The Importance of Being Trivial: In Search of the Perfect Fact

Mark Mason

The Importance of Being Trivial: In Search of the Perfect Fact

If you're not remotely interested in the fact that Pete Conrad was the first man to fall over on the moon or that the stretch of road between the Strand and the Savoy is the only public highway in Britain where you are legally obliged to drive on the right, then The Importance of Being Trivial is very definitely not for you. If on the other hand you're intrigued by these pearls of information - and more importantly, intrigued by why you're intrigued by them - then Mark Mason's book will be required reading. An exploration of why little facts hold such a big fascination (interviews with the likes of John Sessions), it examines what our love of trivia says about us. The book touches on subjects as diverse as autism and the history of science, and features contributions from medical experts such as Simon Baron-Cohen. Mason sets out to discover the perfect fact - but along the way he learns how memory works, why Einstein and Picasso had more in common than you'd think, and - in asking why trivia is such a male pursuit - he uncovers fundamental truths about how men and women relate to each other. 3.7 out of 5 based on 3 reviews
The Importance of Being Trivial: In Search of the Perfect Fact

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Humour, Reference
Format Paperback
Pages 224
RRP £12.99
Date of Publication June 2008
ISBN 978-1847945174
Publisher Random House
 

If you're not remotely interested in the fact that Pete Conrad was the first man to fall over on the moon or that the stretch of road between the Strand and the Savoy is the only public highway in Britain where you are legally obliged to drive on the right, then The Importance of Being Trivial is very definitely not for you. If on the other hand you're intrigued by these pearls of information - and more importantly, intrigued by why you're intrigued by them - then Mark Mason's book will be required reading. An exploration of why little facts hold such a big fascination (interviews with the likes of John Sessions), it examines what our love of trivia says about us. The book touches on subjects as diverse as autism and the history of science, and features contributions from medical experts such as Simon Baron-Cohen. Mason sets out to discover the perfect fact - but along the way he learns how memory works, why Einstein and Picasso had more in common than you'd think, and - in asking why trivia is such a male pursuit - he uncovers fundamental truths about how men and women relate to each other.

Reviews

The Guardian

Steven Poole

You may have a horror of those people whose idea of party conversation is to spew pointless facts, but Mason's personal odyssey through a universe of trivia - confirming some favourite facts and debunking others; interviewing neuroscientists, tour guides and pub-quizzers - has an irresistibly hapless charm.

12/07/2008

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The Sunday Telegraph

Andrew Martin

This book contains almost as many such conversation starters (or stoppers) as one of those list-type books of trivia, yet there is also some pretty rigorous analysis, the author's own amiable personality, and a pay-off - the discovery of the 'perfect fact' - that is almost but not quite a cop-out. Accordingly, The Importance of Being Trivial might make a bridge back to proper reading for those who have become unhealthily addicted to the likes of Steve Wright's Further Factoids, 101 Things You Need to Know… And Some You Don't, and all those other books piling up beside the lavatory.

06/07/2008

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The Spectator

Andro Linklater

...however sympathetic the author, it’s difficult not to feel that The Importance of Being Trivial is the outcome of muddled thinking. The disconnected information that counts as trivia is inherently meaningless. Facts acquire their value from their context... In itself this reservoir of value-free, meaningless information is utterly unimportant; what does deserve study is its vast and accelerating popularity... To the growing number of trivialists, I suspect this book may be fascinating. For my part, it triggered the sort of reaction that the classic marketing slogan for Strand cigarettes, ‘You’re never alone with a Strand’, was supposed to have had on its audience. What sort of misfit wants to be alone with a fact?

09/07/2008

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