ROBERT TANITCH’S ROUND-UP OF BOOKS No 9
1,342 QI FACTS To Leave You Flabbergasted (Faber & Faber £9.99). This is the sort of fun fact book to keep you and your friends amused. Did you know that Chairman Mao invited Khrushchev to a swimming meeting knowing he couldn’t swim? Did you know one British child a day eats a washing machine tablet in mistake for a sweet? Did you know that in Copenhagen there are more bicycles than people? Did you know in Japan you can rent friends?
CAN YOU SOLVE MY PROBLEMS? by Alex Bellos (Faber & Faber £14.99) is a casebook of ingenious, perplexing and totally satisfying puzzles. How clever are you? 125 brain teasers from Ancient Greece, to medieval Europe to Victorian England to modern day Japan. Some rely on a touch of cunning, others call for creativity and others need mercilessly logical thought. Some can only be solved by 2 per cent of the population. Are you in that 2 per cent?
CURIOCITY In Pursuit of London by Henry & Matt Lloyd-Rose (Particular Books £30). Dr Johnson got it right. A man who is tired of London is tired of life. 250 years on there is even more to see. This is not the sort of guide book you want to take with you. It’s the sort of guide book you want to dip into for odd and strange bits of information and just for amusement’s sake. It might even make you to go and search something out.
GOTHIC TALES by Arthur Conan Doyle (Oxford University Press) Doyle was known primarily (much to his chagrin) as the creator of Sherlock Holmes. (I was brought up on the 15th century romances, The White Company and Sir Nigel and wondered why nobody had filmed them,) These Gothic stories embrace Doyle’s obsession with spiritualism and the supernatural, the occult and medical horrors and, of course, madness. It’s all very Gothic. The tension between materialism and metaphysics is always there.