We live in an increasingly polarised mad and maddening world seemingly going from bad to worse. The hunger for “how to be happy” and “how to achieve more success in life” top tips type reading fodder is countered by our apparent preference for bad news over the good, (motivated by schadenfreude, a heightened vigilance for threats thanks to a daily Media diet of disasters, shock value . . . or so the thinking goes).
If it bleeds, it leads
Sam Jordison’s series Crap Towns became a cult hit. Now he has pulled another winner out of his hat – The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad. It is an entertaining and thoroughly-researched book of alternative general knowledge. Factual and informative lists ranging across the natural world, history, popular culture, sports, food, medicine, science, economics, politics, drugs, divorce and crystal-ball gazing balls-ups are seasoned with tongue-in-cheek personal asides. It is a particularly cheering read if your own life is in the doldrums, or for some Christmas fun and games. So quiz each other and laugh when no one knows the answers: there is invariably someone worse off than you!
BookBlast’s top ten favourite Worst of Everything nuggets, courtesy of Sam Jordison
The Ten Worst Popes. Coming in at Number 1:
Urban II (1088-99). In 1095, Pope Urban II called for a large invasion force to take Jerusalem from the Muslims and the First Crusade began. In the fury that followed, mobs massacred Jews throughout Europe, Orthodox Christians in the East were attacked and Christian knights rampaged throughout the Middle East. In 1099, the Crusaders took Jerusalem and massacred the Muslim population. We are still suffering the results of his polices. Thanks a bunch, Pope Urban II!
The Ten Most Disgusting Foods in the World. Coming in at Number1:
Kæstur hákarl, Iceland. Kæstur hákarlis Icelandic for fermented shark. But that isn’t the half of it. The shark in question is the Somniousus microcephalus (rough translation: sleepy strangely small head), a cannibal creature that can live for up to 500 years and tends to be overloaded with uric acid and a substance called trimethylamine N-oxide. The former is corrosive wee, the latter can give you heart attacks and make you puke blood. The obvious course of action would just be to avoid this horror- fish. Instead, Nordic gourmands like to bury it, let it rot for three months, then hang it out in the air for another few months so it develops a nice crusty layer. It’s then dished up with an ice-cold shot of brevinnin, a fierce Icelandic spirit that dulls the senses (and presumably the intelligence) enough to make the dish bearable.
The Ten Biggest Fails at the Olympics. Coming in at Number 1:
Seoul, 1988. Doves were released at the climax of the opening ceremony at the 1988 Seoul Olympics to represent peace and harmony. They were let out right in front of the cauldron containing the flame and so fried on live TV. Which made for a fantastic metaphor, even if it looked alarming to the millions watching.
The Ten Most Regrettable Literary Rejections. Coming in at Number 1:
“My dear friend, perhaps I am thick-headed but I just don’t understand why a man should take thirty pages to describe how he turns over in his bed before he goes to sleep. It made my head swim.” Marc Humblot wrote to Proust in 1912, turning down A la recherche du temps perdu for the Ollendorff publishing house. Thus losing himself the work of a deathless genius. (The writer André Gide also turned down Proust’s masterpiece for his imprint the Nouvelle Revue Française. He later wrote to the author, apologising. He said that he had committed the “gravest error . . . one of the most burning regrets, remorses, of my life.”)
The Ten Longest Novels. Coming in at Number 1:
Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus by Georges and Madeleine de Scudery – at 1,954,300 words. Originally published in ten volumes in the 17th century, it beats Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu and Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time by a long chalk.
The Ten Worst TV Programmes of All Time. Coming in at Number 1:
Jim’ll Fix It (1975-94). Like the Cosby Show, this programme about making kids’ dreams come true was surprisingly popular when it aired. But paedophile Jimmy Savile turned out not to be the ideal frontman.
The Ten Worst Albums by Great Artists is perfect for wannabes dreaming of reaching the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Number 1 being:
Never Let Me Down – David Bowie (1987). “I didn’t really apply myself,” Bowie later ruefully reflected on his worst record. “I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to be doing. I wish there had been someone around who could have told me.” Unfortunately, there wasn’t. The result was, as he himself called it, his “nadir”.
The Ten Most Wayward Predictions About Computer Technology. Coming at Number 1:
“Two years from now, spam will be solved.” Bill Gates, at the World Economic Forum in 2006. By 2012, it accounted for 90% of all email.
The Ten Most Expensive Destinations in the World – based on the World Economic Forum Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Tourism Index 2107.
Coming in at Number 1 is Switzerland . . . closely followed by the United Kingdom . . .which is bound to change after Brexit . . . though who knows?
And with Christmas just seventeen days away, “Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry” . . . because, to top it all:
The Ten Most Likely Ways the Earth is Going to End. Coming in at Number 1:
Global Warming. We are already experiencing glacier retreat, changes in the timing of seasonal events and declines in Antarctic sea ice. And the more Earth warms up, the worse it gets. Water evaporation, for instance, pumps water vapour into the atmosphere which is itself a greenhouse gas, and so traps more heat, which could drive carbon dioxide from the rocks . . . and on it goes. If we don’t drown, we’ll fry. Or starve. And the worst thing about it will be that it will be our fault. Just like everything else. (Except maybe the bullet ants. Even we can’t be blamed for those little bastards.)
The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad by Sam Jordison | Michael O’Mara Books Ltd | Pub date £12.99 HB 272pp October 2018 | ISBN: 978-1-78929-024-0
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