by Ben Schott




Schott's Original Miscellany
Cover by Alison Lang

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

There is absolutely no reason to pick up Schott’s Original Miscellany by Ben Schott.  It is merely 160 pages of seemingly random, albeit interesting, facts.  However, Schott’s selection of factoids do provide a diversion which can be sampled in small doses as the reader has the opportunity.

Beginnings with a short glossary of terms used to describe golf shots, Schott continues in a haphazard manner until he finally lists the seven deadly sins and the four cardinal virtues.  While the subject matter and manner in which he addresses it does not lend itself to easy organization, there are some items which seem as if they should have been grouped together, notably a listing of the Ivy League colleges (on page 69) and the fight songs for those same colleges (p.57).

Many of Schott’s lists are complete, especially when the number of the group is finite and small, such as the listing of the months of the French Revolutionary calendar (p.88), or even longer, such as Schott’s chart of the presidents of the United States.  However, just as frequently, Schott will provide a selection of information.  For these, Schott doesn’t even attempt to explain his criteria for inclusion.  Readers are therefore left with a “selection” of capital cities, although no clue as to why Uaanbator, Mongolia should be included but not Rangoon, Myanmar..

Of course, Schott’s Original Miscellany is not meant to be an almanac, but merely a book of interesting tidbits which can be dipped into again and again to find facts which Schott, at the time he was compiling the book, felt would be of interest to people.  In many was, the book seems like a shorter, and more personal version of the Books of Lists that were published in the 1980s by Amy Wallace, Irving Wallace andDavid Wallechinsky.

The selection of font (Garamond 8.5) seems to be a little small and light for the cream colored paper used in the books production.  While it gives the book a nice Victorian appearance, it also makes some of the sections difficult to read, especially on the busier pages of the collection.

For all the problems with the book, it does provide an interesting 160 pages of information which can be enjoyed as the reader opens the book at random or pages through it in order to see what pieces of trivia Schott has elected to bestow upon his readers.

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