Sunday 12 April 2009


The Book of General Ignorance
Edited by Stephen Fry
Faber and Faber £12.99

This book is a tie in to the QI (meaning Quite Interesting) TV series and is a collection of interesting facts that will prove we all know less than we believe. Billed as a collection of common misconceptions, mistakes and misunderstandings that will make us wonder why we ever went to school.

It's the type of book that will be dipped into from time to time and leave you thinking - 'well I never knew that.'

If you think Henry VIII had six wives, that the Earth has only one moon and that Mount Everest is the world's tallest mountain then you need this book.

For example:

Henry VIII had only two wives - his fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled. This is different from divorce and legally means the marriage never took place. The Pope declared Henry's second marriage to Anne Boleyn illegal because he was still married to Catherine of Aragon, Henry, as head of the new Church of England, declared that his first marriage was invalid on the legal grounds that a man could not sleep with his brother's widow. The King cited the Old Testament, which he claimed as God's law', whether the Pope liked it or not.

Henry annulled his marriage to Ann Boleyn just before having her executed for adultery and he did the same with his fifth wife Catherine Howard.

Humans actually have four nostrils - two you can see and two internal ones that you cannot of course see.

Antarctica is the driest place on Earth - certain areas haven't seen rain for two million years.

George Washington's teeth previously belonged to a hippopotamus.

Coffee is not made from beans.

The largest thing a blue whale can swallow is a grapefruit.

These and countless other interesting and often astounding facts make up this collection.


Ben Willans said...

Yeah, I've got this one. But to be honest I found much of it to be hair splitting bollocks. The Henry VIII entry being a good case in point as it all depends purely on interpretation. If I was a catholic I could make the argument he only had one wife, his first!

Paul D Brazill said...

I love QI, so I'll try to pick it up when I'm back in blighty.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Where you to then Paul?

David Cranmer said...

Sounds like a good read but I'm with Ben on Henry VIII. I just finished the fun (but not exactly historical) THE TUDORS and ol Henry had six of them--no matter how you slice (bad pun intended) it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds interesting. But what about the moon? How are they going to tell me Earth has more than one.

Sidney said...

That is quite interesting. A grapefruit, eh? Love Frey's work.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

CHARLES - FROM THE BOOK - At least seven. Certainly the moon is the only celestial body to observe the strict orbit of the Earth but there are now six other near Earth asteroids that follow the Earth around the Sun but are invisible to the human eye. Are these moons? Many astronomers say no but they are certainly more than run of the mill asteroids. Like Earth they take a year to orbit the Sun and do on times come close enough to exert a slight gravatational influence. So they are in effect quasi moons.

Shauna Roberts said...

Sounds like a fun book.

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