December books 5) The Uncyclopedia

5) The Uncyclopedia, by Gideon Haigh

A perfectly chosen Christmas gift from my sister; lots of trivia that nobody ever wanted to know, including such joys as a complete list of US Vice-Presidents, eight fictional movie moguls featured in the works of PG Wodehouse, twelve catch-phrases from the Goon Show, and a list of the real names of various saints (including Simon Templar and Yves Saint-Laurent which is stretching it a bit). I picked up only one total error – comets go around the sun, not the earth – and a few stretched categories (Hereward the Wake wasn’t royal, and Ceauşescu [properly Ceaușescu] was not really assassinated).

Given my fascination with book lists, I was amused to see that the 1999 Modern Library readers’ poll of the top ten books of the twentieth century included three titles by L Ron Hubbard and four by Ayn Rand! We can take it that the other three (in order, The Lord of the Rings, To Kill A Mockingbird, and 1984) did not have organised backers…

And it’s not just lists. The short entries on parrhesia, the reptiles of Antarctica and the Giant Rat of Sumatra are all very pleasing; though I doubt if I will have occasion to use the phrases suggested for flirting in Turkish or dumping someone in Japanese. Recommended.

PS looking around the web for other reviews of this I find one stating that it is the perfect gift for “the big brother who thinks he knows everything”. Hmmmmmmmmmm.

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