Review — The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad by Sam Jordison

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sam Jordison has packed his non-fiction book The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad with mindboggling facts related to our past and present, which he displays in countdown lists from ten to one, with the worst offenders left to last. The author must have carried out a tremendous amount of research both in compiling lists from scratch and in sourcing existing ones.

I love it when a book teaches me loads of new stuff in an entertaining way. The author’s subjective comments are often hilarious, maybe some of them tongue-in-cheek, but who knows? He enjoys making passing jibes about Brexit and Trump, although for him he’s showing amazing restraint on the political front! I didn’t always agree with his choice of worst things. For instance, I happen to be a great fan of Game of Thrones (no. 9 in his list of worst TV programmes of all times) and adored the movie Dances with Wolves (no. 5 in the list of worst winners of the best picture Oscar).   

He has divided the book into ten main sections that, in turn, he divides into sub-sections. You may not find each one of equal interest but there’s something for everybody. I read the whole book from cover to cover, but struggled a bit with lists appertaining to sport. Also, I think there’s one too many lists dedicated to The Beatles, where just one would suffice. On the other hand, I’m quite tempted to check out “The Worst Duets in Pop History” on YouTube, especially as his footnote warns you against doing so. His list “The Ten Most Brutal Shakespearean Insults” has filled me with the desire to re-visit the bard’s works, following their past slaying by the school curriculum.    

For me, the two most fascinating main sections of the book were “Bad Nature”, which includes the deadliest insects and plants, scariest human parasites, and most venomous snakes; and “The Olden Days”, which includes punishments in ancient mythology, the craziest Roman Emperors, worst Popes, absurd popular scientific theories, and worst medical procedures.       

Ultimately, this book demonstrated what a miracle it is that the human race has survived for so long, despite… well, I’ll leave you to fill in the ellipsis by reading the book in its entirety. And when you reach the final sub-section “The Ten Most Likely Ways the Earth is Going to End”, you’ll be delighted to discover that humans could prevent five out of ten of them.

A highly recommended read.                 

Sam Jordison is a journalist for The Guardian and writes regular articles about books and publishing on their website . He’s the author of several bestselling books, including the Crap Towns series, Literary London (co-written by Eloise Millar) and Enemies of the People. He’s also the co-director of the award-winning publisher Galley Beggar Press.

The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad is available from all good bookshops in the UK, as well as from HiveWaterstones, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

January’s Guest Storyteller, David Milligan-Croft

David Milligan-Croft
David was shortlisted for the Independent on Sunday Short Story Competition in 1997. His short story, Woman’s Best Friend, also appears in the IOS New Stories published by Bloomsbury. His poetry has been widely published in Ireland, Britain and the US in anthologies and poetry journals. David is the author of six feature-length screenplays, a collection of short stories, a poetry collection, two stories for children, and his first novel, Love is Blood. He has just finished his second novel, Peripheral Vision.

Blog: http://thereisnocavalry.wordpress.com
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thereisnocavalry
Love is Blood is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

 #

Sarah says: Welcome to my blog, David, and thank you so much for being my first guest storyteller for 2015. This January is somewhat of a celebration, as it’s exactly a year since I began this  monthly guest slot, which started out as an experiment but has really taken off.

Below, you can read an excerpt from David’s latest novel, Peripheral Vision, about a young boy blinded by his father and his subsequent descent into a life of crime and drugs.

 #

When I came round, the smell of detergent seared my nostrils. I was looking up at a white, paint-peeled ceiling and a buzzing neon strip light. But something wasn’t quite right about this picture. As though I could only see half of it. Gently, I put my fingers to my left eye and felt soft fabric.

“Hey, here he is,” said my mother, in a voice as soft as the bandages. “How you doing, champ?”

I made a small smile but I felt very drowsy. There was a rakish ringing in my left ear and a burning sensation like someone had inserted a red-hot needle into the left edge of my eye socket.

“You’ll be right as rain in no time.” It was my dad’s voice but I couldn’t see him as he was standing at the left hand side of the bed. I saw my mum cast him a malevolent glance. I caught a glimpse of the side of her face. Her left eye was purple and yellow. She turned back to me and her expression immediately returned to one of radiance. Her beautiful long, black hair was tied up in a bun on the top of her head. She was a vision, my mother. Her cobalt blue eyes sparkled, glassy with tears. She reached out and took my right hand between her palms. They were warm and comforting.

“As soon as we get you out of here we’ll go off on a day trip. How does that sound?” she whispered.

It sounded fine, I thought.

“How about Blackpool? Or Bridlington? Which do you prefer? It’s your choice,” she said.

“How come he gets to choose?” It was Jed’s voice. I didn’t realize he was in the room.

“Oh, shut up!” Mum spat, as she turned to a space over to my blind spot. Is that it? Am I blind? I was trying to remember what happened. There was an argument, I think. Dad – moving fast toward me. My legs like jelly. Nothing.

“What happened?” My throat hurt when I spoke. Like I’d swallowed broken glass.

“It was an accident,” Dad said a little too swiftly.

There’s that glance again from Mum.

“You fell and banged your head on the sideboard,” Mum said.

Oh, yes, now I remember. “Dad hit me,” I slurred.

“No I didn’t!” he snapped. “You’d pissed your pants!”

A snigger from Jed.

“I shoved you to get you up to the toilet. And, and when you turned around, you slipped and fell.” This was Dad’s defence.

Perhaps it was because I couldn’t see him that I felt brave enough to defy my father, but something didn’t quite stack up in my confused mind. “If I turned to go upstairs wouldn’t I have banged my right eye on the sideboard?” I said, directing the question to my mother.

She smiled sweetly and closed her eyes in a slow, slow blink, inhaling deeply. When she opened them again they were cast toward Dad, awaiting a response, but none was forthcoming. I could tell by my mother’s smug expression that she was pleased with my question and the lack of response it had elicited from my father.

I spent three weeks in hospital while they monitored my fractured skull. Well, it was my eye socket really, but they classed it as my skull, which made it sound a lot more dramatic than it actually was. To be honest, I was glad to be out of the place. I had a numb bum from being in bed all day and there’s only so much jelly and ice cream a kid can eat.

#

You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at https://sarahpotterwrites.com/guest-storytellers-2/