Monday, November 28, 2016

A World of Curiosities by John Oldale

A World of Curiosities sums up each nation covered at least one page (with Hong Kong/Macau and Taiwan getting their own pages), though which countries get an in-depth report seems to be arbitrarily decided. While I have no idea if this really covered every country on the planet, it did cover a lot of them. And it was a fact book, so it took me some time to finish (never mind how interesting the facts were).

Of course, Singapore is mentioned:

(First country I turned to too).

The Singapore section was a little disappointing, though. I mean, the 'Disneyland with the Death Penalty' quote is just so overused. (At least be creative and rephrase as USS with the death penalty or something). Besides, it sort of uses the same old stereotype. Then again, Cambodia's quote wasn't very flattering either. It seems like some of the entries focus too much on one aspect of a country and don't provide a balanced picture (countries that get more than one page don't tend to suffer from this).

And while some of the entries were interesting, I can't believe not a single thing about food was mentioned. Our Bak Kwa is famous, at least in Asia.

My disgruntlement arising from my own admittedly strong bias towards my home country aside, this book was pretty fun to read. I chuckled a few times (especially at the footnotes) and learnt a lot. If you have to get this book, I'd say buy a paperback copy because you want to be able to flip through it, and you won't want to have to rush through it, like a library book.

By the way, I found this in the section on Austria (page 19). It took me a while to realise eye = mata and then it all made sense.


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. I can't help but wonder the author's background, especially given the bias you noted with some of the entries. I am glad you enjoyed this one despite that though.

    1. From what I remember of the blurb, he's apparently a scientist and global wanderer. It's possible that he hasn't really spent time in a few of the countries, so he hops on to whatever the strongest impression he has of it (the write up for Singapore, at least, is very in line with how some members of the press in America view us. And for Cambodia... seems like this, especially since it's very dominated by the Khmer Rouge. China was pleasantly balanced, though)


I really do appreciate all comments, and I'll try my best to reply within 24 hours!