The Book of the Year 2019
by James Harken, Andrew Hunter Murray, Anna Ptazynski and Dan Schreiber
Hutchinson / Penguin
“May you live in interesting times.” That’s the ancient Chinese curse we are living though today. Blame sun spots, blame Facebook, blame Ink19, but there’s just a ton of ways for people to mess up their lives and the world in general. This handy compendium of factoids and tales of the weird and wonderful comes from the jolly old United Kingdom via No Such Thing as a Fish as it wrestles with the existential question “Are we or are we not a part of Europe?”’ While they pontificate, the world keeps spinning and weird stiff keeps happening. This is a handy compendium, suitable for gift giving once you’ve skimmed through it yourself. Clearly, you would like some examples, and I’m happy to oblige.
We begin with a man who crossed the Atlantic in a barrel and without sails, oars or much of anything else beyond luck. Why? Mostly to get in the sort of obscure books I write about. Then there’s the Russian “Whale / Spy” captured complete with a harness and Russian listening equipment. Who isn’t impressed that Honey Bees can count to three? And my personal fave is the adverting campaign by Carlsberg beer that reprints the worst consumers comments about their own product on billboards. The even published this glowing zero star review: “I am confused as to how you will use my quote regarding Carlsberg as “The rancid piss of Satan” in an effective advert but, by all means, feel free. “ It almost makes me want to try one. Almost.
The Harvard-based “Ignoble Prize” get special mention here with a report on “a team from France who measured the temperatures of the scrotum’s of postmen; a team from Japan who estimated the daily saliva consumption of a five-year-old, and a multinational group of scientists who looked at how, and why, wombats produce cube-shaped poo.” Haven’t we all wondered about the “Wombat poo “problems? I have. I could go on, but you get the idea. This book need not be read in any order sequence; it’s a great fun to open it at random and wonder at will. Highly recommend and reasonably price, and the answer to any tough gift giving opportunity coming up soon in your own. Enjoy.