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Top 10 of Britain: 250 Quintessentially British Lists - Russell Ash

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Genre: Encyclopedias / Reference / Author: Russell Ash / Hardcover / 304 Pages / Book is published 2009-05-05 by Hamlyn

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      25.10.2010 20:50
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      Usually entertaining, generally interesting, sometimes startling

      Top 10 of Everything has long since established itself as an interesting and useful work of reference, retaining some of the virtues that The Guinness Book of Records lost when it brought its title into line with the US edition (as "Guinness World Records") and dropped many of the more straightforward entries in favour of ephemeral stuff such as "Biggest-selling rap artists with more than seven letters in their names and a collection of turqoise iPods". Now, Top 10 of Britain (no "The") has joined the party. While the original Top 10 book was, and remains, a large hardback of around A4 size, this book is a lot smaller - less than half the size, in fact. It is still a hardback, which I think is a good decision, as there is something somehow reassuring about a reference book which is presented between hard covers, whereas paperback seem less permanent and authoritative. The cover design shows what I can only assume Russell Ash (and/or his publishers) thought were the top 10 British things: they're not very imaginative. Still, the metallic dark red background is very attractive. Ash explains in his introduction that, while the original Top 10 of Everything confined itself to lists of things that could reasonably be quantified, here more leeway has been allowed. That means that as well as the 10 oldest Football League clubs (Notts County comes top of that particular league, if no other...) and the 10 most common British birds (there are 8.5 *million* wrens!) we also get more subjective categories such as "Classic Monty Python Sketches", which I'm pleased to say doesn't include the rather overrated "Four Yorkshiremen" skit... Although it is probably most fun just to flick through this book at random and see what you can find (British Highwaymen, anyone?) it is arranged, if rather loosely, into grouped sections. So, we start off with "What makes Britain?" which deals with the country's geography, and then we move on to people, history, tourism, animals and so on and so forth. Fittingly, the final entries are for lasts: "10 defunct British car marques" and, last of all, a rather melancholy list of 10 British business lasts, such as the closure of Raleigh's last remaining British cycle factory in 2002. There's no index, an omission which usually irritates me, but much less so this time; I suppose that one wouldn't tell you very much that you couldn't have worked out from the contents page. Really, though, there's not that much more to tell about Top 10 of Britain: it's simply a quite nicely produced little thing that would make an excellent Christmas present for the sort of person who thrives on interesting nuggets of fact. (Well, don't we all?) At £6.50 all-in from Amazon it's pretty decent value, and makes a nice addition to a "light reference" bookshelf.

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