Mention the word “history” and it is a fair chance that the first image that will come to your mind will be that of a hefty book, that in most cases than not, is not the easiest to read. And well, to be fair, history can tend to be a little voluminous because it is after all a narration of what happened in the past. And as there are a lot of people on this very large planet, a lot of things do happen. Which of course, results in those massive books.
But in spite of their size, history books are not able to cover everything. That would be impossible. So the authors tend to restrict themselves to major events like wars, treaties, invasions, inventions, revolutions, kings and queens and so on. What gets missed out are the juicy bits of trivia that might not seem very important but are actually a lot of fun to read. For instance:
“17 August 1896
Britain’s first fatal car accident took place when Bridgett Driscoll was hit by a car travelling at a reckless 4 mph at Crystal Palace, south London. The coroner expressed the hope that such an unfortunate accident would be a unique occurrence.”
Interesting, isn’t it? But not the sort of stuff you would find in your run-of-the-mill history book. Well, you will find it in the supremely appropriately named History Without the Boring Bits. The author Ian Croftion has gone all the way back to several hundred years before Christ and come all the way up to the 21st century, collecting incidents and information that you are unlikely to find in regular history books. It is a riot of seemingly trivial, and yet remarkably interesting incidents and events. The first fatal car accident referred to above is just an example. Try this:
“Circa AD 43
The emperor Claudius, worried that holding in flatulence might be injurious to health, passed a law permitting the unleashing of intestinal gases in banquets.”
And then there is this:
On the occasion of his fourth marriage, Dr John Thomas, bishop of Lincoln, had his wedding ring inscribed with the motto:
If I survive,
I’ll make it five.”
The book is a collection of these gems spread over more than 350 beautifully formatted pages, with three to five slices of trivia on each page. And they are enormous fun to read, as Crofton keeps his tongue very firmly in his cheek while narrating them. The result is one of those books that you will not go through from cover to cover, but which you will pick up, read a page or two from anywhere, and put down with a smile on your face. You are also likely to reach out for your phone and type “you won’t believe this but did you know that…” and send the message to a friend or social network. History Without the Boring Bits is that kind of book. Yes, we do wish it had many more illustrations and that some of the items had been narrated in more detail, but all said and done, this is a rip roaring read. Think of it as the tabloid section of a history book!