… by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson and James Harkin
Reviewed for New York Journal of Books by Stevie Godson
1,227 Quite Interesting Facts to Blow Your Socks Off is a book reviewer’s nightmare. With no real structure, apart from an index “to help you find your favourite bits”, it’s just a string of odd information – not so much a book as an extended list, but what an entertaining one.
Put together by John Lloyd, the creator of comedy television quiz show QI; John Mitchinson, QI’s director of research; and James Harkin, the programme’s senior researcher, it’s no wonder the book’s disparate, seemingly random contents elicit plenty of laughs: these men are paid for finding largely nonsensical but wholly true facts with which to entertain and delight.
As they say in the introduction to their 1,227 fascinating facts: “Here, in bite-sized pieces, nestling among the known and the numbered, are the mysteries of the enormous and the miniscule; of human comedy and tragedy; of heat, light, speed, life, art, and thought.”
There’s nothing to analyse in the way the book is put together, and not much to say either, except to reproduce a few of the hundreds of peculiar nuggets of information.
Did you know, for example, that 10% of all the photographs in the world were taken in the last 12 months; in Switzerland it’s illegal to keep just one guinea pig; Depp means “twit” in German; a single bolt of lightning contains enough energy to cook 100,000 pieces of toast; in the 19th century sausages were marketed as “bags of mystery” and in 2010, Ghana banned the sale of second-hand underpants.
Which all goes to prove what co-author John Lloyd (along with classical Greek philosopher Plato) believes: that unmitigated seriousness has no place in human affairs.
(1,227 Quite Interesting Facts to Blow Your Socks Off by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin is published by WW Norton & Company)