was not Mickey Mouse's first film.
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As per usual a book filled with fun facts and of course challenges to the standard authordoxy that we believe in. All great fun told with some verve and with a tongue in cheek style.

What is wonderful about this book - and others in the series - is that it informs and entertains in equal measure. If school books were this good, I'm sure that more children would take an interest. However there are as in any book of this kind a few hiccups.

Firstly we are told that the yak has the longest hair of any animal at 60cm - around 2ft. Earlier on there is another article that goes on to point out that humans - at least the hair on their head, does not stop growing unlike all other animals. In fact there are many ladies and a few men in day to day life with hair longer than 2ft.

The second wrong fact is Richard the 3rd. The article finishes off with the rather smug assumption that Shakespeare was wrong and that by all accounts Richard III was in fact a good height and handsome without any known disfigurement. Of course the fact that he has been dug up in a car park and matches perfectly with the stories of a hunchbacked near dwarf somewhat renders the entire chapter null and void.

And that's the problem with books that are entirely based upon the accuracy of their facts, because when they are not correct it calls into question the rest of the statements. Generally I do believe most of what has been written but if I can spot a couple of mistakes easily then I'm sure that others will find more.
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on 10 December 2010
My general level of ignorance is quite high and I was unaware of this book and its predecessor until recently. Now they're both on my list of perfect Christmas presents for a number of friends and family members.

This is a great book - well researched, well written, genuinely interesting, and funny enough to make me laugh out loud on the tube. The wonderfully light writing style manages to deliver a constant stream of information seemingly effortlessly, while the range of facts and histories on offer is a real treat. I've never felt so enthused about the chemical properties of water, the history of football, the origin of species and the molotov cocktail all in one day. This is not a dry list of clever facts. Every chapter has some particular factual nugget at its core, but they exist as a springboard for all manner of interesting sidelines. Typically a topic will also cover the origins of the word(s), and give a nod to the scientists, artists and thinkers involved before striking out on a fabulously unexpected tangent. One chapter starts with a look at the drinking habits of the world's animals and ends with a plot summary of the oldest surviving work of literature on earth, all in the space of a page.

The greatest strength of the book, in my opinion, is the evident enthusiasm of everybody involved in its compilation, from the industrious elves to the writers (John Lloyd and John Mitchinson) to Stephen Fry. Every time I dip into the book, I am struck by a sense of renewed enthusiasm about the world and all its little mysteries and curiosities. It feeds my inner geek. This book is like the kid in class who insists on asking 'why' all the time, and is happiest when the teacher has to admit that nobody really knows.
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on 17 November 2010
I sent this book to my lovely son-in-law. He loved it and often uses quotes from it when giving presentations (to lighten the atmosphere). Amusing and clever.
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....or should I say - accomplished, acute, astute, brainy, bright, clever, discerning, eggheaded, expert, genius, gifted, ingenious, intellectual, inventive, knowing, knowledgeable, masterly, penetrating, profound, quick, quick-witted, sharp, smart.........

Book 1 was excellent and this second edition QI: The Second Book of General Ignorance: Everything you think you know is "Still" wrong continues where it left off - BUY, BUY, BUY.
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on 18 February 2013
If you watch QI you will remember many of the questions that are included in the book. Indeed it will feel like you can hear Stephen Fry's voice asking them and adding the extra interesting detail. The addition of some of the comments from the panel is a nice touch - not that every one of them is a brilliantly incisive comedic gem though.
Once you've absorbed some of the trivia in this book just imagine what a populat guest you'll be at cocktail parties!
As a dedicated QI fan I am an easy audience for a book like this to please. But in truth it lacks original content or any novelty in its structure (basically it's just a list of the quesitons and answers so I could easily imagine another reader being less enamoured.
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on 2 November 2010
The two Johns have done it again. The long awaited second book of general ignorance has hit the shelves and it won't stay there for long! It's a format that saw the other General Ignorance books shoot up the best sellers, this time there are a few exchanges from the show dotted around through the book to go along with the kind of information they never taught you at school.
The General Ignorance series has become the standard bearer for this particular genre, and long may it continue.

An entertaining, and informative read.

Was it the Wright brothers that carried out the first flight? The wrong brothers more likely!
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on 6 September 2012
This is an interesting collection of more or less interesting facts which you were probably not aware of, or thought you knew them, but then it turns out just to be an urban myth. Every fact starts with a question where you might think to know the answer just to be proven wrong a few paragraphs later.
Ever heard that urinating on a jellyfish sting might help, well this is just wrong.
Interesting facts like which animal saved the most human lives and what causes pins and needles.
Overall an enjoyable read.
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