The Book of General Ignorance - Stephen Fry et al
We don't watch a lot of telly at home, partly because our TV reception is obstructed by Brighton's weird hillyness, but mainly because most of it is utter shite. However, I've caught a couple of episodes of QI at friends' houses and it actually looked pretty good - lots of fascinating trivia and the debunking of various urban myths and well-known "facts". This, of course, is the book of the show, and having seen but a few episodes, all the info is new to me. It is indeed Quite Interesting, and includes such nuggets as:
- Pistachio nuts can spontaneously combust, and frequently do
- The Arctic was named after the bears that live there ("arcturus" means "bear" in ancient Greek)
- A blue whale weighs as much as 2700 people, while a goldcrest weighs about the same as a 5p piece
- The last country to be invaded by Scotland was Panama
Some of the facts are a little dubious - the number of planets in the solar system is now inaccurate, with the downgrading of Pluto, and the reduced number of Henry VIII's wives is based on some rather suspect legalism - and some of them are not that obscure, but the most annoying ones are where a myth is debunked that you'd never heard of in the first place. So polar bears aren't left-handed, eh? However, there's nothing in here that isn't interesting, which, of course, is the point. The compilers of these facts haven't had to rely on lame jokes to spice up the trivia, as it all stands up perfectly well on its own. I suppose the book may not work quite as well if you've already seen all these answers on the TV programme, but it's certainly recommended for those who haven't.