The QI Book of General Ignorance, by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson: #BookReview.

QI book

393 pps

Humour/Puzzles & Games/

Subtitled ‘The Noticeably Stouter Edition’, this book of humorously presented erudition is a gem. Clearly, a book to be dipped into, rather than read at one sitting, it is nevertheless addictive.

Those who know the TV show, first hosted by the inimitable Stephen Fry and latterly by the equally unique Sandie Toksvig, along with the intelligent but willing fall guy, Alan Davies, will be aware of the nature of the humour and eclectic content. For those who haven’t had this pleasure, this UK TV show presents facts in the form of alphabetised chunks of knowledge and sets questions intended to trap the panel of celebrity quiz contestants. Like no other quiz programme I know, it entertains, informs and educates whilst anarchic humour has the audience in stitches. The scoring system is understood by no one apart from the mischievous elves who research and set the questions.

The final section of the show runs under the banner of ‘General Ignorance’ and aims to debunk those items of knowledge we all know but actually get wrong. And that is what this book is about.

Today, society has probably never been more overcrowded with those who ‘know’ what they know, and who are desperate to shout their errors for the world to hear. One has only to listen to most leading politicians, led by their clown in command over the pond, to understand that information and facts are no longer the same things.

This book sheds light onto those areas where we have all been misled, misinformed, or downright fooled.

An example from the many given: Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ encouraged the popular misconception about 5 million witches being burned at the stake during Europe’s witch-hunts in the period of religious fanaticism from 1450 to 1750. In reality, the figure is closer to 40,000, and the vast majority were hanged rather than burnt. In England, only 200 such executions were recorded and just a handful of these were burned. Most trials ended in acquittal, and the general public resisted the idea of witch-hunting, which they regarded as superstitious and prejudicial to public order.

And one other: How many commandments are there in the Bible? Why, ten, of course! Wrong! There are at least 613, many of them ludicrous.

Just two of hundreds of examples of misinformation spread by the prejudiced, the ignorant, the foolish and those who would control us, if we allow them. Topics cover a wide swathe of subjects including animals, geography, science, mechanics, religion, celebrity, history and many others.

If, like me, you’re entertained by words and facts, you crave the truth but prefer not be lectured, and you appreciate witty humour, this book is for you. I finished it off in the restricted public space of a small hospital ward, and my occasional bursts of laughter intrigued my fellow patients enough for them to want to read it.

[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]