Dewey Decimal Challenge: Book 2: The Second Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know Is (Still) Wrong by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson (The 000s)

12 Jan

The very first thing that you should do once you have selected a nonfiction book is check the copyright date. Certain nonfiction subjects can become dated relatively quickly, especially books on medicine and health as well as space and astronomy. You wouldn’t want to borrow a book on our planetary system with a copyright date before 2006 as Pluto would still be considered a full-fledged planet! The 000s are one such area where you should be on the lookout especially concerning books about computers (004s) and general encyclopedias (030s). And speaking of the 030s, that’s just where we are headed–specifically the 031.02s.

The Second Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know Is (Still) Wrong by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson (031.02 LLO)


The Second Book of General Ignorance, written by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, is what is referred to as a trivia book and is a sequel to a bestseller based on the British television panel game QI. Lloyd and Mitchinson are also the TV series-creator and head-researcher, respectively. The first book in the series, The Book of General Ignorance, aims to address and correct misconceptions people often have regarding common knowledge–that is to say things that we assume to be known by most people. The Second Book of General Ignorance follows suit providing answers to a multitude of questions while giving a brief explanation of why people might be making the wrong assumptions about a particular topic considered to be well-known. For example, if you had asked me last week about oranges–how I would determine whether one is ripe enough to eat–I would have revealed my total ignorance of this commonly enjoyed fruit. In fact, the ripeness of an orange can never be determined by the color of an orange’s skin because most oranges are artificially colored via ethylene gas. I’ve already shared this bit of knowledge with three people this week because it bowled me over! I will never avoid a greenish orange again.

Not only will taking a dip in the 031.02s aid you in winning trivia night, this pool of condensed knowledge will surely spark your curiosity. After learning from Lloyd and Mitchinson that the often cited spelling rule “i before e except after c” was abandoned in the UK in 2009, I had to know more about the history of the disputed old mnemonic. Something to keep in mind when reading any trivia book is that most topics are oversimplified. This is fine unless you intend to spread the word that if caught in a riptide, you should simply tread water as opposed to the conventional wisdom of swimming parallel to the shore. Then more research might be wise. For the record, I did look this up, and it is legit–studies have shown that your odds are better if you tread water.

Lloyd and Mitchinson’s book covers a lot of ground in just under three hundred pages from topics of geography to history to science. Unfortunately, there isn’t necessarily an obvious order to the book–no chapters or headings of any kind. While some questions seem to be grouped according to topic (Cleopatra questions are located near questions about Julius Caesar), most do not (sports questions next to questions about a bat’s eyesight). This is a disadvantage if your intention is to study a certain subject, but shouldn’t be a deterrent if you’re just hungry for bits of information.

I have always loved trivia books. I read and reread David Feldman’s Imponderables: The Solution to the Mysteries of Everyday Life, which taught me that there is no difference between a day that is “partly sunny” as opposed to “partly cloudy” except the time of day and perhaps the weathercaster’s outlook on life. There are so many assumptions that we make on a daily basis and so many questions to which we simply don’t know the answer (even if we deal in oranges). Trivia books can make us feel both incredibly ignorant and, after reading, finally enlightened.

-Written by Sharlene Edwards, Senior Children’s Librarian

Click here to read past posts about Sharlene’s Dewey Decimal Challenge!

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