The QI Elves research and write the scripts for the hit TV Series, QI. Their latest book, Funny You Should Ask… is published in paperback in June.
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Here they present their Quite Interesting booklist.
Alan Davidson£40.00 £37.20
Before QI was a TV show, it was just an idea – that everything in the universe, without exception, could be made interesting. Even an encyclopedia, for example. Alan Davidson’s wonderful, fascinating, funny, beautifully written Oxford Companion to Food was the book we hawked round to publishers to show how it could be done. The entries on foods you think you know about will enlighten you, and the ones you’ve never even heard of before, you’ll want to find out even more about.
Does what it says on the tin and deserves to be a staple in every home. Every page uses a different map to reveal a new phase of global history, whether it’s the earliest Mesopotamian civilisations, the Mongol conquests or the nuclear arms race. It manages to squeeze an extraordinary level of detail and insight into a beautiful, accessible format. If you read the whole thing, you’ll feel as though you know everything. NB will not fit in your coat pocket!
'B.E. Gent'£8.99 £8.36
A repackaged and renamed version of the original A New Dictionary of Terms, Ancient and Modern, of the Canting Crew, this treasure trove of linguistic lewdness includes such gems as: ‘Arsworm’, a little diminutive fellow. ‘Croppin-ken’, a privy or bog-house ‘Looking-glass’, a chamber pot ‘Low tide’, when there’s no money in a man’s pocket ‘Shoulder-Clapper’, a Sergeant or Bailiff.
Hannah Ross£16.98 £15.79
From suffragettes to sportswomen, Ross's fascinating book highlights the forgotten females from cycling history and demonstrates how the simple act of riding a bike has been a driver for social and sexual change. It’s riddled with interesting, eccentric and inspirational characters from the early Victorian age to the modern day, and will make anyone, male or female, want to jump on a bike and freewheel down the nearest hill in celebration of them.
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence: definitive 4th edition
Betty Edwards£20.00 £18.60
This is an absolutely brilliant and inspiring book based on the idea that everybody can draw, but that first they have to learn to see. To things as they actually are, not as we have come to believe they are. A kind of visual General Ignorance, if you like. Betty Edwards is an art teacher as well as an author and artist and the book is packed with before-and-after examples of amazing work by people who couldn’t previously draw a stick figure. Meantime, you can learn to do it too. This elf did. And it really works.
Tristan Donovan£8.99 £8.36
A whistle-stop tour of board games through the ages, from senet in Ancient Egypt, whose rules remain a mystery to this day, right up to Settlers of Catan, taking detours via chess, backgammon, Trivial Pursuit and many more.
Ben Schott£16.98 £15.79
One Elf wore the pages of this book out, thumbing through it at the dinner table (when their parents would allow), proudly declaring to all who would listen who the official supplier of bagpipes to the Queen was, or the number of stations on the Jubilee line (post-1999 extension of course). A more QI book you will struggle to find, just be careful not to get soup on the pages at lunch.
Lucy Cooke£9.99 £9.29
This has to be the funniest and most delightful book ever penned by a zoologist. Full of mind-boggling surprises and fall-off-the-sofa laughs, it takes 12 animals you won’t have thought much about – including a few you probably think you wouldn’t like – and lifts the lid off their private lives. Everything you never knew about pandas, sloths, beavers, chimps and hippos, for example. The dust jacket gives a flavour of what’s inside: ‘feminist hyenas, perverted penguins, exploding bats and frogs in taffeta trousers’.
Bill Bryson£10.99 £10.22
Bill Bryson was flying over the Pacific one day and was struck by how enormous it was and how little he knew about it. So, he sat down to teach himself the whole of science from scratch. All of it, from anthropology to quantum physics. In three years. It’s an extraordinary achievement. Every page is crammed with information, insight and wit – and none of it is boring or difficult. Everyone should read this – scientists too (because no one’s an expert on everything) – and it should be compulsory in schools.