The indefatigable Ben Schott’s latest social barometer, Schott’s Almanac 2010 (Bloomsbury £16.99), curiously published together with his 2009 edition (Bloomsbury £18.99), is a gloriously random tome full of information of no real value, but huge fun nonetheless.
If Schott hadn’t written it, Nick Hornby would have, and if not Hornby, then me. Why? It’s a compendium, a catalogue, an annual memoir in list form, and it takes a mildly obsessive, list-making, alpha male, like Hornby or me, to compile enough lists to rival all the things we Jews are told not to do in the Book of Leviticus.
In short (or is that Schott?), it chronicles in minutest detail every last thing that happened in every walk of life in every corner of the globe this past year. Vital information is contained within Schott’s 350 pages. Apparently the World’s Most Dangerous Biscuit is the hitherto humble Custard Cream. Schott doesn’t explain the perils that lay within the confection, but from here on in, I’m a Jaffa Cake man.
The Most Eligible Bachelor On The Planet is Prince Harry, which seems hardly fair on both George Clooney and indeed me (though technically I’m a divorcee), while Israel’s incursions into Gaza are reported with such journalistic balance, it is hard to believe the writer is the same person who reports David Beckham’s hairstyle (which one?) as beyond peer.
Speaking of football, the wage bill of the 20 Premiership football clubs last year is reported as £1.2 billion. In Lesotho that would buy you… well, Lesotho. The World’s Best Cities are a sad disappointment and can be based only on economic factors. How else can London, New York and Tokyo rate ahead of, say, Budapest, Quito and Sarajevo? But none of this devastates as much as learning that the World’s Busiest International Airline is Ryanair.
Most pleasing fact? Schott lists nine Major Jewish Religious Dates as against six for Islam. I’m not sure he’s entirely accurate, but a win’s a win and I’ll take it. Second most pleasing fact in the book? Israel makes it into the Top 10 Holiday Destinations To Experience The Greatest Tourism Growth this last year from UK holidaymakers. That it lags, at 10th, seven places behind Poland says all you need to know about UK holidaymakers. I’ve been to Gdansk. I know.