Reviewer Chris Phillips: Chris is a veteran editor for friends
and family as well as most of his employment positions. He often
finds himself reading a book and correcting problems he discovers,
even after their works have been published by well-known
publishers. Chris enjoys writing to authors, when
possible, and discussing problems he has seen in the reading of their
work. And as he states, “there is always the chance for great
intelligent conversation whenever creative minds get together.”
If a conversation starter is needed for a party that seems to be falling flat, using the book as recommended above may save the day or at least the evening.
Random Obsessions is a book of trivia. Not just any trivia, but trivia as defined by Brad Listi, “… a pleasant reminder that no one knows what the hell is going on around here” (Foreword, pg. x).
Belardes, in the introduction tells the reader, that his love of trivia began with maps. All the details and hidden places that can be found were just such trivia to him. Since he wrote the book with that in mind, maps or at least the interesting little points on a map, are what the reader finds. “Maybe Random Obsessions is a book of maps after all. Unfolded it becomes a doorway” (Introduction, pg. xii). A very long bibliography documents where he got the information he presents. He outlines numerous books, even more numerous online sites and finally 28 separate interviews, revealing the extent that he the extent he has gone in digging to find the interesting facts that he included in the volume.
The sections “Amassed From the Past” through “Odd Occupations” ending with “Mysterious Places,” are filled with little known tidbits to start, end and enhance conversations among one’s friends and family. Although the various individual items could be found by anyone with sufficient time and internet access, treating them as random thoughts, as the title implies, allows the reader to use the book as a conversation piece. So once the book is opened, a random page and item on the page should be picked and a conversation started around that item.
There are little known tidbits gleaned from the books mentioned above. Throughout the text Belardes annotates the original source of the material frequently, but not obsessively. As the stories and bits come together his dry humor comes through with surprises from time to time.
Among the curious inventions culled out of the U.S. Patent office, Belardes jests about a “Shock Game … Do you really want to play? What garage was this invented in?” (pg. 106). This displays the humor that he brings to the book occasionally. The facts are believable, even if just from the size and extent of reference materials, but some definitely would benefit from a photo or illustration like that other collector of trivia, Mr. Ripley uses. Many of the facts are not really new as they can be found in other sources; all are interesting only because Belardes puts them in strange relation with other obscure facts; and several are held there by his humor.
If a conversation starter is needed for a party that seems to be falling flat, using the book as recommended above may save the day or at least the evening. If the reader has no such need as that, then perhaps this book should be filed with the other tomes of trivia generated by the long standing trivia addiction this country has. It is recommended for any that just want to have odd facts within reach, but don’t want to use their computer.