Posted by: billpurdue | November 24, 2009

76 Fascinating trivia and two good causes

I’m not old enough to remember the 2nd World War, having been born three years after the end of it, but books about what it was like during the war (rather than books about military campaigns) often fascinate me. The Black-out Book [Osprey £9.99 9781846039232] is a case in point. It’s a compilation of games puzzles, short poems, quotations and so on which were intended to help while away the hours spent stuck in air raid shelters during the long nights of the blitz. The compiler is “Evelyn August” – actually a pseudonym for two people: Sydney and Muriel Box, who were both film producers and one of their films won an Oscar for best original screenplay in 1946. As to the book, well it’s probably something you’ll love or hate. I found it very twee and dated, but then that’s what it’s bound to be. Perhaps in spite of myself, I couldn’t help dipping into it time and time again. It really is something that still fulfils its purpose of helping to while away a spare moment. We may not have any air raids going on at the moment, thank goodness, but the world still has plenty of troubles and we need to be distracted from time to time to keep our heads.

There’s a series of books that has been available for some time now which seems to be aimed at those who fondly remember  their school days and the old fashioned ways in which we used to learn.  I Before E (Except After C): Old-School Ways to Remember Stuff [Michael O’Mara  978-1843172499 £9.99] was one of the first and one which I may have mentioned before.  Later ones include Thirty Days Has September [Buster Books  £7.99 978-1906082260]. It’s a later addition to the series, but seems to be aimed more at young people than adults. It claims to help you remember all those rules of science, spelling, history and geography by employing all those tricks which have stood the test of time. It includes a lot of mnemonics such as My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas being a way to remember the names of the planets – as long as you can remember what the letters stood for.  By the way, I was always taught that it was “Thirty days hath September”.

If it’s maths you have trouble with, then you might need As Easy As Pi: Stuff about numbers that isn’t (just) maths by Jamie Buchan [Michael O’Mara Books £9.99 978-1843173557] It’s aimed at all number enthusiasts and includes not just useful mathematical rules but also fascinating numerical facts (such as why is the number 7 so significant?), numbers used as slang and even pop culture trivia. There’s even a section on numbers used in TV programmes, including fake telephone numbers.

Finally two books, each with a worthy cause in mind; The Hero Inside [ Quiller Publishing, £9.99 978-1846890765 ] looks at the efforts of those who have been fund raising for the charity Help for Heroes and the heroes for whom they have been working.  It’s the officially authorised fund-raising book for Help for Heroes, the charity founded in 2007 to support servicemen and women wounded in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is superbly illustrated and the front cover photo includes Joanna Lumley – what more could you want?

Another worthwhile cause is the BBC’s “Children in Need” charity and, for Terry Wogan fans, one way of contributing to that is to buy See John Run by Kevin Joslin [Headline £9.99 978-0755319961]. It’s a complete collection of the Janet and John Marsh stories as read by Terry during the last four years on his Radio 2 morning show. Full of double entendre and innuendo,  it has been almost unanimously acclaimed as a really good giggle.

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