Book Thoughts: The Book of Totally Useless Information

The Book of Totally Useless Information was a trivia book by Don Voorhees. The writing had the form of questions and answers. Some of the answers were short and purely answered the question, but most answers also went into a lot of background behind why it was the answer. I always like learning, so reading this book was very addictive. As soon as one question and answer was over, there was immediately another question and answer. Sometimes I’d plan to stop reading after a question only to realize a half hour later I had read five more questions and answers. I have the same trouble on Wikipedia. It’s so hard for me to just read one topic. I usually visit several of the links to read about other subjects.

I got this book as a gift in the early 2000s, but it was actually written in the early ’90s. I could tell because some of the answers had outdated information. One example I remember was asking about the farthest planet. When the book was written, Pluto was still considered a planet. However, the book still got the correct answer in Neptune, because Neptune has the farthest average orbit around the Sun.

Another answer said that being cold would not lead to a person getting a cold. While it’s true that viruses cause colds, not cold weather, a recent study showed that the cold virus multiples at a higher rate when the body temperature is below the normal 98.6 degrees. Not keeping warm in cold temperatures actually does increase the chance of catching a cold. I do agree with the two other explanations in the book though (people stuck inside, people spreading germs on surfaces). They are both additional contributors to people catching colds, but cold temperature has now been shown to be a contributor too.

These answers weren’t something I could criticize the book about though. Over time, the answers changed based on new scientific discoveries. In other cases it was new history coming to light that revealed the true story behind something. Some people might not like inaccuracy, but I didn’t mind. It gave the book character. It allowed the reader to peer into the past a tiny bit. This information was cutting edge back then. It’s still probably 95% accurate now. This isn’t a book that I would re-read again and again, however. I might want to go back to it after a few years and refresh my memory on some of the things, but all this information can be found online as well. It’s a great coffee table or bathroom book, something the reader only spends a few, brief moments reading.

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