Book Review: The Bumper Book of Things That Nobody Knows, by William Hartston

An omnibus edition of all the useful and absurd trivia you could ever image, from history to animal sexuality, Shakespeare to centipedes. There’s almost 800 pages of fascinating information at your fingertips.


Sub-titled 1001 Mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything, this thick volume of trivia and obscure information is a fun goldmine of all the most useless information you will ever need to know. It’s an omnibus of two previous volumes: The Things That Nobody Knows and Even More Things That Nobody Knows.

Presented in question-and-answer format and grouped by topics, William Hartston combines general and useful knowledge with some of the most absurd data imaginable. On the practical side – great for trivia nights – are questions like “When did humans discover that the Earth is round?” (page 13), “Did the house mouse reach Australia on convict ships?” (page 600), and “Why do centipedes have so many legs?” (page 568). Stretching the definition of usefulness are fun and funny questions such as “Do bumblebees have personalities?” (page 27), and “Why are so many female albatrosses lesbian?” (page 304).

The answers vary in length from a paragraph or two, through to more than a page, with each being in plain English. Even the more complex issues are explained clearly.

The information is topped off with a smattering of random quotes from the likes of Albert Einstein, Will Durant, and a delightfully outdated quote from Oscar Wilde that is remedied by this book: “It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.”

There are almost 800 pages in this tome, with the two volumes kept separated with their own table of contents, bibliography, index and cross-references to other listings at the end of some answers.

Whether you want to know about Aardvarks, Australia, Football, The Moon, Mozart, Spiders, Writers or Zymology, the first half of the book will have you covered while the second half will take you from Aesop to Zebras across almost 200 topics.

The Bumper Book of Things That Nobody Knows is a lot of fun. It’s a fascinating and unique way to explore our world and the kind of book to just pick up and start reading randomly. The hours of conversational trivia and nerdish delight that it offers are countless.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Rating out of 10:  9

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: December 2017
RRP: $29.99 hardcover


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