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Literature / Asimov's Book of Facts

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"3,000 of the most interesting, entertaining, fascinating, unbelievable, unusual, and fantastic facts."
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Also known as Facts and Trivia or The Giant Book of Facts and Trivia (both from the UK), this book was first published in 1979, with final edits being made by Isaac Asimov. As a general reference book, the Dewey Decimal Classification includes it in 031 — General encyclopedic works.

The book is divided into seventy-seven chapters, each with a few dozen facts related to the chapter title. Most reviewers recommend this for bathroom reading, as the short facts are mildly entertaining, but lacks an overarching narrative to create continuity.

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This work provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Alliterative List: The Tagline for the 1980 Fawcett publication would feature two words per line, matching the letters/sounds.
    unbelievable, unusual,
    funny, fascinating,
    interesting, entertaining,
    and fantastic facts
  • Audience Participation: The book has a letter from Dr Asimov, requesting that readers send in their facts for the next volume of Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts.
  • Billed Above the Title: The 1991 edition has Dr Asimov's name take up half of the cover.
  • Cassandra Truth: Real Life Phoenician traveller Hanno was the first to circumnavigate the African continent. When he reported the unusual sight of a noonday sun in the northern direction, the Greek historian who recorded this fact, Herodotus, considered it completely unbelieveable. Nowadays we realize that it was proof of his trip.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them:
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    • Real Life Queen of Scots Mary Stuart became Queen when she was six days old, and publically crowned when she was nine months old, in 1543.
    • Real Life King of England Henry VI was publically crowned when he was nine months old, in 1422.
    • Real Life Pharaoh of Egypt Pepi II ruled for ninety years, which indicates being crowned at a young age, the year 2272 BC.
  • The Grand Hunt: Real Life subjects of Kublai Khan, founder of the Yuan dynasty in China, would train lions to hunt with them. The large cats would chase down and kill large prey, from bulls to bears, and they would stay with the kill until the hunters caught up.
  • I Am Spartacus: Real Life King Christian X of Denmark, when Nazi Germany gave the order that the Jews would wear the yellow stars, defied the order by sharing in the danger. Within hours of the order, all citizens were wearing the star, and the King declared, "I am my country's first Jew."
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  • If It Bleeds, It Leads: Real Life Herostratus wanted to become a historical figure, so he burned down the Temple of Artemis in an Ionian city of Ephesus, known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The authorities of the time executed him and tried to Unperson him, but to no appreciable effect.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Dr Asimov negotiated the publication into something he had final editorial fiat over the contents, as well as adding a few hundred factoids himself. The primary author of this book was actually Jerome Agel. UK editions generally give Dr Asimov credit as editor, but USA editions like to plaster his name larger than the title.
  • Language Barrier:
    • Real Life King of England George I never learned how to speak or read the English language during his thirteen year reign. He was German-born and succeeded Queen Anne at the age of fifty-four.
    • Real Life Queen of England Victoria was a native speaker of German, not English. Despite ruling for sixty-four years, she was never able to master the English language.
  • Loophole Abuse: Real Life Russian Empress Catherine I made it illegal for women to get drunk. Her daughter (and friends in the court) would go to transvestite balls and get drunk as men.
  • Man in the Iron Mask: Real Life Sultan of Turkey Mohammed VI had been held prisoner in his own home since the age of four. He went from prisoner to Sultan in less than a day, at the age of fifty-seven (1918).
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The 1981 hardback edition is simply a black cover, with the title written along the spine in two lines.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Real Life ancient Europeans first named this animal camelopard, due to the belief that it came from a cross between a camel and a leopard. It is now called a giraffe.
  • Monumental Damage: Real Life Lighthouse of Alexandria, on the island of Pharos. Inaccurate descriptions are all we have to go on, so it may have been 200-600 feet tall. Known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it was destroyed in the fourteenth century AD, by an earthquake.
  • The Napoleon: Real Life horned frog of Argentina is incredibly aggressive, causing the superstition that its bite can kill a full-grown horse (it isn't venomous).
  • Non-Indicative Name:
    • Real Life ring-tailed cat is actually a racoonlike animal.
    • Real Life crayfish is actually a crustacean.
    • Real Life firefly is actually a beetle.
    • Real Life glass snake is actually a lizard.
    • Real Life horned toad is actually a lizard.
    • Real Life civit cat is actually a mongoose.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: The majority of the book is a collection of random facts, sorted by theme, but without any sort of narrative to connect them.
  • N+1 Sequel Title: Real Life King Charles VII of Sweden was the first king named Charles. The next King Charles of Sweden was named VIII.
  • Overly Long Tongue: Real Life Okapi have tongues longer than a foot, which it uses to clean its own face and ears, grab young shoots from tall shrubs/trees, and scare away flies.
  • Sacred Language: Real Life Holy Roman Emperor Charles V claimed that he always used Spanish for his prayers.
  • Slave Race: Real Life Egyptians trained baboons to work as waiters in restaurants.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Real Life Russian Empress Catherine I made it illegal for women to get drunk. Her daughter (and friends in the court) would go to transvestite balls and get drunk as men.
  • Tagline:
    • From the 1991 edition: "3,000 of the most interesting, entertaining, fascinating, unbelievable, unusual, and fantastic facts."
    • From the 1980 Fawcett edition: "3000 of the most unbelievable, unusual, funny, fascinating, interesting, entertaining, and fantastic facts."
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Real Life Empress Elizabeth I of Russia died with over 15,000 dresses. The book also says that she would change her dress two-three times each evening.
  • Unperson:
    • The Real Life Pharaoh of Egypt, Thutmose III, is the first to have attempted the removal of a person from history. Because Pharaoh Hatshepsut had kept him from ascending the throne, he ordered every statue smashed and her name destroyed from every public building.
    • Real Life Herostratus wanted to become a historical figure, so he burned down the Temple of Artemis in an Ionian city of Ephesus, known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The authorities of the time executed him and tried to remove every record of his name to deny him his victory, to no appreciable effect.
  • Virgin in a White Dress: Real Life Queen of Scots Mary Stuart married Francis Dauphin a year before he ascended to the throne of France. Her choice of white was due to liking the colour, but at the time she was defying the tradition of French Queens wearing white for mourning. He died two years later.

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