For some reason, this slim volume reminds me of the old TV commercial for Silly String which featured a room of yawning guests as a naval officer showed off his ribbons and said, "This is from the Boer War." It's always a good idea to have something up your sleeve to break the ice with strangers that doesn't have to do with the latest edition of People Magazine. After all, you want to have some semblance of an intellect on display to make that right impression.
This is yet another quick-read book from the editors of Mental Floss Magazine, a bimonthly launched in 2001 and targeted to aspiring Trivial Pursuit masters. This particular one, "Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets", is a clever series of possible conversation-starters that will hopefully make one's deep well of knowledge seem impressive without being intrusive. There are 44 topics, a chapter a piece, somewhat random in variety except a certain level of erudition. Each has a brief summary of what it is, an appropriate context in which to bring the topic up, some intriguing trivia facts to boost your interest, and actual suggestions for starting the conversation.
Topics are all over the map though there seems to be a predominance of historical figures covered from Attila the Hun to Miles Davis to Samuel Johnson to the Brontë sisters. The Rosetta Stone, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Magna Carta are included here, and so are the Dutch East India Company and the martini. Of particular interest to me are much-needed snapshots of James Joyce's "Ulysses" and the Qu'ran (Koran). I think it would have been more helpful had there been a better sense of organization about the information, for example, the creative way the editors used school subjects to divide the topics in another of their books, "What's the Difference?". Nonetheless, this is a fun read and well worth it for the hidden facts some of us actually crave.