The Book Lover’s Quiz Book: Novel Conundrums by Gary Wigglesworth

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Reviewed by Annabel

Gary Wigglesworth’s twitter feed was something of a godsend on Tuesday evenings during furlough earlier this summer. The former bookseller who now works in publishing had been running a regular monthly book quiz at a London pub, but I was so glad he moved online for lockdown where I could discover it.

Quizzes are absolute clickbait for me, but I found all those ones on other social media during lockdown were rather boring when doing them by myself – much more fun as a team. Their literature rounds also tended to be banal, and you have to answer sport questions!

I should say that I’ve set and hosted many a quiz night myself, including a run of ‘Mostly Bookbrains’ literary quiz nights locally, (which our Shiny Editor at Large Simon’s team won on a couple of occasions!) So I know the difficulty in pitching the level of questions for a mixed audience, which is compounded when the whole quiz is set on what is normally considered a specialist subject.

Indeed, I’ve been fermenting in my own mind for far too long about writing my own bookish quiz book — but as long as people like Gary keep bringing out books of literary fun (there was also a good one from Penguin last year by James Walton), I fear my own will never get off the ground.

Gary’s quizzes are perfectly pitched: some questions require absolute knowledge, but for the majority you can have a guess which really adds to the fun. Each of the 24 quizzes in the book (including a Christmas one at the end) follows a similar format with a blend of questions including multiple choice, anagrams (my bugbear!), shared initials, 50/50s, short sets of themed questions, find the links – and many more.

Then, there are his famed ‘Say What You See’ questions which end each quiz. I particularly loved these ones in his online version. Gary gives half a dozen punning cryptic clues to famous book titles as drawings. I would feel pleased with myself when I got one or more – then there are others that I pored over had to give in – then groaned when I saw the answer. Here is one such groaner for you…

Highlight the line below for answer:

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien – Hob + Stephen King’s ‘It’.

Groan indeed!

The breadth of novels in the questions is immense, covering the classics to recent bestsellers, prize-winners to thrillers and a good dose of children’s literature too. Those in translation and non-fiction tend to feature only fleetingly either as classics or biography bestsellers – but they could be considered too niche to be fun for general book lovers.

Gary’s sense of humour is great and it permeates the book: in the questions, the puns, explanations in the answers and occasional footnotes too. As you can tell, I’m a fan, and this book will make an ideal Christmas present for readers who enjoy a good quiz.

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Annabel is one of the Shiny editors, and is desperate to make up a team to apply for Only Connect – any takers?

Gary Wigglesworth, The Book Lover’s Quiz Book (Robinson, 2020). 978-1472145291, 278pp., hardback.

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