I Had That! #3: The Joy of Trivia by Bernie Smith

In 1976, well before the trivia fad that the Trivial Pursuit boardgame spawned, my mom got hold of The Joy of Trivia, buy Bernie Smith. I glommed on to it and just devoured the thing, reading it over an over and over. The book is nothing but small paragraphs of, well, trivia, arranged sort of thematically. I found it fascinating, reading about history, science, arts, animals, ad interesting people all at once. I read it over and over again. I didn’t always get Smith’s jokes and references, many of which were already past their sell-by date even in 1976. I distinctly remember riding in the car reading this and asking my mom what a “prostitute” was. She told me something like, “a woman with bad morals” and then asked what I was reading; I knew right away I was veering into “adult” territory.

My mind has a certain aptitude for storing trivia, at a cost to more important things. I did okay at Trivial Pursuit (the Sports category killed me) and was on my high school’s Quiz Bowl team, though that was largely due to being in the room when the need for a quiz bowl team came up. Books like this (other trivia books would soon follow) fed a constant stream of often dubious facts into my head.

In fact, books of this type are now a specific genre to me: “cereal books”. They are perfect for reading while eating a bowl of cereal. You pick one out, open it up to anywhere, and read until you’re out of cereal. I have an entire shelf or so devoted to cereal books.

When did I get it? It came out in 1976. I know I had it when I was in elementary school, so that sounds about right.

Do I still have it? Yep, though the dust jacket is long gone. In fact, I was reading it and eating cereal just last night.

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