Written by Jessica Hinschen
Do you ever find yourself wondering how pet rocks became a thing? Or go wondering down Wikipedia rabbit holes because you really needed more information about [insert random topic here]? If you’re a student of random knowledge like myself, then you might enjoy Stuff You Should Know: An Incomplete Compendium of Mostly Interesting Things by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant (with co-writer Nils Parker).
For those who might not know, Stuff You Should Know is an iHeartRadio podcast by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant that’s been going for twelve years. Each episode delves into a random topic, like fallout shelters or the Rubik’s Cube. Much like each podcast, each chapter goes into a different topic chosen by the authors, such as pet rocks, the Scotland Yard Museum and ‘The Perfect Price is Right Game’ just to name a few.
This book isn’t so much a book as it is a ‘compendium of mostly interesting things’, as the front cover says. It’s encouraged for readers to go at their own pace—to read in any order they like, or whatever they like—as not everyone wants to know about the history of income tax (probably, but to each their own).
There is a reason for this structure though: the hosts mention in the preface (for any newbies like me), that their aim is to ‘find something interesting in everything’. Reading this book myself, although I didn’t necessarily enjoy each of the chapters in the same way, I can say I did find a couple of things that were interesting in different chapters, such as: tequila is actually one of the many types of ‘mezcal’ liquor, and kamikaze pilots were less successful in battle than you might think.
The book also includes a podcast appendix for those who are unfamiliar with the podcast. It tells you the names of mostly relevant episodes mentioned in the chapters (for those who want to go down even more rabbit holes).
Overall, after reading this book, I came away with lots of new facts about random topics I never would have thought to look up. Surprisingly, there were topics I wanted to know even more about (like, did you really need your own potato or vegetable for Mr Potato Head back in the early 50s? How does that work?). This book is great for those looking to learn a little more, or who want an interesting coffee table book that’s sure to start conversations. After all, the more you know.
You can find out more about the book here
Jessica is a Bachelor of Creative Writing student in her final year. When not trawling various Wikipedia pages for random facts, she enjoys getting into a good book and playing Animal Crossing.