You could call it a sort of condensed combination of “Encyclopaedia Britannica” and “Guinness World Records” in a nicely sized hardback. In fact, “Whitaker's Little Book of Knowledge” is the sister publication of “Whitaker's Almanack”, a much respected and indispensable reference book that has been published annually since 1868. So not only do we have loads and loads of brain-bursting facts about countries, weather, historical figures, artists, cars, sports, writers, films and much much more, but in a section titled “Whitaker’s Treasure Trove” we also find a selection of notable events, remarkable occurrences, quirky information and facts and figures resurfacing from the 150-year archive.

The information for this light-hearted journey down memory lane has been reproduced exactly as it was recorded in the original editions, incorporating the same grammatical idiosyncrasies and archaic phrasing. In this section we find the Titanic, the World Wars, Queen Elizabeth II’s accession, the Moon landing and a rather splendid guide recommending select British holiday and health resorts, from 1905 to 1930.

Bloomsbury describes its book as an authoritative, quirky trivia volume divided into themed chapters containing thousands of general knowledge gems: from everything you learned at school to fascinating lists of contemporary top-tens. There are mini-biographies of famous people, plus condensed guides to films and works of art and literature, such as plot summaries of Shakespeare’s plays. A stand-alone sport chapter has guides to both well-known and obscure sports, key rules, a glossary of terms and short biographies of the world's greatest sporting heroes.

With the football Word Cup coming up in Russia in June, there is a list of the cup winners going back to the first tournament in 1930, which was won by Uruguay on home soil. The World Cup Golden Boot winners are also included, namely the highest goal scorer in each tournament.

Still on the topic of sport, we must congratulate the compilers on “squeezing” cricket – that most convoluted of games, not to mention that a Test match lasts five days – into a mere eight pages. We would have needed a dozen, at least. Formula One gets six pages and the Olympic Games five. “Unusual Sports” includes something called chessboxing, and tiddlywinks and tossing the caber get brief mentions.

Of course, not everything is of interest to everyone. Here at The Budapest Times we’re not very interested in video games. Well, make that nil interest. Nor some of the Music choices, such as Rick Astley and Chesney Hawkes, who get short descriptions. But on a rough estimate, we would say the interest ratio of the whole book is high, perhaps even at about 95%.

The condensed nature of the information inevitably means losing a little detail occasionally. For instance, in “Seven Wonders of the World”, we note that the Great Pyramid of Cheops “was originally 146.6m (481ft) in height”. But it doesn’t say how high it is now nor why it (presumably) shrank a bit. Erosion?

Still, “Whitaker's Little Book of Knowledge” should make us thirst to know even more. When we are told that John Keats’ poem “Ode to a Nightingale” recreates the bird’s song through iambic pentameters, it does remind us that we have been meaning for a long time to find out exactly what iambic parameters are. We really must look it up.

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