Book Review: The QI Book of the Dead By John Lloyd and John Mitchinson

bookofthedead3Title: The QI Book of the Dead

Author: John Lloyd and John Mitchinson

Year written: 2009

Publisher and year: Faber and Faber Ltd., 2010

ISBN Number: 978-0-571-24491-1

I have a few QI books and they’re good books to pick up and read a bit or to learn some unusual facts about whatever topic is in the book. This one has various chapters with themes about people in history. Most of them are famous, I’d heard of a lot of them, but then there are some that are more obscure and you’re not likely to need to know about them at any point in your life apart from maybe a pub quiz or to throw into a conversation.

This edition is in paperback, I have never seen the hardback version but apparently it was released a year earlier. This paperback version is one I bought on eBay as part of a lot of QI books and probably cost around £1 if I worked it out but it’s one I’ve seen in second hand book stores, though QI books in general seem to be appearing in charity or second hand stores less recently that I’ve seen.

bookofthedead1I really like the cover of this book, I have no idea why there’s a piece of toast on the front but it seems to go with QI for some reason. It’s a pretty matte finish on the book which, although it looks nice, does seem to be a bit of a fingerprint magnet if you’re not careful. Not that this is a book that you really buy as decoration, it’s more one to thumb through every now and again or have out on the side as a coffee table type book to me. I like the fact that it includes a bit of a summary of some of the people who are written about in the book on the back. It shows that some of the most famous people in history sound a bit odd when you focus on other parts of their lives rather than the things they discovered or wrote and this sets the theme for the whole of the book inside.

The paper and font inside this book aren’t all that special, it’s a pretty standard paper, the kind you get in 90% of paperbacks, and the font is a standard size for them too. It’s not one where they’ve added any additional decoration where it comes to pictures or fonts for subtitles but it’s the standard times new roman (or whatever name it’s given) so it’s easy to read and shouldn’t be a problem if you can read most paperbacks font size wise.

The book itself is pretty much full of facts about people from history, unlike the previous QI book I reviewed there is no real tie in with the show, other than the fact that some of them will have been discussed and the facts probably mentioned on there. There’s a small introduction and prologue, each by one of the authors, along with the contents and an index at the back so you can quickly find a specific subject. I quite like this addition as it means if you’ve read it and you vaguely remember that a fact was about a certain subject or person then you can quickly find it to either remind yourself or to tell others. It does also include some additional reading suggestions if you’re interested in the topics, these are all at the back and split into the same chapter headings as the main part of the book.


The contents, and the book in general, is divided in sections based on a theme. Some of them are ones you’d expect, things like their childhood or the fact that they pretended to be someone they weren’t but then there are some more unusual ones, the one that stands out to me is a chapter where all of the people discussed are linked because they had pet monkeys. Each of these chapters is separated into sections about the different people, the contents does list who is included in each chapter to make it easy to jump to if you want, with a sentence at the beginning of each person linking them to the previous one. These separate people are obvious because there’s quite a break between the paragraphs and a small decoration, which probably has an official name but I don’t know it. They also have the person’s name in bold along with their birth and death years somewhere in the first sentence or two so you’re clear who the next part will be discussing.

Compared to the other QI books I have this one is a bit bigger, including the contents and index it’s 435 pages and does feel thicker and heavier. It’s not a book that I think most people would sit down and read cover to cover but if you do then it’s not going to be a long read as, although the topics could be quite dry, the tone is light hearted and it’s easy to read quickly without getting stuck or having to reread parts to fully understand them. In that way it has a similar tone to the show and the topics discussed are definitely in keeping with it, you can’t have QI without at least some mention of sex so that’s a topic in one chapter which means this probably isn’t a book for a younger audience. There are quite a few topics in the book that would make it more for a mature audience, though it doesn’t go into much detail with deaths and descriptions of events there are some things that younger readers wouldn’t understand. Basically if you know the show QI it’s aimed at the same audience. If not then I’d say look it up as it’s great and if you’re in the UK it’s repeated pretty much every night on Dave.

I think that this book is good for fans of QI, it has a similar tone and the subjects covered fit with the show. I also think it would be a good book for people who are interested in obscure history or just the kind of random facts that this book includes about people who you either haven’t heard of or where there are parts of their lives that are less well known. It’s a great book to pick up, read a bit and then put down and it does look nice enough to put out on a side or on a coffee table. I also have found that it’s a great waiting room book, which sounds like an odd way of putting it, but I tend to find that when it comes to doctors’ waiting rooms, and places like that, it’s best to have a book with you that it doesn’t matter if you stop within minutes of sitting down but you can also sit and read for half an hour or so in case they’re running late. I guess that shows how much time I spend in them, but it would also be a good book for travelling if you can read on journeys.

Overall I did enjoy this book and I’m glad I have it. It’s one that I’ll be keeping and probably referring back to or picking up and reading bits of again just to remind myself. They’re not facts that will come in handy in everyday life but it’s still interesting to know them. If you like light hearted books where you learn something while reading then I’d suggest the QI books in general seem good for that. I’ve only read this, the Book of General Ignorance and the second Book of General Ignorance but I do have more of them that I’m going to read so I’ll see if they live up to these. So far I’d say this one is great if you like learning about people, if you’re more interested in just general knowledge type things then go for the General Ignorance (one or two).

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