The Book of Lists: The Original Compendium of Curious Information


A new edition of the classic bestseller from the original authors, with additional material specifically prepared for Canadian readers by long-time This Morning CBC producer, Ira Basen, and Jane Farrow, the author of Wanted Words.

In 1977, a publishing sensation was born. The Book of Lists, the first and best compendium of facts weirder than fiction, was published. Filled with intriguing information and must-talk-about trivia it has spawned ...

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A new edition of the classic bestseller from the original authors, with additional material specifically prepared for Canadian readers by long-time This Morning CBC producer, Ira Basen, and Jane Farrow, the author of Wanted Words.

In 1977, a publishing sensation was born. The Book of Lists, the first and best compendium of facts weirder than fiction, was published. Filled with intriguing information and must-talk-about trivia it has spawned many imitators — but none as addictive or successful.

For nearly three decades since, the editors have been researching curious facts, unusual statistics and the incredible stories behind them. Now the most entertaining and informative of these have been brought together in a long-awaited, thoroughly up-to-date new edition that is also the first Canadian edition. Ira Basen and Jane Farrow have augmented the existing lists with fascinating homegrown material, and compiled lists specifically of relevance to Canadian readers.

So if you’ve always wanted to find out how porcupines really mate, how comedy can kill and — that most essential piece of knowledge — how long the longest recorded nose was, this is the book for you. With contributions from a variety of celebrities and experts including Margaret Atwood, Mike Myers, Michael Ondaatje, Dave Eggers, Phillip Pullman and Charlotte Gray, this anthology has something for everyone — and more than you ever suspected you wanted to know.

A list of lists from The Book of Lists:
10 Notable Film Scenes Left on the Cutting Room Floor
10 Afflictions and Their Patron Saints
14 Nations with More Sheep Than People
5 Trips to the Canadian Wilderness That Ended in Disaster
10 Really Bad Canadian Sports Teams
14 Last Words of Famous Canadians
Kurt Browning’s 9 Turning Points in Figure Skating History
7 Trial Verdicts That Caused Riots
12 Museums of Limited Appeal
10 Unusual Canadian Place Names That Start with a “B”
7 Well-Known Sayings Attributed to the Wrong Person
10 Celebrated People Who Read Their Own Obituaries
Sloane’s Jay Ferguson’s 10 Perfect Pop Songs
13 Possible Sites for the Garden of Eden
9 Canadian Sports Stars Who Became Politicians
First Sexual Encounters of 13 Prominent Canadians

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780770430092
  • Publisher: Knopf Canada
  • Publication date: 10/31/2006
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 800
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David Wallechinsky is the author of numerous books including The People’s Almanac Presents the Twentieth Century: History with the Boring Parts Left Out and The Complete Book of the Olympics.

Amy Wallace is the co-author of four previous volumes of The Book of Lists, as well as several other popular reference books. She also wrote the bestselling memoir Sorcerer’s Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda.

Ira Basen is a long-time CBC Radio producer. He worked together with Jane on Workology, and has also produced This Morning, Quirks & Quarks and Sunday Morning. His book Spin will be published by Penguin Books in 2006.

Jane Farrow is the author of Wanted Words and Wanted Words 2. She has hosted the CBC Radio One programs The Omnivore, Home and Workology.

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Read an Excerpt


As Oscar Wilde observed, the only sin is to be bored. We believe it is an equal sin to be boring, and if the great wit was correct, then the authors and millions of Book of Lists readers are quite unblemished by sin: for we place a high value on curiosity.

The original 1977 volume of The Book of Lists, and its all-new sequels, inspired nearly 200 imitation volumes. These have included books of lists about movies, rock ‘n’ roll, Judaism, the Bible, general sports, and countless other subjects. The books spawned games, toilet paper with lists on it, CD-ROMs, calendars and television shows. We had no idea that The Book of Lists would become a bestseller, let alone a phenomenon. We thought we were just having fun.

The Book of Lists rose to number 1 on the bestseller lists, and was published all over the world. Young readers wrote to tell us they’d bought our book for fun, and were using it to spice up their schoolwork. Older readers locked themselves in bathrooms, curled up in bed, took the book to parties and demanded more editions. We invited their contributions, which came pouring in, and we featured many of them in the editions that followed.

Although we are pleased to have popularised a genre that so many people enjoy, we do not pretend to have been its founders. That honour goes to the Reverend Nathaniel Wanley, author of Wonders of the Little World, a book of lists first published in 1678. We didn’t know about the Reverend Wanley when we wrote our own Book of Lists, but a glance through his table of contents shows striking similarities: “Of such People and Nations as have been scourged and afflicted by small and contemptible things,” “Of such as having been extremely Wild, and Prodigal, or Debauched in their Youth, have afterwards proved excellent Persons,” “Of such as have been seized with an extraordinary joy, at what hath followed there-upon.”

The trend never died down, and in recent years has had a dazzling renaissance. We appear to live in an age in which the volume of information available to us is far too overwhelming for our minds to process. The everyday lists we all make are a balm to a cluttered mind; list-making puts things in order, it clarifies, it helps coax truth from the cracks of the universe, and it invites our favourite question: “What if . . .?”

In the present volume, we have updated our readers’ favourite lists, prepared an array of new material, and included lists from a wide variety of notables and celebrities. We owe much of the inspiration for this volume to our father, Irving Wallace, who always hoped we’d continue to compile new editions. Whenever possible, we have concentrated on lists that cause readers to laugh out loud, gasp, shake their heads in wonder, or call out “Wait until you hear this!” To quote Mark Twain’s introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”


It was hard not to feel intimidated about joining forces with the Wallace and Wallechinsky list machine. The first Book of Lists, by David, Amy and their father, Irving, was brilliant. David and Amy have subsequently spent several decades filing away obscure pieces of information to be included in future books of lists. And here we were, two CBC radio producers, whose brains gear more towards finding interesting people to talk to on the radio than to trying to find a Canadian who had died laughing.

Sometimes we got lucky. We hadn’t really expected to be able to add Canadian content to a list of “famous events that happened in the bathtub,” until we stumbled across the fact that former prime minister R.B. Bennett had died in his. It also turns out that you can actually learn a few things about the differences between Canada and the United States by working on a book of lists such as this. We realized that our showbiz celebrity culture is not nearly as developed as theirs; our stars aren’t larger than life. We could find no examples of a public kiss that equalled the buzz created by Britney and Madonna, or scenes left out of Canadian films that could rise to the level of the lost production number from The Wizard of Oz. So we started looking in different places. Our mobsters don’t have nicknames as colourful as their American counterparts, but our athletes do. And while the American version of the book had a list of “15 Actors Who Became Politicians,” we flipped it around to suit our needs: “12 Canadian Sports Heroes Who Became Politicians.” Finally, we couldn’t find an instance of Canadians rioting after a trial verdict, but we had no trouble finding fans going wild after Stanley Cup games and rock concerts.

We want to thank our “experts” who took us deep into their areas of specialization to come up with some truly wonderful lists. Two whose names are not attached to their lists are Robert Williams, the Director of the Centre for Election Studies at the University of Waterloo, who contributed a list on the highs and lows of Canadian elections, and our CBC buddy Nick Purdon who, luckily for us, happens to have a fascination with wilderness expeditions that ended in disaster. We are grateful for the assistance of the brilliant and patient library staff at the CBC and the University of Toronto libraries. We also want to thank some close friends and colleagues who generously indulged our needling inquiries about Canadian law (Debra Parkes and Pam Shime), rowdy rock fans (Greig Dymond) and all things environmental (Lorraine Johnson).

Our trusted editor, Michael Schellenberg, did a wonderful job of keeping us focused and motivated. He could be depended on for encouraging words at the right moment, and more importantly, came through with a few steak dinners at critical junctures. Most of all, we thank Michael for being organized, driven and infallible – in other words, the editorial equivalent of a border collie. Thanks to Kate Cassaday for compiling the first round of the manuscript; our copy editor, Sue Sumeraj, for sticking to the facts and crossing the t’s; Deirdre Molina, Knopf Canada’s capable managing editor, for grace under pressure; Martha Magor, for her able assistance; Bao-Nghi Nhan, our intrepid photo researcher; and finally, the always elegant executive publisher Louise Dennys, for giving us a shot at the big time.

Jane would like to single out her own guiding light, Sophie Hackett, for all the love and support on the home front, and Ira would like to acknowledge the names on his most important list: Lynn, Joanna, Andrea, Rochelle and Nathaniel.

We spent many hours in libraries and on the Internet researching these lists, knowing all the while that our greatest resource will ultimately be you, the reader. That’s why we really are looking forward to hearing from you, even if your letters begin “I can’t believe you missed . . .” So if you know about a cat who covered hundreds of miles to come home, or a noteworthy Canadian who hated his or her portrait, or a famously naked Canadian woman, please get in touch. That’s why they invented second editions.

Ira and Jane

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Table of Contents

Ages of 30 People Had They Lived to 2006
11 Men Who Cried in Public
If 36 Famous Men Were Known by Their Mothers’ Maiden Names
9 People with Extra Limbs and Digits
10 Famous Noses
10 Meetings Between Famous People and People Not Yet Famous
Charlotte Gray’s 10 Women Who Liven Up Canadian History
10 Disparaging Sobriquets
12 Famous People Who Were Expelled from School
10 People with the Most Square Miles of the Earth’s Surface Named after Them
8 Unnamed Women of the Bible
8 Fake “De”s
Jan Wong’s 10 Favourite Dinner Guests of All Time
6 People Whose Names Were Changed by Accident
6 Almost Indestructible People
6 People Who Came Second in History
Vicki Gabereau’s 10 Favourite People to Interview
10 Things Douglas Coupland Figured Out about Terry Fox While Doing a Book about Him

15 Actors and Actresses Who Turned Down Great Roles
Norman Jewison’s 10 Most Important Films
15 Film Scenes Left on the Cutting-Room Floor
17 Canadian Musicians and the Movies They’ve Been In
Stephen King’s 6 Scariest Scenes Ever Captured on Film
8 Memorable Lines Erroneously Attributed to Film Stars
12 Movie Stars (and 1 News Anchor) and How They Were Discovered
Chris Turner’s 10 Best Canadian References on The Simpsons
Anthony Bourdain’s 10 Grittiest, Most Uncompromising Crime Films
15 Hollywood Movies about the Mounties
Ron Mann’s 10 Favourite Documentaries
11 Movies That Were Part of History

15 Art Riots
4 Days in the Life of John Lennon
8 Rare Abilities of Glenn Gould
10 Composers Who Died in Unusual Circumstances
Stirring Opening Lines of 11 National Anthems
Jay Ferguson’s 10 Perfect Pop Songs
Where 14 Canadian Bands Got Their Names
11 People Who Hated Portraits of Themselves
8 Valuable Art Works Found Unexpectedly (and 1 Canadian Controversy)
Dizzy Gillespie’s 10 Greatest Jazz Musicians
Top 10 Prices Paid for Canadian Paintings at Auction in 2004
Johnny Cash’s 10 Greatest Country Songs of All Time
6 Canadian Concerts Where the Fans Went Wild
23 Early Names of Famous Bands
Dr. Demento’s 8 Worst Song Titles of All Time
6 Canadian Music Producers of Note

5 Body Parts Named after Italians
10 Mammoth Cheeses
12 Hair Tips for Men from National Home Monthly, 1938
9 Foods Invented by Canadians
12 Famous Insomniacs
Julia Child’s 10 Favourite Cookbooks (Besides Her Own)
10 Notable Events That Happened under the Influence of Alcohol
10 Tasty Dishes Featured in the Pages of Maclean’s Magazine, 1940
8 Great Sausage Events
5 Really Unusual Medical Conditions
5-Year Survival Rates for 25 Types of Cancer
10 Afflictions and Their Patron Saints
9 Body Parts You Didn’t Know Had Names

The Cat Came Back: 9 Cats Who Travelled Long Distances to Return Home
10 Animals That Have Eaten Humans
13 Fascinating Facts about Beavers
11 Examples of Unusual Animal Mating Habits
15 Children Who May Have Lived with Wild Animals
The Day of Extinction for 8 Birds
7 Animal Species Extinct in Canada
Maximum Recorded Lifespan of 58 Animals
8 Extinct Animals That Are No Longer Extinct
8 “Vice-Regal” Pets Buried on the Grounds of Rideau Hall
12 Large Animals Discovered by Western Science since 1900
4 of the Most Oft-Sighted Lake and Sea Monsters in Canada
10 Most Intelligent Breeds of Dog
10 Least Intelligent Breeds of Dog
Misty MacDuffee’s Top 5 Dos and Don’ts When Encountering a Bear in the Wild
Average Erect Penis Lengths for 10 Species

9 Unusual Canadian Industrial Disputes
17 Names of Early Canadian Trade Unions
5 Bitter Canadian Family Feuds
12 Librarians Who Became Famous in Other Fields
25 Jobs for Coal Miners and What They Were Paid, 1920
15 Famous People Who Worked in Bed
13 Famous People Who Went Bankrupt
5 Canadians Who Lost a Fortune
The Clockwatcher’s 8 Reasons to Raid the Office Supply Closet
6 Strikes and Lockouts That Lasted a Really Long Time
7 Big CBC Management Blunders

16 Memorable Kisses
4 Canadian Politicians Who Rushed to the Altar
8 Celebrity Couples Married Three Weeks or Less
First Sexual Encounters of 13 Prominent Canadians
6 Positions for Sexual Intercourse—in Order of Popularity
Romantic Musings of 4 Canadian Prime Ministers
8 Unlikely Couples
6 Incestuous Couples of the Bible
How 14 Famous People Met Their Mates
Members of Society: Preserved Sex Organs of 4 Famous Men

10 American Underworld Nicknames
5 Canadian Mob Hits (and 1 Message Sent)
Stephen Reid’s 10 Toughest Prisons in North America
4 Notorious Canadian “Kidnappings”
11 Cases of Animals and Insects Brought before the Law
8 Trial Verdicts That Caused Riots
Witticisms of 9 Condemned Criminals
11 Unusual Lawsuits
11 Low Points in Canadian Law
10 Unusual Stolen Objects
10 Stupid Thieves and 2 Dishonourable Mentions

11 Canadian Flag Flaps (Plus One Non-Event)
14 Deposed Dictators . . . after the Fall
5 Canadian Governments That Fell from Grace (Big Time)
What 11 U.S. Presidents Said about Canada
11 Commanders Killed by Their Own Troops
“Is It Something I Said?” John Duffy’s 10 Election-Losing Zingers
7 Highs and Lows in Canadian Federal Election History
The 10 Men Who Conquered the Most Area
Aislin’s 10 Favourite Faces for Political Cartoons
9 Ordinary Men Who Played King
11 Possible Alternative Gunmen in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy
What 13 Assassination Victims Had Planned for the Rest of the Day
10 Little-Known Facts about R.B. Bennett
10 Secret Armies of the CIA
Margaret MacMillan’s 12 Favourite 20th-Century Diplomatic Incidents

Dave Phillips’s 14 Most Unbelievable Canadian Weather Events of All Time
10 Unusual Canadian Place Names That Start with the Letter “B”
Yann Martel’s 15 Shipwreck Survival Tips
28 Failed Names for Canada
5 Expeditions in the Canadian North That Ended Badly
The 15 Least Populous Independent Nations
8 Secret or Abandoned Tunnels in Canada
8 Canadian Castles
11 Vancouver Street Names Derived from the Works of Sir Walter Scott
13 Possible Sites for the Garden of Eden
Becky Mason’s 12 Favourite Rivers to Canoe
“Rosie” Rowbotham’s 8 Favourite Sources for Hashish
7 Controversial Canadian Place Names
The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World
Will Ferguson’s 15 Favourite Canadian Roadside Attractions
14 Streets in Saskatoon Named after Governors General
Mike Myers’s 10 Best Things to Do in Toronto
19 Possible Explorers of America before Columbus
12 Museums of Limited Appeal
15 Things Miriam Toews Likes Just Fine about Winnipeg

17 Beginnings to Canadian Novels
Ann-Marie MacDonald’s 5 Formative Fictional Characters
12 Poets and How They Earned a Living
Margaret Atwood’s 10 Annoying Things to Say to Writers
8 Unlikely How-To Books
30 Curious Histories and Esoteric Studies from the Library of The People’s Almanac
David Young’s 5 Essential Cold-Lit Classics
The Original Titles of 20 Famous Books
Michael Ondaatje’s 12 20th-Century Classics in Translation
Michael Ondaatje’s 12 20th-Century Classics in English
12 Recent Cases of Attempted Book Banning in Canada
Michele Landsberg’s 14 Favourite Children’s Books
12 Bad Reviews of Famous Works
Elmore Leonard’s 11 Favourite Novels
14 Memorable Sex Scenes in Canadian Literature
10 Last Lines of Canadian Novels

33 Names of Things You Never Knew Had Names
35 Inuktitut Words for Snow
17 Well-Known Sayings Attributed to the Wrong People
13 Sayings of Woody Allen
17 Pairs of Contradictory Proverbs
Katherine Barber’s 11 Favourite Regionalisms within Canada
So to Speak — The Truth about 16 Common Sayings
28 Words Rarely Used in Their Positive Form
Russ Germain’s 10 Controversies in Spoken Canadian English
13 Untranslatable Words
Jane Farrow’s 14 Favourite Wanted Words
7 Adjectives in Which All the Vowels Appear in Alphabetical Order
5 Remarkable Messages in Bottles
21 Aboriginal Languages Spoken by 50 or Fewer People

11 Olympic Controversies
4 Canadian Sports Riots
Al Strachan’s 8 Goals That Changed Hockey
10 Feats of Strength by Louis Cyr
11 Great Names in Canadian Football
Kurt Browning’s 9 Turning Points in Figure Skating History
8 Really Bad Canadian Sports Teams
25 Theses about Winter Sports
Stephen Brunt’s Top 10 Canadian Boxers of All Time
7 Non-Boxers Who Took On the Champions
20 Old-Time Hockey Nicknames
12 Canadian Sports Heroes Who Became Politicians

16 Cases of People Killed by God
10 Strange Deaths
5 Daredevils Who Died Going Over Niagara Falls, and 1 Strange Twist of Fate
9 People Who Died Laughing
13 Timely Deaths
Preserving Our Heritage — 10 Stuffed or Embalmed People
Remains to Be Seen — 12 Preserved Body Parts
13 Bad Endings in Canadian Business, Politics and Sports
10 Celebrated People Who Read Their Own Obituaries
Last Words of 12 Famous Canadians

14 Prodigious Savants
12 of the Strangest Things Found in the Toronto Transit Commission’s Lost and Found Office
9 Disturbing Trends in the Canadian Environment
9 Amazing Attic Events
15 “Remarkable Occurrences” of 1885
15 Things That Fell from the Sky
9 Unusual Disasters
8 Real Barenaked Ladies in Canadian History
Philip Pullman’s 10 Best Tools, Plus 1 More
13 Bad Predictions
12 Venerable Trees of Canada
10 Funguses That Changed History
13 Famous Events That Happened in the Bathtub
Dave Eggers’s 4 Best Places to Put Things Into
12 Last Facts

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