George Aranda Reviews 1,411 QI Facts To knock you sideways

Review by George Aranda

1,411 QI Facts To knock you sideways
Compiled by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson & James Harkin

I’m someone who loves facts. Any chance I have to play a trivia night, I’m there, as long as the theme isn’t sports. I’m up late most night writing this blog, and listening to Tony Del Roy’s Nightlife with their late-night trivia competition.

Another thing I love to do is watch QI, with the affable Stephen Fry and Alan Davis. So when 1,411 QI Facts: To knock you sideways landed on my desk, I was thrilled. This IS a book you can judge by its cover, as it unapologetically delivers fact after fact. Before you ask, no, I didn’t count the number of facts in there, but I took them at their word, I mean, would Stephen Fry lie?

Of course, how do you review such a book? I can’t really comment on its prose, or the vivid allegory as a reference to existential crisis. The book has four facts per page, nicely spaced out, with the page number in big text with square brackets around them. This number at the bottom of the page is important and I’ll come back to that.

1,411 facts means that there is something there for everyone and the facts are occasionally grouped together on a page by themes (e.g. Mozart, cats, leeches). While the claim on the dust jacket, that the facts will knock you sideways isn’t always achieved, they can be surprising. Here is a random collection:

  • 59 of the 60 oldest living people are women [page 181]
  • Fruit flies take their time over difficult decisions [page 236]
  • During his lifetime, Lewis Carroll wrote 98,721 letters [page 84]
  • Before 1902 it was illegal for Australians to swim at the beach during the day [page 324]
  • Ladybirds can fly as fast as racehorses can run [page 24]
  • Fruits are the ovaries of plants [page 263]

Ok, that last one did actually knock me sideways. I don’t think I’ll look at my fruit salad the same way again.

The book is a great collection of facts that you can dip in to and out of, but I found myself, as I often do at trivia nights, wanting to know more information about the fact on hand. That’s where the page numbers come in handy as the editors of the book have added a great feature where you can go to the link and type in the relevant page number into the search box. It then provides you with a range of additional sources of information so you can speak knowledgably about what fruit actually are to Aunt Mavis at this year’s Christmas party. Try the pages I listed above and see what you think.

This is the perfect book for the trivia buff or the inquisitive little person in your life. Just keep certain pages away from Aunt Mavis.

george_profileGeorge Aranda

Dr George Aranda is a former cognitive neuroscience researcher who has moved to the world of science education and science communication research. He runs the Big Ideas science book club in Melbourne and is the curator of Science Book a Day.

George’s Blog: (this blog!)
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