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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Nice Alternative to Terry Jones
Have you ever wondered which English king exploded? Or whatever happened to Good King Wenceslas? Or perhaps upon uttering the phrase `Gordon Bennett' you have been curious as to who you were actually referring to? Look no further, folks; Justin Pollard has all the answers, and more facts up his sleeve than an Oxford magician, to boot. Writer of "The Rise and Fall of...
Published on 30 Jan 2008 by Bruce Turnbull

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasing 'tabloid history'!
The book comprises around 200 curious little episodes in history, each one or two pages long, loosely organised into themed chapters. We learn, for instance, of the king who reigned for 20 minutes; of Hitler's early forays into advertising; of the pygmy exhibited in the Bronx Zoo; of the little-known murder of George V.

Sometimes these incidents are amusing or...
Published on 11 Nov 2007 by Jason Mills


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Nice Alternative to Terry Jones, 30 Jan 2008
By 
Bruce Turnbull "Acoma_Spy_Master" (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed (Hardcover)
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Have you ever wondered which English king exploded? Or whatever happened to Good King Wenceslas? Or perhaps upon uttering the phrase `Gordon Bennett' you have been curious as to who you were actually referring to? Look no further, folks; Justin Pollard has all the answers, and more facts up his sleeve than an Oxford magician, to boot. Writer of "The Rise and Fall of Alexandria" and a regular contributor to "QI", Pollard has resurrected a plethora of interesting and comedic anecdotes from the depths of English history with his latest venture, aptly titled "The Interesting Bits", which pretty much does what it says on the cobwebbed leather binding. Those with even a passing interest in medieval history may well find a hilariously enjoyable read here, as it documents as much as makes fun of the subject with equalled passion and satire. Fact of the matter is, most historical figures were as dumb as popular figures today, and Pollard extracts their most foolish and imprudent endeavours in an easy to digest format, catered for fans of the field, but also for those uninitiated.

It is debateable how much truth there is to a number of stories in this tome - a problem you'll encounter with any chronicle of the time - but the uncertain verity of these often incongruous tales merely heightens their comedic appeal. From the informative pub-quiz armoury of questions such as who was Uncle Sam, and how did Dracula get his name, to more ludicrous nuggets like why did Dick Whittington need a magical cat, and which Foreign Secretary killed himself with a letter opener, Pollard's farcical anthology is not exactly a thrilling read, but will have you viewing the past with a dubious eye, and watching the equally daft future unfold with two.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Toilet Book, Perfect Stocking Filler, 27 Oct 2007
By 
N. Gratton "Writer & Photographer" (Exeter) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed (Hardcover)
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This is the kind of book that quickly gets tedious if you try to read it cover to cover, but is very dippable, and you'll find many stories that you want to share ... my favourite so far is the French lawyer who (successfully) defended a group of rats who didn't even answer their court summons.

So, this has silly and scandalous anecdotes from the past... most are about a page in length, so this is a great book to sit (dare I say it?) next to the toilet... It also fits well the classic "good for almost anyone" kind of present to use as a stocking filler with Christmas coming up, an improvement on many of its competitors in that niche. (Or at the very least, it should be an indispensable part of the collection of any trivia fan).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasing 'tabloid history'!, 11 Nov 2007
By 
Jason Mills "jason10801" (Accrington, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed (Hardcover)
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The book comprises around 200 curious little episodes in history, each one or two pages long, loosely organised into themed chapters. We learn, for instance, of the king who reigned for 20 minutes; of Hitler's early forays into advertising; of the pygmy exhibited in the Bronx Zoo; of the little-known murder of George V.

Sometimes these incidents are amusing or startling; mostly they're just interesting, which is what it says on the tin. For me, they tended to go in one ear (eye?) and out the other. The style is chatty and light, only occasionally irritating.

With its bite-size sections and easy tone, this would probably make a good bedside book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ranges from interesting to fascinating, 8 Nov 2007
By 
oldstuff (Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed (Hardcover)
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This book is in a similar vein to the likes of "QI General Book of Ignorance" or "Why don't Penguins feet freeze?" but focuses purely on various tidbits of world history. There are people you've never heard and, after reading what they did, you know why but there are also answers to questions you didn't know you wanted the answer to such as "Where does the word 'bunkum' come from?" or "Why are British soldiers called 'tommies'". You do need a reasonable interest in history to really enjoy it and it's not really a reference book but it's helped pass the time on the train on my way to and from work this week.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classy addition to the lavatory library., 5 Mar 2008
By 
A. Miles (Al Khor, Qatar) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed (Hardcover)
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It's a habit amongst the British middle classes, I've been told, to keep a selection of reading matter in the toilet for a quick perusal whlst nature takes its course. It all sounds a bit unhygenic to me, but if you are the type who has a stack of books in the bidet, 'The Interesting Bits' would be a sophisticated and erudite addition to your collection, consisting as it does of 300 or so short essays on historical trivia. Thanks to this book I now know how Dracula got his name, why Americans call 25c two bits, and am something of an authority on the legal prosecution and sentencing of pigs in 17th Century Germany. The author is also a writer on the TV show QI, and if you like that program I think you'll enjoy this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High rate of interest pays dividends, 6 Nov 2007
By 
Aja "drumbo41" (Newbridge, Midlothian) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed (Hardcover)
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History is more or less bunk, Henry Ford is reported to have said in 1916; it's a pity this entertaining little book wasn't available back then to show him how wrong he was.
Then again, the old car magnate did make his comment at a time when history in schools was probably reduced to a series of dates and dull as dishwater facts.
Justin Pollard's "The Interesting Bits" does exactly what it says on the tin, but more importantly does it well.
What could have been a cut-and-paste job is enlivened by the author's attention to detail.
For instance, not only do we learn that the Foreign Secretary who killed himself with a letter opener was the frankly bonkers Viscount Castlereagh in 1822, we get a couple of poems thrown in to illustrate Castlereagh's unpopularity, and as an aside there is a sub plot concerning the Bishop of Clougher, who after being caught in a compromising position with a young guardsman was defrocked, fled to Scotland and ended his days as a butler.
It is this kind of thing that Pollard loves, and his breezy writing style gives his book the feeling of a rattling good gossip.
Surprises - genuine ones - abound. Who was said to have committed suicide 25 years after his death? Who is the Bob in "Bob's your Uncle?" Who went into exile after breaking wind? Which English king exploded?
Broken up into 20 sections, history's interesting bits are presented in easily digested, bite-sized nuggets, making this an excellent book to dip into now and again, if only as a comforting reminder that idiots, bores, mad politicians and madder monarchs are not exclusive to the 21st century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a book, but a tin of mixed biscuits, 29 Oct 2007
By 
S. Yogendra "Shefaly" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed (Hardcover)
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At just short of 300 pages, this is not a small book, but being organised into 20 chapters makes it manageable.

Written by one of the writers of QI, a quirky quiz programme on the BBC hosted by the polymath Stephen Fry, the book is a treasure trove of historical tid-bits and trivia. It is no encyclopaedia, but inside you will find gems such as Oliver Cromwell's Welsh ancestry, the origins of the word 'bunkum', the straw that broke the camel's back and led to the Indian war of independence of 1857 (the Indian Mutiny if you prefer the British historical framing) and the country name that is an acronym (Paksstan if you are keen; go ahead, work it out!).

Each chapter begins with a quote that captures the essence of the chapter. For instance, Chapter 6 'What's in a name?' cites R S Surtees, in "Three things I never lend - my 'oss, my wife, and my name'. The questions addressed all relate to the theme so the said chapter addresses the curiosities behind Gordon Bennett, the Bob in Bob's Uncle, the original Tommy, Uncle Sam and nosy Parker.

The style of writing is accessible and although intentionally funny, does not appear laboured. The book - as far as I could see - is remarkably free of typographical and grammatical errors. The parental rating within and between chapters may vary. My original intent was to hand over my 1st edition copy to my 8-year old godson. However having read it, I am inclined to wait for 2-3 years so that I do not have to field any tricky questions from him yet.

This is a book that needn't be read in a sequence. In fact it is best enjoyed by randomly opening a page and reading whatever questions are contained on that page, as I did. Rather like a tin of mixed biscuits - some plain digestives, some cream cookies, some jam-centred tarts, where the best way to enjoy is to dip randomly into the tin, pick one out and relish it. After all, it is about "the history you might have missed".

The book would make a good Christmas present for a 10-12 year old with a curious bent of mind and a nose for trivia. I give it 4 out of 5 because it is not my preferred style and genre but it left me wiser, nonetheless, and deserves no less than 4 stars.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative fun. A good one for trivia hounds, 25 Oct 2007
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed (Hardcover)
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This book gives you bite-size chunks of historical oddities, often funny, sometimes sad, sometimes puzzling. These factoids are the bits which are usually skipped over by 'serious' historians, mainly because they don't have a great deal of relevance to the overall outcome of history. But they do make the people and events seem more real, more human. So instead of just dates and lists, wee funny facts like these make history a thing that happens to real people.
So it's worth reading just for that.

However, this isn't a book to sit down and read in one great chunk. You'd drown under an onslaught of different people and dates and situations. It's better to dip in and out of (a perfect book for the bathroom!), or use the excellent index if there's a subject you're specifically interested in.

Similarly, I doubt that The Interesting Bits is going to be any help to a serious historical scholar. But these snippets are grouped into themes, which means you can choose your reading along certain lines. Most of the info is about British history but there's a smattering from overseas and all of it will raise an eyebrow. I was tickled to find that Cleopatra's needle sank while being transported across the Bay of Biscay ... and was then found floating in the open ocean! And did you know that Stonehenge was in private ownership until 1915? And so on.

This is an excellent gift book then, a good present for any friend or relative who has an interest in history or trivia. And if you like shouting the answers out to TV quizes then you'll probably enjoy reading it to. Would it stand re-reading later? Probably not -- so pass it onto a friend when you're done.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Christmas Present, 1 Dec 2007
By 
Mr. Christopher Lancaster "clanca1234" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed (Hardcover)
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This is one of those books that would make a great Christmas present... one of those which you would give, and then read it yourself! From a member of the QI team, this contains what seems like hundreds of strange and bizarre stories from history, most of which are scarcely believable.

It's informative (although quite where the information would come in useful, I am not entirely sure), and very, very funny. Despite a few sad omissions (such as the famous story of Hartlepool people hanging an ape as a French spy), this is surely just about the ultimate collection of amusing historical events.

The only small downside would be that the font-size seems a bit small, with the lines quite cramped together, but this barely detracts from the enjoyment. A great stocking-filler for Christmas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well, I never knew that..., 27 Mar 2009
By 
EmmaH (Dorset, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed (Hardcover)
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This is a densely-packed, erudite volume of historical 'amuse-bouches'. Not the sort of thing you want to consume a lot of in one go, but just perfect for those moments of downtime when you've nothing particularly pressing to do.

I particularly liked the tale behind the exclamation 'Gordon Bennett' - funny to think of the history enshrined in an everyday remark. Though was rather disappointed to learn that George V's last remark probably wasn't 'Bugger Bognor', as reputed. Sometimes the truth, sadly, is duller than fiction.
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The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed
The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed by Justin Pollard (Hardcover - 4 Oct 2007)
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