on 17 October 1999
University Challenge has long suffered from poorly written questions, and in an attempt to avoid reproducing these faults in print, the compilers of this book have been forced to veer towards the more difficult end of the show's range. Nonetheless, if you are a fan of the show, you will be hard pushed to find any other books offering questions in the uniquely University Challenge style of starters and bonuses. The questions in this book have been taken from shows between 1994 and 1996, and are therefore starting to date slightly. A brief glance at the archive from that time reveals that they are certainly harder than average: this book would not be suitable, for instance, for an evening in with Auntie Mabel, unless she has won Mastermind. Also, perhaps in an effort to avoid the questions dating, there is a glut of history and literature at the expense of slightly more popularist subjects (e.g. pop music, television). There are better books available, and certainly now more up-to-date ones, but if you crave the authentic University Challenge experience (and don't say I didn't warn you), then this is the best you'll get.
on 22 December 1999
Compared with my older University Challenge book (from the Gascoigne era), this book seems somewhat easier and more trivial (that's to say less academic). However, whilst some purists may object to this 'dumbing-down', the great advantage of this book is apparent when it is read out, as the longer questions allow for some truly outrageous interruptions. Thus whilst most members of your family may know the answers, it is nevertheless possible to impress by blurting out after a few words. This book makes for good entertainment for a group of quizzers of a similar standard (as long as they have a friend who doesn't mind 'playing Paxman'), and is also splendid practise for anyone planning to apply for the show.