I subscribe to a newsletter called Now I Know, which sends a daily factoid. This book is essentially like taking several years’ worth of those and packing them into one publication (you can actually buy a Now I Know book too).
Filled with anecdotes about the weird minutia of history, grouped together into vaguely related topic categories, the book attempts to capture the everyday oddities, rather than the world-changing events normally documented.
In most cases, the tidbits were fairly interesting, but they were equally banal enough that it was obvious as to why they haven’t made it into more general books on history.
There’s so many of them too. It took me so long to read this (I started in 2012) because I started to tune out halfway through, it became like listening to someone wittering on, the words just washing over me. When I came back to it, I wondered why I had stopped, but it quickly became a slog again.
It would have been better to pick a few of the choicest stories per section and looked at them in more detail, rather than trying to cram in as much as possible. Or perhaps a different delivery method would have been better (a daily newsletter, perhaps?).
Incidentally, Pollard is a writer on the TV show QI, and I did notice several of the anecdotes have come up in the series.
It’s not a bad book, just not very engaging as a straight read. I was only reading a couple at a time too (before bed). If you find yourself stuck on tube platforms or wherever for five minutes at a time, then this would be perfect (on a Kindle or smartphone, for example, for convenience).