Book Review: Love, Sex, Death & Words by John Sutherland and Stephen Fender

This is an interesting and unique book that works on a simple premise. Bite sized essays, 366 of so one for each day of the year, that discusses a different aspect every day. It works on a “On this day in year…” and discusses an important or not so important yet otherwise interesting event that happened on that day.

From 1st January chronicling the complications of the copyright of Peter Pan, Alexandre Dumas duel on the 5th January, a vignette of why Johannes Gutenberg is the true villain of The Hunchback of Notre Dame on the 6th, we move on swiftly through our “year”: Charles I beheading on 31st January and John Milton’s (Paradise Lost) defence of the act which would see him given a role as propagandist in Cromwell’s government. Who knew that Salman Rushdie went into hiding when the fatwa against him was pronounced on Valentine’s Day? Or did you know why Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was delayed publication in the US for several months?

It is an interesting collection of facts and in this fast-paced world of information, it works really well. However, I feel that some were too short – it too often left me wanting more from some and less from others… a strange mix of too much filler with some entries and too little information with others. Most are in the region of 200-300 words each and I wished that several were longer, especially of the day of the death of Agatha Christie (12th Jan), the origin of God Save the King (12th March) and the founding of Amazon.com (15th May) for example. I imagine though that the authors were trying to keep it tight. I read the Kindle version and it estimates the paperback copy to have around 500 pages, a good comfortable (and average) length for a popular non-fiction book. Some more astute editing would have served the book well.

Despite the title, the subject matter is not limited to those three things. It covers social issues, politics, literature, personalities, science, technology, history and many other topical subjects you might find in a book like this. If you enjoy the QI books, you should enjoy this too and imagine that’s the sort of market it was aiming at with the topical quiz show still popular.

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