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4.5 out of 5 stars147
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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 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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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 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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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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If you are a fan of QI then this sideways look at what we THINK we know is another must-buy.

I had the previous Book of General Ignorance given to me twice by well meaning relatives, after having bought it myself. So I refrained from buying this second book being certain it would arrive in a Christmas wrapping. Happy days, I've just finished enjoying my first sprint through it, and I steadfastly resisted the overwhelming temptation to read out bits of it to the rest of the family. I'll not see it now for a few days while the others read it too.

The format is exactly as anyone familiar with QI might expect, for example there is a section entitled 'What colour are Oranges?' and it will come as no surprise to a QI aficionado that most oranges are green, so are lemons, mangoes, tangerines and grapefruit... The secret lies with ethylene, and the two Johns (Lloyd and Mitchinson) take almost two pages to fill in the many details showing us how and why.

The five Contents pages list the articles, and the eighteen page Index at the tail of the book allows quick searches for items one might want to find again - to show to others who don't believe the 'wild' assertions one might make after having read the book.

Here and there it is genuinely funny, but most of the time it is more intriguing and one is left with the feeling of having learnt something useful, and surprisingly interesting. It is excellent for dipping into since each article is complete and stands on its own; perfect for the bus or Tube or an evening of boring telly.

Recommended.
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on 25 April 2011
I brought this book as a birthday present for my father, a typical example of a man who had everything. He loved it, infact the whole family loved it, as we held a "made at home" version of QI, with my father, armed with this book, acting as Stephan Fry.

The success of the book means its definately a winning present for awkard people, or any QI or general knowledge fan. It also is a great buy for yourself of course, and who ever you get it for, they will enjoy it immensley!
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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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on 4 December 2010
Although I'm not a very consistent viewer of the QI show, I found myself absolutely unable to put this book down. Brilliantly sourced and engagingly written, this is a book not only for the typical dads of the family but for anyone, and I would wager it also has international appeal, because the material is so broad. Unlike so many other anthologies and compilations of facts, this tells you things that are often astounding, always interesting and sometimes fairly bizarre. It upends so much of the received wisdom I mistook for facts, and never becomes too difficult or too dense. Above all, it's very funny. The perfect Christmas present for any friend or family member.
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on 14 March 2016
If you’ve read my review of the original Q.I. Book of General Ignorance then you ought to know roughly what to expect. Lloyd and Mitchinson, the two men who were behind the show’s creation in the first place, are back again to debunk some more of the myths and misunderstandings that plague our modern society. If you’re anything like me then you like to be correct, and this book is the perfect book to help you be just that.

I mean, this really is just an extension of the first book – it’s as simple as that. There’s so much material out there for the authors to choose from that they could continue to write General Ignorance books almost indefinitely, and so it’s kind of a relief to know that they’ve tried a few different ideas, like the Q.I. Book of the Dead and the Q.I. Book of Advanced Banter.

Because of that, I felt compelled to give this book a slightly lower rating than the previous one, purely because other than the fact that my copy of the second book is a hardback in contrast to the paperback I own of the first book, they might as well be exactly the same. They say that when you’ve hit upon a winning formula, you should stick with it – whilst that’s true, I feel as though a couple of changes could have helped this book to stand out, and not to be overshadowed.

So put simply, if you haven’t read the original Q.I. Book of General Ignorance, you might as well read that instead of this. Then you can move on to this one if you just can’t get enough of it – the content of both books is certainly interesting enough to keep you going. Plus, you can always read it aloud to yourself in your best Stephen Fry voice to make it feel like you’re actually on the show!
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