Posted by: billpurdue | November 8, 2008

30 A surfeit of trivia?

Have you noticed how many trivia books there are around these days? I’m talking about all those books that have lots of quite useless information in bite size chunks just right for dipping into. Just by browsing through the pages of the WHSmith and Waterstone’s catalogues, you will find a trivia book to suit everyone. Here’s just a short list of some examples:

Does anything eat Wasps? Profile Books £7.99 9781861979735

Bees Knees and Barmy Armies by Harry Oliver. John Blake Publishing £9.99 9781844546633

How to avoid Huge Ships by Joel Rickett  Aurum Press £9.99 9781845133214

Bears can’t run Downhill by Robert Anwood  Ebury Press £9.99 9780091912550

……….and the list goes on. Some of these books  Does anything eat Wasps? for example – have been authorised (if that’s the right word) by that august journal New Scientist and even Patrick Moore is in on the act with Can you play Cricket on Mars? [Sutton Publishing £12.99 9780750951142] . Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this sort of book  and I certainly don’t dislike them myself: I’ve been known to actually buy one or two and read them as well! It just occurred to me that perhaps the market has become saturated with trivia books and I wondered if their popularity was a symptom of people’s short attention spans these days. In my day (says he, adopting an “old fogey” voice) we read books from one end to the other! Seriously, I’m bringing up this topic, I think, because I feel I’ve seen enough trivia books for a while, though it won’t stop me looking at the odd new one now and again. Trivia books are also perfect Christmas presents for someone who is difficult to buy for. And, in this National Year of Reading, we should encourage reading, whatever the reading material.

By the way the title How to Avoid Huge Ships is all about the Diagram Group’s annual competition for the book with the oddest title – I wrote about this earlier in the year.


A real classic

Enough of my waffle, I want to tell you about the book I’ve just finished and really enjoyed. Does anyone remember Marghanita Laski? Going back to the days of black and white telly, I seem to remember seeing her from time to time on intellectual discussion programmes and the like. I thought she was a panel member of the “Brains Trust” programme, but she is not listed amongst the panel members in the Wikipedia article on the Brains Trust. Anyway Ms Laski had a large number of books to her name and the one I’ve just finished is The Village [Persephone Books £12.99 9781903155424] The book is set immediately after the end of the second world war in a fictional village somewhere in the Home Counties. During the war the class distinctions between the gentry and the working classes were suspended whilst everyone worked together in aid of the war effort. Now that the war has ended, it quickly becomes evident that the importance of status or where you stand in the social hierarchy is slowly beginning to fade, but not before some people have made a valiant stand against any change to the old order.

The main theme of the story revolves around Roy and Margaret, two young people from widely different levels of social standing. When they fall in love and decide to get married, it causes problems for almost everyone who knows them, not least Margaret’s parents, who still regard themselves as more than just  a cut above the working class. Though they barely have two pennies to rub together, they see themselves as belonging to the upper echelons of society . What galls Margaret’s father the most is the fact that Roy is earning far more than he is. Will they overcome tremendous opposition and succeed in tying the knot?  – you’ll have to read it and find out. Don’t worry, a Mills and Boon it certainly isn’t! The blurb on the dust jacket of my copy (a Companion Book Club copy from the 1950s) describes the book as “a rich, worthwhile story”. I would certainly agree with that.



Finally, have you come across LibraryThing yet? If you have a large collection of books and you’d like to catalogue them, you can get LibraryThing to help. it will compile a list of all your books: all you have to do is to enter enough details about the book to identify it. It doesn’t stop there though – you can find out who else has similar tastes to you or form your own book group on line. Find out more by looking at the website. I haven’t joined – yet – but I’m seriously thinking about it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: