A trivia collection that may be the year’s best book for people with constipation
Scott’s Almanac: 2007. By Ben Schott. Bloomsbury, 367 pp., $25.95.
By Janice Harayda
Ben Schott has done for the almanac what Absolut did for vodka: He’s taken something with a dowdy image and made it hip.
Schott’s Almanac isn’t a fat paperback you keep on the shelf until you need to know the annual rainfall of Greenland or the birthplace of Martin Van Buren. It’s a trim hardcover that you read, a little at a time, perhaps in your smallest room; it may be the year’s best book for people with constipation. But unlike all those cheesey-looking bathroom books that are designed to survive if you spill Herbal Essence shampoo on them, Schott’s Almanac is a trivia collection that would fit in with Frette bath towels and Poggenpohl faucets. It has a salmon-colored cover and airy pages with elegant fonts and half-tone photographs just like The Wall Street Journal’s. It also has lots of brief, droll, and intelligent essays on current events. Some of the entries include call-outs of the year’s most essential quotes, such as the deathless, “Shiloh will receive a Namibian passport, so we shall return. – Brad Pitt.”
Schott’s Almanac includes some categories you typically find in almanacs – state capitals, Academy Award–winners, NBA playoff results. But it takes a kinkier approach to the material. Its facts about U.S. Presidents include their astrological signs. Its listing for the Pulitzer Prizes leaves out more than half of last year’s journalism winners. Its entry for the Super Bowl XL tells you the words that the network censors made the Rolling Stones cut from “Start Me Up.” And the almanac has things you might not find in other books. Would you really want to live without knowing that Jennifer Berry, Miss America 2006, confessed to the pageant host that “she enjoys nothing more than dipping French fries into ranch dressing”? If not, Schott’s Almanac is your book.
Best line: An interesting section summarizes the findings on blogging in the 2005–2006 Pew Internet and American Life Project. Among them: Bloggers tend to be young (54 percent are under 30) and suburban (51 percent). Men (54 percent) have more blogs than women (46 percent).
Worst line: Schott omits the names of Pulitzer winners in nine journalism categories, including criticism. So reviews are less important than breaking news photography?
Published: October 2006
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.