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QI: The Second Book of General Ignorance
QI: The Second Book of General Ignorance
by John Lloyd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.46

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Second Book of General Ignorance, 30 Nov 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.

QI: Advanced Banter
QI: Advanced Banter
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Hardcover

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I write as a sow piddles (Mozart), 17 May 2009
This review is from: QI: Advanced Banter (Hardcover)
Ever read the entirety of a reference book, cover to cover? Me neither. And you won't be counting Advanced Banter: The QI Book of Quotations as a first, I'm fairly sure. This rather sizeable collection definitely works best as something to dip into. The quotations are split thematically, and although you sense that they gathered the material first and then separated it out, this doesn't detract from its quality. Comedians, scientists, artists, statesmen, novelists and philosophers are counted among the talking heads in a collection that runs the gamut from the profound to the throwaway, the clever-clever to the surprisingly heartfelt. (It's this jumping about in terms of tone, by the way, that makes this book best taken down from your shelf and dipped into little and often.) All the usual topics are here - love, duty, wisdom - but much of the material is surprisingly fresh and wisely avoids many of the hackneyed aphorisms that we could probably all already quote. Less Oscar Wilde, more Russian proverbs, as it happens. Not that I subscribe to the really quite ridiculous premise of this book - that you might drop one of its pearls into your conversations. Not in the world I inhabit, certainly. However unrealistic, if you like what can be done with a well-chosen word, it's well worth swallowing this for the opportunity to treasure such lines as `You can recognise a cruel man: he cries in the cinema' (Graham Greene). I like that one.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 8, 2012 7:25 PM GMT

QI: The Book of General Ignorance (The Noticeably Stouter Edition)
QI: The Book of General Ignorance (The Noticeably Stouter Edition)
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.77

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who why what where when?, 22 Feb 2009
Smug pub quizzers beware - after reading this you'll find yourself quaking at the onset of the trivia round. Most of what you think you know is, in fact, wrong. Sorry. In an utterly charming way, your confidence in the modest store of facts you've built up over the years is shown to be totally misplaced. If you can handle this, then QI: The Book of General Ignorance (The Noticeably Stouter Edition) is a truly fascinating read. It's at least as amusing as it interesting in its debunking of popular misconceptions. Finding out why your notions are wrong is a pleasure when you're reading something that's been this painstakingly researched. That's not to say it's really worthy - some of the writing is laugh-out-loud funny. You get quotes from the show, too, and perky little illustrations. The links between the entries are often as subtle as the explanations themselves, or they're just quite droll, as `How many legs does a centipede have?' paves the way for `How many eyes does a no-eyed, big-eyed wolf spider have?'

If you're the kind of person who has a mental list of things you really ought to brush up on, expect it to have expanded in all kinds of unexpected ways by the time you're through. Your Ancient Greek, certainly, could do with a dusting down. Expect to confirm that you are, indeed, massively ignorant, but to find, miraculously, that a good read of this book is an excellent way to start putting that right.

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