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the Complete Review
the complete review - miscellanea

Schott's Original Miscellany

Ben Schott

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To purchase Schott's Original Miscellany

Title: Schott's Original Miscellany
Author: Ben Schott
Genre: defying
Written: 2002
Length: 159 pages
Availability: Schott's Original Miscellany - US
Schott's Original Miscellany - UK
Schott's Original Miscellany - Canada
Schotts Sammelsurium - Deutschland
  • Conceived, written, and designed by Ben Schott
  • Note that the content of the American edition (under review here) appears to differ slightly from that of the UK edition

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Our Assessment:

-- : utterly delightful

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Christian Science Monitor A 21/8/2003 Mark Luce
The NY Observer A- 8/9/2003 JoAnn Gutin
The Spectator . 7/12/2002 Hugh Massingberd
Wall Street Journal A 1/8/2003 Cynthia Crossen
Die Welt . 4/9/2004 Elmar Krekeler

  Review Consensus:


  From the Reviews:
  • "Although the jacket flap claims Schott's Original Miscellany cannot be read in one sitting, this reviewer claims otherwise. (...) (T)he book creates a state of animated giddiness that can be neither stopped nor contained. The last time I experienced such a response to a compendium of useless information was in fifth grade, when a 1980 edition of The Guinness Book of World Records landed in my grubby mitts." - Mark Luce, Christian Science Monitor

  • "(T)he good, original stuff vastly outweighs the so-so. For me, the appeal of Mr. Schottís book lies in the practical information that I didnít know I needed but am delighted to have. (...) Practicality aside, the best tidbits in Schottís produce unexpected little epiphanies." - JoAnn Gutin, The New York Observer

  • "I found this compellingly addictive anthology impossible to put down." - Hugh Massingberd, The Spectator

  • "Mr. Schott and his publisher made a courageous gamble that facts, if winnowed and presented attractively, could be as enthralling as fiction. I myself would have bet against such a proposition, and I would have lost. Somehow Mr. Schott turns a collection of trivia into a window on the world that is hilarious, puzzling and inspiring." - Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal

  • "Am Anfang der sensationellen Erfolgsgeschichte des nun auch in Deutschland erscheinenden wichtigsten Sachbuchs des Jahres war eine Weihnachtskarte. (...) Dieses Buch braucht keiner. Dieses Buch braucht jeder. Es ist ein Schweizermesser in Buchform. Wer es einmal besitzt, möchte es nie wieder missen, immer dabei haben. Man weiß ja nie, wohin man gerät." - Elmar Krekeler, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Schott's Original Miscellany collects information that is odd, useful, and a combination of both. It is a miscellany without much rhyme or reason -- except to revel in the wonder that is miscellanea.
       Schott collects the most varied information, from lists of translations of commonplace expressions from a number of languages to the Fujita-Pearson Tornado Intensity Scale. There is no neat order here: a typical sequence is a diagram of cricket fielding positions, followed by Euro note specifications, followed by the colours the Empire State Building is lit up with, followed by a list of eponymous foods.
       Many of the lists and explanations are useful -- information that isn't always readily found in your average reference work. From wine bottle nomenclature (how big is a Nebuchadnezzar ?) to boxing weight limits to canasta scoring to the Linnaean order of classification there is real information here. There's also a great deal that is of less use -- from Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" rendered in pig latin to a sample of British World War II rationing.
       Schott has found a striking mix: this isn't just a page-turner, it's a book in which you eagerly turn back and forth among the pages, finding something of interest at every corner. The selection of information presented is very odd and yet one appreciates having it, whether it's the places Gulliver visited or a comparison of lay vs. medical terminology.
       The book is also particularly appealing because of the careful and attractive presentation. There's miscellanea everywhere, from an explanation of the ISBN number on the copyright page to an exact account of the book's typesetting. It's this attention to detail, found in all aspects of the book, that makes it such a success -- down to the last bit, such as the Index entry: "Bond, James Bond". (It's also that modern rarity, a pocket-sized hardcover, making it comfortable to hold, handle, and carry.)
       Schott's presentation is also well thought-out and attractive. From charts like that of the murder method's in Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novels to various diagrams and listings it's a beautifully designed book.
       Certainly recommended.

       (Unfortunately, the American edition appears to have been 'Americanised' -- considerably beyond the only admission found in the book ("Number of translations from 'arse' (UK) to 'ass' (US) ..... 3"). We haven't been able to compare editions, but one British paper gives the word total as 37,837,while the US edition has 39,447. Presumably some of the more British entries have made way for some more American-style entries: we're guessing Ivy League fight songs and the like were not found in the UK edition.)

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Schott's Original Miscellany: Reviews: Ben Schott: Other books by Ben Schott under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Ben Schott is a British collector of miscellanea.

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© 2003-2010 the complete review

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