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273.  Wed Oct 15, 2003 3:52 pm Reply with quote

Help the management order the stock for the QI Bookshop (due to open in Oxford in Spring 2004), by listing the most interesting books you know.

277.  Wed Oct 15, 2003 8:39 pm Reply with quote

The one I'm reading at the moment - Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation, by Olivia Judson - is excellent. It combines fascinating bits of evolutionary biology with a highly readable style and format and humour.

The Botany of Desire arrived in the same package and is gazing alluringly from my bookshelf.

The Philosopher's Secret Fire - a History of the Imagination by Patrick Harpur links together (it says on the back cover) 'fields as far apart as Greek philosophy and depth psychology, Renaissance magic and tribal ritual, Romantic poetry and the ecstasy of the shaman, to trace how myths have been used to make sense of the world.'

The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim - a fascinating look at the psychology of fairy tales.

The Quantum and the Lotus - a journey to the frontiers where science and Buddhism meet, by Matthieu Ricard and Trinh Xuan Thanh. This book is a conversation between a French Buddhist monk, Ricard, who trained originally as a scientist, and Vietnamese-born astrophysicist Trinh, who was brought up as a Buddhist. Together they explore how Buddhism and modern science address life's big questions. It's not difficult to follow, even for a non-scientist like me. A book along slightly similar lines, though not quite as good in my opinion, was The Physics of the Soul by Amit Goswami, which was persuasive and interesting, but my physics isn't good enough to know how much of it is bollocks.

Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins - the best account of evolution that I have read. I wish I could be as enthusiastic about 'Unweaving the Rainbow' by him, but I can't because once he gets off his own speciality and onto mine (literature) he makes an ass of himself.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.

What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens knew - from fox-hunting to whist, the facts of daily life in 19th century England by Daniel Pool. This book is a lovely compendium of details of daily life.

Would it be too political to include Lies and the Lying Liars who tell them - a fair and balanced look at the Right by Al Franken? I thoroughly enjoyed that one. Ditto Downsize This by Michael Moore. They are both very American though. Polly Toynbee's Hard Work was quite a good British version of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed.

Are we only aiming at adults here or children too? My son likes the Horrible Histories series. I can also recommend a couple of non-fiction books for younger children, one about historical diaries and journals and one about the history of science, but there is a degree of self-interest in that... And if we're not being too po-faced, what about 1066 and All That by Sellars and Yeatman? I re-read it recently and chortled.

Are we including fiction? Poetry? Adults, children or both?

281.  Thu Oct 16, 2003 10:41 am Reply with quote

Why not?

May I recommend the 'Science of Discworld' books, by Terry Pratchett, as also giving a new slant on evolution and history?

Also two classics, 'No Bed for Bacon', by Caryl Brahms and J S Simon, on which 'Shakespeare in Love' was very loosely based - but it's much funnier - and 'The Specialist', by Charles Sale, about a joiner who specialises in privies.

291.  Thu Oct 16, 2003 7:10 pm Reply with quote

Mrs Beeton.

Philip Harben's " Grammar of Cookery ": first TV chef and by far the best intro to cooking, possibly the first to talk about the science of it for a beginner and certainly out of print. But I'm sure easy enough to sort that out.

It should be very clear that the DNB, new and old, can be ordered through the shop.

"The Sword in the Stone " " The Goshawk ": both important books which nobody reads anymore.

Clint Dawkins
297.  Fri Oct 17, 2003 4:42 am Reply with quote

I offer...

The Faber Book of Smoking (Ed, James Walton)

Frederick The Monk
331.  Sun Oct 19, 2003 9:32 am Reply with quote

Could I suggest 'Seven Ages of Britain' by Justin Pollard. It's over an inch thick!

Frederick The Monk
332.  Sun Oct 19, 2003 9:33 am Reply with quote

English Historical Documents (Volume two) looks so much more boring than it actually is.

354.  Sun Oct 19, 2003 6:20 pm Reply with quote

On the same theme, Hugh Ross Williamson’s book ”Who Was The Man In The Iron Mask? And Other Historical Mysteries” is well worth reading.

Frederick The Monk
403.  Mon Oct 20, 2003 2:53 pm Reply with quote

Let us also not forget English Historical Documents (volume one).

427.  Tue Oct 21, 2003 8:12 am Reply with quote

Very good suggestion by Frederick.

The book has five stars from all the reviewers on, and anything by Mr Pollard (whom I know only slightly, but Frederick is hand-in-glove with) is always excellent.

Frederick The Monk
446.  Tue Oct 21, 2003 10:39 am Reply with quote

Ah JumpingJack, you have found me out. I do indeed know Mr Pollard almost as well as it is possible to, although I have never bought any of his books.

463.  Tue Oct 21, 2003 1:10 pm Reply with quote

I note that readers who bought 'Seven Ages of Britain' from Amazon (and it does indeed look like an interesting book) also bought Ideas That Changed the World by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, The Egyptians: The Kingdom of the Pharaohs Brought to Life by Anton Gill, What the Industrial Revolution Did for Us (a title with a Pythonesque ring to it) by Gavin Weightman, Days That Shook the World by Hugo Davenport and A Rhyming History of Britain by James Muirden. The last of these sounds faintly bizarre and I really think I ought to read it. As well as, not instead of, Mr Pollard's book, of course.

464.  Tue Oct 21, 2003 1:16 pm Reply with quote

While browsing the website, I came across the appealingly-titled Shite's Unoriginal Miscellany, by A.Parody, which looks like a candidate for a QI bookshop:

Extensively researched, eccentrically compiled and irresponsibly written, ... SHITE’S UNORIGINAL MISCELLANY weaves an eccentric course between fact-for-fact’s-sake and that ‘display of superior knowledge which is more vulgar than the display of superior wealth’.

Among a mass of arcane, vital or merely fascinating information – ‘semaphore signals’, ‘flowerpot sizes’, ‘gestation periods for small mammals’, ‘Oxbridge colleges’ and ‘Indian tribes at the Little Big Horn’ spring immediately to mind – it offers priceless snippets of information a reader may one day need to know, such as ‘things to say to your mother on her birthday’, ‘sightings of dead celebrities’, ‘organ enlargement’ and, of course, ‘things to do with mashed potato’. Here too is information that will come in handy when you least expect it, from ‘chat-up lines’ to ‘ways to end a romance’, ‘popular irritants’ to ‘song titles’, and ‘disease’ to ‘divorce’.

Bizarrely ordered, insanely edited, and lovingly machine-printed on a substance closely resembling paper...

468.  Tue Oct 21, 2003 1:33 pm Reply with quote

I read Yann Martel's The Life of Pi earlier this year and found it amazingly good. I now want to read his other book, Self, which I gather is a kind of autobiography. I came across a quote from it today which has very much whetted my appetite for it. In The Life of Pi we can see his view that it really doesn't matter whether what we believe is 'true' in an empirical sense, as long is it has value to us, and this seems to be thinking along similar lines.

As a child, he has just been mesmerised by an image of an eye on television, with what he perceives to be fish swimming through it:


'I was thunderstruck. Eyes... tears... saltiness... seawater... fish.
The clear liquid in our eyes is seawater and therefore there are fish in our eyes, seawater being the natural medium of fish. Since blue and green are the colours of the richest seawater, blue and green eyes are the fishiest. Dark eyes are somewhat less fecund and albino eyes are nearly fishless, sadly so. A single tigerfish can be as beautiful, as powerful, as an entire school of seafaring tuna. That science has never observed ocular fish does nothing to refute my theory; on the contrary, it emphasizes the key hypothesis, which is: love is the food of eye fish and only love with bring them out. So to look closely into someone's eyes with cold, empirical interest is like the rude tap-tap of a finger on an aquarium, which only makes the fish flee....

I no longer believe in eye fish in fact, but still do in metaphor. In the passion of an embrace, when breath, the wind, is at its loudest and skin at its saltiest, I still nearly think that I could stop things and hear, feel the rolling of the sea. I am nearly convinced that, when my love and I kiss, we will be blessed with the sight of angelfish and sea-horses rising to the surface of our eyes, these fish being the surest proof of our love. In spite of everything, I still profoundly believe that love is something oceanic.'

471.  Tue Oct 21, 2003 1:53 pm Reply with quote


Shite's Unoriginal Miscellany is actually rather disappointing. The blurb's a lot better than the book itself.

The idea of Schott+added humour is appealing (he seems to have none) but Shite's veers between a genuine attempt to do what Schott has already done, and a half-hearted send up of it.

Tis neither flesh nor fowl, really, and doubtless therefore an abomination unto the Lord.


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