Volume 93, Issue 28

Wednesday, October 20, 1999


Fight Club loses in decision

Johanson draws wayward public to her bosom

Lists cures trivial needs

Bowie's Hours... time well spent

Just say no to the evils of the idiot box

Lists cures trivial needs

The Great Canadian Book of Lists
Mark Kearney and Randy Ray

Trivia is fantastic. Making family members weep with the weight of a crushing defeat in Trivial Pursuit should be a common occurrence. "Did you know..." facts are the most useful of their kind.

The people who find trivia annoying should avoid readers of The Great Canadian Book of Lists, an eclectic collection of mosts, lowests, bests, worsts and largests. It's good practice to be skeptical of things which arrogantly declare themselves to be great on the cover, a book filled with lists does seem pretty mundane. Surprisingly though, authors Mark Kearney and Randy Ray pull it off.

The Book of Lists is a solid mix of actual facts and expert opinion. Also, the book often usefully provides comparative lists – that is, the same subject at the turn of the century and how it has changed in 1999. The topic range covered by the lists is diverse – from history, to politics, to science, to people and sports – although one thing rather strange is that music had its own section, rather than being included with the "Arts and Entertainment" chapter.

The research is also very current, including mention of events which happened as late as this summer. While not specifically targeted for raving patriots, the average reader can take pride in learning that some world first or famous inventions were by the hands of Canadians. For example, the zipper, the paint roller, the Pacemaker, the Cineplex and the Wonderbra were all invented by Canadians.

Some of the lists are bound to raise some kitchen table debates. The idea, for instance, that Pierre Trudeau could top a list of the 12 Sexiest Canadian Men and that Kurt Browning and Lorne Green could also rate on such a list is a little boggling. On the female side of this topic, few would argue with number one pick Shania Twain or supermodel Linda Evangelista, but Liona Boyd?

This book will probably end up in stores alongside the more famous Book of Lists series, whose downfall is the inclusion of such mindless bits as "Top 10 Heights Of Curbs In America" or "16 Fish That Can Swim Sideways." Where those books fail, this one succeeds. The topics covered are generally of interest to most Canadians and could actually come up in conversation.

Another nifty surprise about The Great Canadian Book of Lists is the large portion of Western and London content, largely due to the fact both Ray and Kearney are former London residents. However, one trouble with this book is that events and topics are covered in a very superficial manner. But, such is the nature of trivia.

The Great Canadian Book of Lists is not exactly cerebral reading or "vintage Canadiana" as the back cover claims, but it is a quick, fun read and certainly comes in handy for closet Cliff Clavens and those trying to win that Trivial Pursuit game, which, incidentally, is another Canadian invention.

–Tom Everett

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Copyright The Gazette 1999