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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 26 November 2002
A lovely little book that seeks to fill the holes in the national knowledge by dispensing with tedious things like rational argument and structure and instead spouting a stream of well-informed but highly random waffle. And it's wonderful: a cornucopia of trivia, a smorgasbord of stuff. But in a very, very good way.
These are 160 pages pebble dashed with facts, figures, ruminations, clarifications and charts - far, far too many to list here, and anyway it would a precious shame to spoil the consistent serendipity of a whole new page full of things you didn't know and never thought to ask.
A smattering of examples: all the Bond films, complete with names of baddie, girl and motor. How to fold a sari. Which Presidents are on which US banknotes. A potted history of the London Underground. Some Churchillian speech patterns. The deaths of some Burmese Kings.
It's maddeningly addictive, so much so that after a few days spent liberally flicking through you'll notice some worrying changes within yourself. You will start to take an unhealthy interest in such matter as the correct name for cloud formations, the Welsh for 'I love you' and the collective nouns for fowl. You'll be continually fighting the urge to bombard your flatmates / colleagues / newsagent with myriad lists, little-knownances and Queer Things. You may even start to become a Dinner Party Bore, the sort of notable who always knows everything about everything and doesn't mind telling you about it, all night. But, as previously mentioned, in a very good way.
And here's the really good news: because each entry only takes up about half a page, it's very easy indeed to concentrate on. We are the Internet Generation, after all, and we have fostered a healthy lust for highly entertaining, bite sized irreverence. Schott's Original Miscellany is, therefore, entirely and utterly our Sort Of Thing.
Buy one for yourself and another one for each of your friends. They'll thank you for it. Schott's Original Miscellany is a book designed for the toilet but destined to be discussed for years... until the next one comes out.
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on 19 February 2003
A book designed to cover all the things that don't quite fit into every other book. A collection of short lists, tidbits of information and anything else Ben Schott feels worthy of mention. The old-style cover gives the book the feel of an old mini-encylopadeia type tome, though the ordering of topics is pretty random, making for entertaining reading rather than a technically rigourous reference text.
And it IS entertaining - the chance are that if one topic does not interest you, the next one will. Some are serious (capital cities, commonplace latin), others not (A for 'orses, B for mutton), with most of them lying between these two extremes.
There is the odd mistake, and a few needless omissions (the list of Bond films misses out the two 'unofficial ones', for instance), though there's enough here to make for a book which ultimatley proves to be useful. At least twice in the last week I've said 'I'll go and look it up in Schotts' and found what I was looking for.
It can be made bigger in the future, it could spark off a number of more specific 'offshoot' guides, but for a first attempt, this is a mighty fine attempt to compress an infinite supply of information into one stocking-filler sized text. I won't say you can't put it down, because you can. But you'll probably pick it up again soon enough.
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on 18 May 2013
This is a great little book for those who like to find out facts by all sorts of things. For example:-
Classification of iceberg sizes, The metals of alchemy, a list of prime numbers, Yiddish translations and lots more useless info. Good for quiz masters...
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on 27 November 2003
This calendar makes the perfect present for any trivia-loving person. The best thing about this calendar is that it is considerably more stylish than your standard desk calendar. The calendar is contained in a rather nice red box and the paper is very good quality. Each page has an item of trivia on it and there is plenty of room to write your own notes. This would make the perfect present for anyone who loves the book.
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on 23 February 2004
Schott’s Original Miscellany is one of those rare books that can be read time and time again with fascination. Randomly choosing a page may present you with information regarding ‘American Diner Slang’ (did you know that ‘burn the British’ means ‘toasted muffin,’ or ‘Eve with a lid on’ is a reference to ‘apple pie’?) or perhaps you’d come across the diagram of Hampton Court Maze, complete with a guide to the fastest way to reach its centre. All one hundred and sixty pages of this remarkable book offer information you are unable to come across quite so easily elsewhere. From the names of all seven dwarves to boxing weight limits, and definitions of art styles (Gothic to Cubism) to contradictory proverbs (‘Great minds think alike’/ ‘Idiots seldom differ’), it’s all here.
One of my favourite sections in the book was the ‘curious surname pronunciation’: Without Schott’s Original Miscellany I wouldn’t have known that ‘Featherstonehaugh’ was pronounced ‘Fanshaw’ or that ‘Auchinlech’ became ‘Af-lek.’ Another nice part was the ‘how to wrap a sari’ set of beautifully illustrated diagrams. There is information that could save your life, such as safe thicknesses of ice for different weights, (a single person on foot should not attempt to walk over ice less than 2.5 inches in thickness, for example) downright bizarre facts covering ‘curious deaths of Burmese kings’ (Tabinshweti for instance, was ‘beheaded by his chamberlains whilst searching for a fictitious white elephant’) and even a list of portraits on American banknotes.
It is not only the material within the book that is impressive, but also the way in which it is presented: The simple yet charming illustration in red on the front cover and the textured cream paper dust jacket are aesthetically pleasing, whilst the red cloth the book is bound in and the simple silk bookmarker of the same colour are equally notable. It’s worth every penny of the asking price, and makes a superb gift. I highly recommend it – it’s a real treat.
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on 11 February 2003
Some people (I count myself as one of them) accumulate pointless facts in the same way that shelves accumulate dust. Mr Schott outdoes us all with this marvellous collection of ephemera, trivia, and apocrypha - in just one small volume he manages to pack in thousands of things you didn't know you needed to know.
Scott's Original Miscellany is somewhere between a parody of earnest Victorian self-improvement guides, the Guinness Book of Records, Ripley's Believe it or Not, single-volume encyclopedias and those "1001 Things To Know!" books you might've enjoyed as a kid. If you're the sort of person who likes word games, strange lists, bizarre and incongruous trivia, and the utterly pointless, this is definitely the book for you. It's a treat for fact-lovers of all kinds, in fact.
A perfect book for the bathroom, the bus, or the bedroom, this is marvellous dip-into reading by an eclectic magpie - a fascinating mixture of useless knowledge across a range of indisciplined disciplines.
It won't help you win pub quizzes, but it's smaller than a complete set of Britannica, cheaper, and you can fit it in your coat pocket and still appear ridiculously well-informed.
Splendid, and it should've appeared years ago.
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on 5 January 2003
A veritable wealth of useless information and trivia, but a word of warning, don't read it in bed. You'll drive your partner to distraction with giggles and 'did you know that' - you just can't help wanting to share your new found knowledge, irrespective of how irrelevant it is.
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VINE VOICEon 3 December 2003
Dictionaries and Encylopedias these day are all the same. It's so very hard to choose between them, to have access to some "other" knowledge or information. If it's mainstream, it's in; if it's on the fringe, it's out. Full stop.
Along came Schott's Original Miscellany.
What a read! This book should be issued in the fourth year at school and form the basis of an exam. Schott's OM contains just about everything from a practical explanation of what those little symbols mean in label of your pants through to a complete listing of Prime Ministers of the Realm. Best of all, it's all jumbled up and crammed in haphazzard-fashion (there is an index for those who are less daring!).
The best accolade I can provide? This is the very best toilet reading I have ever had, and it's actually proved useful since as a point of reference.
Buy it.
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on 17 May 2006
A book basically full of irrelevant information, facts from tables of Braille and Morse code to who has won the world cup and where, or a list of all the Kings and Queens of Britain. Ultimately a pointless collection of information from all over the place, yet great to flick through for odd tidbits of imformation.

So as one reviewer said, maybe not the ultimate book for pub quiz goers, but definately handy for some odd questions setting up one. Or purely out of interest for odd bits of information here and there and something interesting to flick through sitting on the loo.

Also a very nicely presented book, a nice hardcover (classy and minimal under the paper cover) and very well set out information that is very nice to read, with a very handy cloth bookmark (forgive me for not knowing if theres a proper name for it) you can mark out a page with for later reading with.
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VINE VOICEon 5 January 2004
Oh superb! I was most disappointed that this was not one of Santa's special deliveries but having just bought it for myself I am very pleased!
Each day has a little snippet of the useful/useless knowledge that made the book of the same name so absolutely addictive. Each leaf (one page is provided for each day of the year) has enough room to write short bits of personal information as well.
The boxed set is beautifully presented - it really will grace any desk, at home or work, or any telephone table or similar.
If you haven't got your calendar for 2004 yet, this is the best one on the market.
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