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Question Time: A Journey Round Britain’s Quizzes by Mark Mason (Book Review) @orionbooks #NonFictionNovember


Sent to me by W&N in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: 05/10/17

Publisher: W&N (Orion)

ISBN: 978-1474604598

Format: Hardback, 224pp

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a word: Puzzling

First Impressions

It is hard to find someone, especially in Britain, who doesn’t love the chance to test their knowledge through the wonderful art of the quiz. From quizzes on your smartphone to trivia trials down the local pub, we enjoy pitting our minds against others. That is the essence of Question Time and Mark Mason has set out to answer many questions but mainly, what makes the perfect question? I enjoyed Question Time as it is jam-packed with more trivia then you will ever need. MM is a intellectual but warm writer who’s fondness for knowledge is infectious. This is a homage to the British quiz, check it out!

Book Synopsis

Which major UK retailer has the same name as Odysseus’s dog in Greek mythology?

In the original version of the Band Aid hit ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, who sang the opening line?

Which is the only US state whose name can be typed on a single row of a QWERTY keyboard?

Travel writer and quiz fan Mark Mason decided to combine two of his greatest loves by setting off on a tour of Britain’s quizzes. From a pub quiz in Edinburgh to a charity quiz in Hampshire, from a corporate quiz in Birmingham to a journalists’ quiz in Parliament, he finds answers aplenty while asking some questions of his own. Just what is it that attracts us to these tests of our knowledge? What are the ingredients of the perfect quiz question? And which is the only English city whose official name begins with H?

The only travel book ever to discuss Winston Churchill’s use of language and reveal Donald Duck’s middle name, QUESTION TIME is an affectionate tribute to Britain and one of its most cherished institutions – the quiz.

My Review

Mark Mason writes about his pilgrimage around Great Britain looking for what it takes to form the perfect question; and by extension ‘what makes the perfect quiz?’. I was amazed by the huge quantity of trivia that MM covers in just over 200 pages. Question Time is a charming and proud observation on the cherished institution of The Quiz. MM covers the dynamics, social aspects, the psychological effects and the historic meaning by our need to test our knowledge. I had a brilliant time going through QT, MM’s thirst for knowledge is infectious. He travels from London to Edinburgh, to Oxford, Northampton and other historic locations in the pursuit of entertaining facts.

Mark Mason shares an account of his travels around GB and the different quiz scenes to explore. From the pub quiz and world championships to TV quiz shows and annual quiz meets. Mark is looking for answers concerning our innate need to a mass and flaunt our knowledge about all sorts of topics and subjects. MM discusses the future of the quiz, showing us how the format is changing to combat ‘googling’ and other attempts at deceiving a genuine challenge. It also takes into consideration the generation gaps and how information consumption is changing and evolving.

The writing is passionate and intellectual but also accessible; he writes in an upbeat, jovial and almost excited fashion. Mark is a trivia machine, though small chips compared some of the competition, and if you love knowledge then you will most certainly appreciate Question Time. I love quizzes and being able to read about them is a treat. I associate quizzes with Christmas, so this book brings me plenty of joy. The format is set out in Chapters that centre around a particular question that is then answered over the course of events. It is a great way to enhance the quirky but intelligent essence that MM is aiming for.

During the events in QT MM traverses the many aspects that make up our love for quizzes and how our brain seeks out ways to teaching/learning. Exploring how our minds use crystallised and fluid intelligence to find or interpret information and finds almost random connections between the details of life.  My favourite fact has to be that 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321. MM doesn’t just churn out facts though, he genuinely grows as a quiz-master as the book progresses.

My main issue with QT is the overloading of information at certain points; it is too much for just one read. That does increase the books re-readability though so that is a bonus for people who like to tackle a book multiple times. MM covers an absolute mountain of facts information in this book, I haven’t read any of MM’s other work but if I do I am prepared for another huge helping of trivia. The most important aspect of a book like this is ‘does it MM get an answer for his problem?’ and I agree that he does and it is pleasantly satisfying experience. To contemplate what goes into the perfect question is a gratifying experience.

Overall I recommend Question Time for all those readers who adore facts, information and taking part in quizzes any time of the year. Mark Mason is a connoisseur of the quiz and his insights are both fascinating and plentiful. I now need to join a quiz team (and think up a great name) and pit my own knowledge against others just for the pleasure of using my brain and having a good time. Pick up Question Time for lots of fun. facts and useful trivia; it is great value for time and money.

Pick up a copy of Question Time here: W&N (Orion) / Amazon UK / Goodreads

About Mark Mason

Mark Mason is a lover of trivia, the ‘little facts that slip down the back of life’s sofa’. Before becoming a writer, he sold Christmas cards in Harrods, played guitar in a blues band, and made radio programmes for the BBC. His other books include The Importance of Being TrivialWalk the Lines,Move Along, Please and Mail Obsession.


3 thoughts on “Question Time: A Journey Round Britain’s Quizzes by Mark Mason (Book Review) @orionbooks #NonFictionNovember

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