Why don’t bookshops have a special shelf labelled topicology?
It’d be so much easier to locate your next topicology book. It’s that book that makes a curious mind happy, whether it was originally classified as natural history, economics, popular science or travel writing.
Not all pop science books qualify by the way (most are a bit too serious) – you know a topicology book when you see one. It’s the one that’ll make you inflict this on your colleagues who are trying to enjoy their morning coffee: “eels / pigeons / breasts / beer / cadavers, bet you did not know THIS about them ….”
Below are some search images for you, and please help me locate more examples of this wonderful genre! Even better: convince your local bookshop to have a shelf devoted to topicology, my life would be so much easier then. (Preferably next to Icelandic fiction. I like Icelandic fiction.)
Sure you know whose MSc research topic was to try to find the testes of the male eel. No? A famous guy. Really, you don’t know? Sigmund Freud, of course.
OK, not all topicology books have to be on marine creatures (though it seems to help)… this one comes with historical recipes so you can eat your way through the 500-year history of overfishing and, emm, contribute to this noble tradition.
Skinner (of Skinner box fame) tried to train pigeons for military purposes – they would fly with missiles, steering them by pecking on a screen as they’ve learned to associate a target image with a food reward. The military didn’t take Project Pigeon seriously.
And another one on pigeons! (There’s actually two books on eels too.)
This one’s almost too hilarious to describe. All the things that can happen to you body if you happen to donate it to science.
“The snakebite survivors’ club” sure sounds like a novel. But the author really has travelled the world to interview victims that were bitten and survived. Verdict? If you have to choose a snake to kill you, taipans get more stars for the pleasantness of the experience than do rattlesnakes.
Some things about human sperm you almost wish you didn’t know about. Oh and that self-mutilating spider. I won’t reveal more. You need to read this book.
If this is not topicology, what is?
Who could possibly resist buying a book called “Suck, don’t blow?” I couldn’t. Should be placed next to the dust book, of course, to see if they interact. Oh and did you know that canned food reached the market about 50 years before the first can opener did?
If you’re more into smaller yet ah so useful things, here’s all you have ever wanted to know and a fair bit more. I’m glad none of my clothes use v1.0 of zipper evolution.
Breasts, by Florence Williams. Absolutely topicology. Cannot wait to get my hands on this one.
The history of the world in 6 glasses (beer, wine, coffee, etc.) Did you know that the word ‘symposium’ means drinking together? Very appropriate.
The author seems to accept the dominance of cars as an obvious development on this planet. I minded that surprisingly little because this is otherwise so engaging.
Ahh, another one by Mary Roach. Who could resist. Sorry that I told at least 15 saliva and poo (and everything in between) related stories to the people I was camping with.
If you don’t read German, now’s the time to learn, if only to be able to read this gem of a book. All those famously crazy experiments that you’ve heard about – from physics to sociology – and finally you actually get to know all the detail. Plus quite a number of those you couldn’t imagine have been conducted (and published).
Another one of the “a yellow flat bird on the cover” category. (I had to buy this one twice because I got upgraded and then the business class seat ate this book.)
I know what you’re thinking. You’re about to reach the end of the page and she still hasn’t told you what the other eel book is… Do not worry. Here it is.