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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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Even if animal facts aren't particularly your thing, you should still find this book to be nothing short of absolutely fascinating. I dare you to read more than two pages without thinking "wow!" to yourself.

Literally pick an animal, any animal and then prepare to be instantly fascinated by facts which will simply astound you. Squid!? Eh, squid you say...? Well maybe not 'squid', but you will find box jellyfish (whose eyes are permanently out of focus!) But commoner animals are just as fascinating in the hand of this book's meticulous authors: For instance, thought you knew all about dirty rats? You'll rapidly learn that they enjoy peeing on each other, giggling in ultrasound, and that the only place in the world where you won't find any (outside of the polar ice caps) is Alberta, Canada because they have a 400 mile buffer zone against their entering. A quarter of all electrical faults are owing to their teeth cutting into wires; just as they are responsible for most otherwise unexplained domestic fires. And lest you thought they were dirty: they certainly are! Yet still spend half their lives cleaning themselves.

Utterly fascinating is this book - owing to its most interesting compendium of amazing facts regarding all kinds of critters. I just wish that the book included more animals and was, accordingly, bigger; albeit hopefully a future edition will be "noticeably stouter". Still, it remains an unquestionable must buy. 5/5!
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on 12 November 2007
The Book of Animal Ignorance is quite different from its predecessor, the Book of General Ignorance. The few people that disliked the first QI book complained that its question and answer style made them feel stupid (although the fact that so many people bought it seems to suggest that people quite enjoyed this). You won't get that feeling when reading the latest edition from the QI team.

The book has lost the question and answer style of the book of general ignorance. Instead it has been organised into two-page sections, each concerning one of 100 animals, organised alphabetically. Hence the focus has drifted away from the ignorance and over to the animal. However, that does not mean that the book is any less interesting.

For someone who religiously watches the TV show which the book accompanies, this book is far more rewarding. The first book lifted much of its material from the general ignorance round in the show. That which hadn't been seen by viewers of the show, probably hadn't made the cut. For this book it is clear that a considerable amount of extra research has been done.

Since much of the research has been done exclusively for the book, you can begin to perceive some of the themes that preoccupied the authors and their elves. The etymology of animal names is a clear example. Understanding how an animal was named gives a fascinating insight into what we believed we knew about the animal in the past and how our relationship with it has changed. The mouse is an excellent example:

"The very name `mouse' ultimately derives from the Sanskrit root mush, which means mouse and also to steal. Hence wherever we went thereafter - on foot, in carts, or by ship - the little thief kept us company."

There's also a very strong focus on evolution and how natural selection produced some of the stranger animals in the book. This makes for some interesting discussion, especially for those animals that have existed in isolation for so long.

If the book makes a reference to barbs, spines, nails or unfolding like a Swiss army knife then something about male genitalia is probably about to follow. The topic of animal reproduction and their reproductive organs is something this book doesn't shy away from. It certainly makes for intriguing discussion. Both men and women will find that this book will create feelings of varying degrees of supremacy and inadequacy. However, one must disagree with the claim that "if the Nine-banded armadillo were human its penis would be 4 feet long". If it were human then it would have a human sized penis.

Accompanying the section on each animal is at least one picture drawn by Ted Dewan. Reading a book as interesting as this, it would be easy to rush onto read about the next animal without glancing at these excellent illustrations. Don't! These pictures don't just illustrate what is described in the text but also include some of the most interesting pieces of information in the book. They range from mechanical drawings (Ted Dewan trained as an engineer) to illustrate an owl's ability to move its head around 360 degrees, to the life-like drawing of a catfish. Some will set you laughing out loud like the sketch of a brown bear wandering around a supermarket. Also, don't miss the extra facts and quotes in the grey boxes. The best one accompanies the section about humans.

"Human beings, who are unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so" Douglas Adams.

The book includes at its start a foreword by Stephen Fry, a `forepaw' by Alan Davies (which is far bigger than his contribution to the first book) and an introduction by the authors John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. All three are well worth reading and avoid skipping straight into the main text. As they explain, QI is as much a philosophy as a TV show and animals are the bread and butter of interestingness. A quote from Henry Beston in the book:

"In a world older and more complex than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the sense we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time."

The amazing illustrations, the tireless research by the elves and the philosophy of QI have combined to create an excellent book. You can dip into it and be confident that you will always be rewarded with something you didn't know. I sincerely suggest that you take up the author's invitation to "come down to the waterhole of ignorance and wallow with us for a while".
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on 27 August 2015
As an avid fan of these books, I can confirm that this one is every bit as good as the others or, possibly, even better than most. Is it possible to have a book stuffed with interesting facts only about animals? Yes, yes, yes!!!!

As always, I treated this book like a 'treat' and just dipped into it periodically and, as always, my challenge was to discipline myself to avoid being utterly hooked and simply reading the whole thing in one sitting. Again as always, I thought "Oh, I must remember that" umpteen times and, of course, I can remember very little now.

If I have one, tiny, grump it is that some sections seem a little dated, referring to research that is ten years or more out of date but that didn't dent the unalloyed joy of reading this book one jot. Utterly brilliant!!!
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on 16 November 2007
I did enjoy Stephen Fry's book which certainly got me thinking.
However, something which has done so even more recently is Peter Cave's Can a Robot be Human. If you want to really get your cells working buy the two! Both are extremely readable and remind you that using your brain can be fun!
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on 8 February 2009
I'm a bit of a fanboy when it comes to the QI show and books, but this is book is my favourite offering.

The reason why I like the QI products so much is the QI philosophy: knowledge should be interesting, and learning is fun. So the worthy but dry stuff is cut, leaving just the good stuff.

At times this can be annoying if you want a detailed and complete understanding of a subject, but that's not what they are about. And of course once you've picked up the personality of a subject, and find you like it, you can always dig deeper.

The reason I like this one in particular is the subject matter - the animal kingdom boggles the mind. The elvish approach has pulled up a torrent of scarcely believable and fascinating information, most of which is new to me. There's nothing they couldn't have used for the inside cover, it's amazing from cover to cover.

The book introduces us to about 100 animals, with the information squeezed into two pages for each. Cartoons support the ideas and facts presented simply and stylishly.

As others have said, if you want a complete overview of the principles and organisation of the animal kingdom, then you are better looking elsewhere. But if you want something to interest and fascinate you, then this is a great place to start.
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on 9 December 2014
A re-order.
Purchased 4 or 5.
Brilliant, especially the horse, the various marsupials and the donkey.
I look after three rescue donkeys, all male and mental.
Anyway, I found out why Novak Djocovich (can't spell tonight) bought up all the donkey butter going a couple of months ago.
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on 14 August 2015
I haven't read much yet but so far I'm disappointed. I bought this book because I absolutely loved the QI Book of the Dead of brief but fascinating biographies of famous (and some not so famous) people and I hoped it would be something similar for animals but it isn't. Each animal is covered in only two pages, leaving me wanting more information - you just get to a bit of intriguing information then it's cut off to suit the page limit. The choice of information to include is often rather childish - there seems to be an obsession about the size of various animals' penises, but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by such schoolboy humour, having watched the programme. I'd change it from QI to NTI - not that interesting. Sorry!
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on 4 September 2013
I watch QI on television a lot, as i find it so fascinating with all the facts they say about things. Being an animal lover this book is incredible to read about animals and the interesting facts about them. It's great to read whilst having lunch. A really good book for anyone who likes animals or watches the programme on a regular basis.
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on 2 January 2013
another one for the collection

Epson - TOO expensive ...that's why people go for some compatibles.
It Epson prices were more circumspect there would be no need for so-called compatibles
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on 17 April 2012
Another great read from Messrs Mitchinson and Lloyd. If you think you know animals, get ready to be amazed at some of the ignorance you hold in your head. This book is the nearest thing to owning your very own David Attenborough.
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