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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.
*First published on Amazon.co.uk*
This is one of those books that you will never sit down and actually read but simply pick off the book shelf, read a few pages and then put it back again. It's perfect for people who love quizzes, as it's full of weird and wonderful information.
The blurb on the inside cover describes it as a book like no other, which is entertaining, unpredictable and utterly addictive. I certainly wouldn't disagree with any of this, but the £9.99 RRP that this tiny little book holds, seems to be on the steep side for me.
The book is written by a man called Ben Schott, but other than that, it doesn't really give any more background information other than delving straight into the book.
Here is some of the snippets of information the book holds....
A dictionary of cockney rhyming slang.
A table of blood group compatibility.
A list of untimely pop star deaths including the date and cause of death.
A list of all the patron saints.
A list of the Grand National winners since 1973.
8 Tongue twisters.
All totally irrelevant to every day life, but all information that is imperative you know!
Can't find any cheaper on Amazon than it's RRP of £9.99, going right up to £25 so it may be difficult to get hold of for any cheaper.
Every so often I am faced with a question I don't know the answer to. Like what gift you are supposed to give on a first wedding anniversary. Or who won the World Cup in 1994. I could look the answer up on the internet but that involves getting the laptop out of its case, plugging it in, switching it on.... Instead, far easier to pluck this book from its handy location on my living room bookcase and keep my fingers crossed that the answer I need is inside - it invariably is.
This book contains all the useful pieces of information you might ever need to know and also a lot that you won't but which are nevertheless very interesting. Here's a random smattering of things you can learn from this book:
* How to drive from Lands End to John O' Groats
* The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
* Types of clouds
* Zodiac dates
* Famous cat and dog owners
* Antiquarian paper sizes
* The names for particular phobias
* Palmistry lines
* English coin specifications
* The curious deaths of Burmese kings (like Tabinshweti who apparently was beheaded by his chamberlains whilst searching for a fictitious white elephant)
The book is printed on lovely thick cream paper and has some black and white illustrations. Although the book is only 153 pages long (not counting the index), the amount of information contained inside is amazing. Every time I pick it up I find myself wasting time flicking through it. There is an index at the back of the book if you are looking for the answer to something specific. Otherwise you can just dip into the book at random and learn something new and interesting.
This book would make an excellent present for a trivia fan or somebody who likes to think of themselves as a bit of a know-it-all. I live in hope that some of the facts I've picked up in flicking through this book will come in handy one day - maybe I need to join a pub quiz team?!
~~~ Details ~~~
Published by Bloomsbury
First published in 2002
Available from Amazon for £7.14 (new)
There are also two other books in the series which deal with more specific areas:
Schott's Food and Drink Miscellany
Schott's Sporting, Gaming and Idling Miscellany
Each year since 2006 there has also been Schott's Almanac which contains details of the year just past.
I first became aware of Ben Schott when he had a piece in the Telegraph on a Saturday. I was a few snippets of stories, lists or weird and wonderful facts. Then came Schotts miscelleany, a collection of both useful and useless information but all equally as interesting. I then got it for several friends as Christmas presents and have since bought it's spin off miscellanies on Food and Drink and sport for at least two other people. This book is such a must have for any bookshelf, as reference for those things you just won't find in an encyclopeadia and as something to just pick up now and again, which I often do, meaning for just ten minutes and am still fingering through it two hours later. It's a must have book if you are a quiz enthusiast or a crossword junkie, even just to get a one up on your firends by being able to list all the Bond films!
So, upon my return to DooYoo, what could I review that seemed somewhat different?? I've done a number of CD's and DVD's, but no books....but I fancied a book with a difference, and then happened to stumble across Schott's Original Miscellany....
Ben Schott conceived and wrote this book in 2002, with an updated version coming in 2003 making a couple of amendents to any potential errors in the original version. Quite simply it is the perfect book for anyone, like myself, who loves useless information...
Brought from Ottaker's for £9.99 in hardback with dust cover, these 158 pages of information, is the so-called gospel of pub quiz knowledge, or just something to impress your friends with!
For starters, the opening slice of information regards the terminology of "Golf Stroke Nomenclature" - the names of the shots in golf for you and I! And to finish off the book?? The history of the font used in the book! Just for future reference...it's Adobe Garamond, predominantly size 8.5pt...
With books like these, you can flick through it once, and notice, for example, how egg sizes are defined or different cloud formations...but on a second outing you'll pick up a list of every single Carry On film or the Shipping Forecast areas around the UK...that's why it's essential to read it again, and again...and quite easily again.
There seems to be no method in the way Schott has listed the information, one point rarely seems to have a baring on a previous point, so if you're looking for something specific, your best bet is to use the rather large index...you can almost be guaranteed it'll be in there!
At ten pounds, and with it being in hardback, I'd certainly say it was value for money - it will struggle to grow old and as already ready mentioned, is the Gospel for any quiz!
Besides this, Schott also releases a yearly almanac that focus more specifically on that year's events, rather than a more broader, general knowledge view such as this book. I've recently read the 2005 copy, and as expected, it's fascinating.
I've shown this book to a number of friends, particularly when a pub quiz is nearby, and the reaction is the same to mine - it's somewhat mind-boggling, and impossible to put the book down, as once you think you've heard the most obscure fact regarding English coin specifications...you then discover the translations for different Sushi names! Only in this book!
So, if you're the kind of person who loves random and perhaps even pointless knowledge, you must hunt down this book and buy it...it'll help keep you sane, for a short while at least!
Feel free to check out it's website - www.miscellanies.info
Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Ladies and gentlemen. Lala! The book you have all been waiting for. Lala! All those times when you were nagged by stupid little questions like 'what does silly-mid mean?' or 'which book comes after deuteronomy' or 'what happens to the lustful in Dante's hell?', all you needed was this book to find out. Dadadadadadada! It feels nice, and is written in the lovely font, Garamond, which is used by true gentlemen. Ben Schott now has a column in a newspaper (The Independent?). More info on the book can be found at http://www.schott-media.com/misc/ I got this book as a present for my birthday back in November from my friend Owen. He doesn't buy presents for his friends himself- he leaves it to his parents. Even so, this was before it really took off, so I was able to look cool by having one ahead of everyone else. Now I think it is the best-selling book of the year or something. Popular anyway. I foster hopes that he will bring out new editions every now and then: I would certainly be willing to buy them.
Random isn't really a word I like. It's becoming overused in society today, people wearing it like a little badge to try to prove how individual they are. But there is no other word to describe this book than random. So what is it? It look like an old Victorian Hardback in style, open it up and there's lists and lists of stuff you thought you'd never need to know. And that you don't need to know. But it's always nice to know things isn't it? I first happened on this book by seeing a review on a website somewhere, and then when killing time in Luton Airport I saw it and remembered the review and bought it on the spot, and it was well worth it. Because it's basically a miscellaneous collection of lists, it's not a book you can sit down and read, but if you have 5 minutes to kill, or want something to pass the time while you're on the toilet (not that that's what my copy is used for, oh no) then it's great. And the information gleaned is perfect for that lull in the conversation, or when you know that it's a pride of lions, but you don't know that it's a gaggle of geese, or for looking up sneaky answers down at the pub quiz. There's a handy index at the back to look up information in a hurry, and I approve of the little cloth marker that you can use to mark your place once you've finished reading it. It's probably not to everyone's tastes, but if you're a fan of useless information, or a regular pub quizzer then you'll love it. It's a lovely little book that looks nice on your shelf and will provide you with a few talking points. Because it's hardback, it's a little more expensive than normal, but well worth it in my opinion, and if you can find a second hand copy, it would be a crime not to get a copy.
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 ¿