The blurb for Contrary to Popular Belief by Joey Green describes the book as “the perfect gift for know-it-alls and minutiae buffs everywhere: a fresh twist on the trivia book that sets the record straight on hundreds of ‘false facts’”. While it’s quite obvious that Green has put a lot of work into researching his various topics, the topics that are covered range from interesting to obscure to fairly obvious.
When Green is covering interesting topics, the book is a big success. Topics such as ‘Charles Darwin did not originate the theory of evolution’ (he nearly popularized it in his book On the Origin of Species), ‘sound does not travel at the speed of sound’ (there is no speed of sound) and ‘Noah did not take two of each animal on the ark’ (according to the bible, he took seven pairs of each clean beast, two of each unclean beast and seven pairs of fowl) are enlightening and readers will be able to make good use of them later on in conversation.
The obscure topics such as ‘Stephen Foster did not write “Way Down Upon the Swanee River” out of love for the Florida river’, ‘catgut is not made from the intestines of cats’ (they’re made from the intestines of sheep) and ‘the Chunnel under the English Channel is not the world’s longest railroad tunnel’ will only be interesting to those who already have knowledge of these subjects or study obscure trivia.
There are also some rather obvious topics that most people probably already know. Topics like ‘all mammals do not give birth to their young’ (a few mammals like the platypus lay eggs) and ‘the 1969 Woodstock concert did not take place in Woodstock, New York’ (it took place on a farm in the next county) shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to history or trivia buffs (who this book is obviously aimed at).
Contrary to Popular Belief might be interesting, in part, to lovers of trivia or those who want some fun facts to use in conversation. The book as a whole, however, is a bit uneven and readers will probably find themselves picking and choosing pages to read rather than taking in the book as a whole.