Question: When was National Trivia Day? Answer: January 4!
The Internet has spoiled trivia contests forever. No more participating in bar trivia nights, where contestants surreptitiously look at the iPhones they hold under the table. But the many editions of Trivial Pursuits are still lots of fun, and trivia books are still a nice diversion—and they make resources for impromptu, make-your-own home trivia games. Half Price Books gets many, many trivia books in (Question: How many trivia books does HPB buy each year?), but I wanted to look at some other books I’ve found to be fonts of trivial information.
1. Maphead, Ken Jennings—You know that a book by the greatest trivia contest winner of all, Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings, has gotta be full of useless factoids that amuse and amaze.
Question: In what state is the only town that borders two other different states on opposite sides?
Answer: West Virginia—the town is Weirton
2. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz and Popular Singers, Will Friedwald— In this treasure trove of musical marginalia is my favorite factoid of all time.
Question: Who dubbed Lauren Bacall’s voice on the song “How Little We Know” in the movie To Have and Have Not?
Answer: Andy Williams (Bacall denies it. Still a great question.)
3. Names, Paul Dickson—This book, a companion to the author’s book Words, gathers odd and fun names in many categories. It lists 365 apple names—an apple name a day.
Question: What are Arkies, Bennies, Bessies and Daphnes?
Answer: Awards—for arcade games, printing, dancing and furniture design, respectively.
4. About the Author, Alfred Glossbrenner—I felt I needed a book about books in the list, and this great resource includes interesting tidbits in each author entry.
Question: What author, a father of seven children, said, “I abhor their company because I can only regard children as defective adults…”?
Answer: Evelyn Waugh, author of Brideshead Revisited
5. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson—Bryson’s non-travel books, including this one, At Home, and The Mother Tongue, are jam-packed with amazing and amusing factoids. (So are his travel books, come to think of it.)
Question: How many bed mites may be in your pillow?
Answer: 40 million (Bryson says that “to them your head is just one large oily bon-bon”)
Have you got a favorite source of useless but fun-to-know trivia? Let us know, and drop us a trivia question! — Steve