The title of this post may not be entirely accurate – I have come across the occasional person who doesn’t like quotes, but for the most part I think the statement holds true. As a result, there have been many books full of quotes published over the years, all with varying levels of quality. Many of these books tend to contain the same tired old quotes, while only a few are more comprehensive, and try that bit harder to impress the reader.
I plan on looking at three books of quotes – the first one is overwhelmingly mediocre, the second one is quite decent and comprehensive, and the third one is just amazing. In all three cases I’ll explain my thoughts as I go.
At first glance, this book seems quite good. The back boasts that the book contains over 8000 quotes on 160 different subjects, all fully indexed, which certainly seems like a comprehensive quote book. But when you open it up, it quickly becomes apparent that some important aspects are missing. Firstly, none of the quotes are referenced to their original author – I know that sometimes it is hard to track down the author of a quote that has been passed down through the decades or centuries, but surely most of these quotes could be traced back to their authors? Secondly, the quotes themselves are pretty rubbish. They’re not of the quality one would expect, but rather the kind of quotes you see on bumper stickers, quotes that are supposed to be funny but just make you wrinkle your eyebrows while you wait for the laugh to kick in, only to find it never does. Unfunny and uninspiring – don’t go wasting your money on this one.
This book is a dramatic improvement, and was probably the best quotes book I owned for quite a long time. Again, it boasts about 6000 quotes, but this time the quotes are much funnier, and while many have been heard before, there are a few in there that surprised me, too. But perhaps more importantly, every quote in this book is properly referenced, and the contents are organised into topics while the index focuses on the authors, so you can look up your favourite authors, comedians, actors, and so on, and track all the quotes included by them (some of whom feature dozens of times in this book). This is definitely a good book for quotes, and perhaps sets a pretty solid standard on which to compare other quote books against.
Those of you who have seen the television show QI or read their other book The Book of General Ignorance (which you can read about in an earlier blog post here) will probably already know what to expect of this book. Rather than just collect any old quotes, the authors painstakingly spent years gathering their favourite quotes and pieces of witty banter, and then cut most of it out so that they were left with the absolute best witticisms for this book, many of which are not contained in other books. The quotes are hilarious, intelligent, thought provoking and at times inspiring, and the indexing in this book is the most detailed I’ve seen, with brief explanations of what each author of each quote does for a living, to help put some of them into context. The book also contains the usual prologues by Stephen Fry and Alan Davies, both known from the television show, as well as a preamble by the book’s authors. Quite simply, this is the only book of quotes you will ever need. If you like quotes, buy this book, as you will not be disappointed.
It is really only fitting then that I end this post with a quote, I suppose. For a bit of fun, I will write down the first quote I find when randomly opening up QI Advanced Banter. I promise I won’t cheat.
Ahhh, interesting. Here goes.
“Poets have hitherto been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” G. K. Chesterton