Top Of The Form Quiz Book – 1951
The oldest book in the tie - in collection is actually not a TV tie-in, but a radio tie-in. Top of the Form was an extremely long-lived radio 4 series which pitted school teams against each other, and ran from 1948 until 1986, a whopping 38 years. I have a copy of the 1951 Top of The Form quiz book. It boggles the mind a bit to think that it was made 13 years before I was born. The cover is very dull and uninspiring, a buff background showing a blackboard with the title of the show written upon it. But then this was the 1950’s in the middle of the Austerity era.
I love the arbitrary number of questions in it – 729, all of which are squeezed into a lean and mean 96 pages. I have used questions from this book, although a lot of it is out of date. Still, here's a few questions from it : -
1) In which Shakespeare play is a professional wrestler thrown by the hero ?
2) When was the Cross of St. Andrew first united to the Cross of St. George in a british flag ?
3) With which country do you associate the Dyaks ?
4) What is another name for a laverock ?
5) What is the standard guage on British railways ?
Tougher than you might have thought, eh ? The answers are 1) - As You Like It - 2) 1604 3) Indonesia 4) A Skylark 5) 4ft 8 1/2 inches . All the questions were compiled by Tom Williams, the original question setter for the show.
As a piece of social history I love it, after all, how more non PC could you be than this question taken from its pages, from a section rather quaintly titled "Science and Practical Things " , and I quote,“Why do savages hold their ears to the ground ? “ Unbelievable.
Not cheap this one – the cover price is 2/6 , but when I bought it in 2008 it left hardly any change from a tenner. Yeah, I know, mad. Exactly 100 times as much as my wife paid for the first TV Top of the Form book. But where on earth would I be likely to ever get a copy of it ? If you buy on Amazon, you have to pay the asking price and you can't haggle. Like anything else, its worth whatever you're prepared to pay for it.
You'll have noticed that there are three copies of the book in the picture. The middle one is the second edition from 1954. The questions as far as I can tell are the same. However the one with the red board on it is the third edition, and at least by 1963 when this one was published a minority of the questions had been changed.
Ask Me Another (1960)
You maybe don’t remember “Ask Me Another” on TV. It was one of the first ever attempts at a popular quiz by the BBC, following the explosion of quizzes like Take Your Pick and Double Your Money on the fledgeling ITV. “Ask Me Another “ was the TV version of the BBC radio show “What Do You Know ?“ Well, if you Know your quizzes, then you’ll know that “What Do You Know” was the show that eventually became none other than your very own Brain of Britain. This book was written by John P. Wynn, who wrote my favourite 1972 Brain of Britain quiz book. This one is nothing like as much of a monster as that one. There are 750 questions, and they’re a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them seem ridiculously simple, yet others will really leave you scratching your head. The answer pages are very generous with the explanations though – always a sign of a quality product in my opinion. A nice little thing.
Pencil and Paper Quiz Book (c. 1960 )
No, I had never heard of this series either. Still, the back cover confidently asserts in bold letters that this was 'Based on the popular TV Quiz Programme'
A little research reveals that this was a family game and quiz show , hosted in the early sixties by Shaw 'Police 5 ' Taylor, and the first half invited families to play along at home with pencil and paper - geddit ?! The second part of the show was a more straightforward general knowledge quiz between different regions. There are only 23 pages, and that's more than enough. This is full of simple puzzles for kids, and a few easy questions. As a collector you sometimes end up buying rubbish for no other reason that it fits into your collection. This is a good example of such a thing.
TV Top of the Form Quiz Book – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 - 1968 – 1976
The first book in this series started off my collection. These are fairly cheap mass market paperbacks, published by BBC Knight but there are subtle clues that you are dealing with quality if you know what you are looking for. For one thing they were compiled by the great Boswell Taylor. Boswell Taylor was the main question compiler for Mastermind for many years. Now you know how much I love and respect Mastermind. There are actually three introductions in the first book, and in the third by Boswell Taylor, it ends with this observation, that programmes like “TV Top of the Form “ are
“intended to be entertainment, but if they provide the kind of entertainment that makes the increasing of personal knowledge fun, then I suggest that it is one of the best forms of fun that you can have. “
Beautifully put. Each book carries about 700 questions, in fairly small typeface, and a significant number of these are too easy or out of date. Not all of them though, and there’s enough good old stagers to keep you going for a decent length of time. I was bowled over by the fact that this is 40 years old, it was originally written for kids, it cost 10p and I can still get questions out of it to use when I set a quiz. For example, from that first book : -
1) With what would you be concerned if you were a member of the Howard League?
2) What is the Swaythling Cup awarded for ?
3) Whatis the main difference between a hitch and a splice ?
That should give you a flavour. There's a lot of easy stuff here too, but there's surprisingly quite a lot of good, pub standard questions. The answers to these are 1) Penal Reform - 2) Table Tennis - 3) A hitch ties a rope to something else, while a splice ties two pieces of rope together.
I like these books a lot. I'd guess that I'm not the only one either, since they’re still pretty widely available second hand too, and would only set you back pennies, especially on ebay.
Ask the Family Quiz Book – 1, 2, 3, 4 (1970 – 1979)
New Ask the Family Quiz Book (1982)
Remember Ask the Family ? I mean the real Ask the Family hosted by Robert Robinson from 1967 – 1984 ? If you’re unlucky enough to be too young to remember it, this was a little gem of a show. Teams consisting of mother, father, and older and younger child competed in a number of rounds. There was a variety of challenges, some straight quiz questions, and some with mental puzzles. It was watching shows like this at an impressionable age which set me on the path to becoming the quizzer that I am today. I'm not totally sure whether that's a good thing or not. Certainly there is nothing to compare with it on British television today.
These 5 books try to faithfully replicate the variety of the show, with questions, word puzzles and number puzzles. They're cheaply produced, but a bit of time and effort has been spent on the games and questions. I love the number puzzles, and have used all the puzzles in each of the 5 books in my quizzes over a period of time, albeit that the picture quizzes tend to be line drawings.
Despite being contemporary with the TV Top of the Form quiz books these seem nothing like as common. Indeed the first book, with its anaemic black and white cover, with its photo of Robert Robinson, is something of a rarity. Ask the Family Book 4 I didn't know actually existed until it came up on ebay recently. When you added in postage and packaging I suppose it came to just over £3, but that's cheap at the price. Apart from book 4 and the 1982 book, which was another church fete special these were all Amazon Used and New buys, but none of them expensive at all, especially considering what you get in each book.
Treble Chance (1970 )
A radio show , this one. I had to do a little bit of research to find out about it. Basically it began in 1962, and to quote from the generous introduction 'for the first four years a BBC Resident Panel travelled the United Kingdom to meet teams representing coastal resorts and towns. " In 1967 the focus switched to teams representing Universities. In 1964 it became the first BBC quiz to travel overseas, which the resident panel playing against teams from the Armed Forces, under the name "Forces Chance". It seems to have been a straightforward question and answer quiz, although some of the questions each round were on spelling.
To the book, then. Compiler Michael Tuke-Hastings wins my approval straightaway by declaring that he has tried to keep the format of the radio programme as closely as possible. To this end he has organised the book in 20 complete programmes rather than chapters. Well and good. Each programme has 24 questions. The 12th question is a set of 6 spelling words, and the 24th is a set of 6 True or False questions. So being generous that's actually 34 questions per programme, which makes 680, I believe. That's a little on the stingy side, but actually par for the course for when it was written. The programmes are quality though. Yes, there's some old stagers in each round, but there's also plenty of stuff to make you really think too. Usually when a quizbook is compiled by someone who actually worked on the show itself you get something decent as a result, and this is no exception. A great little book.
Mastermind Quiz Book 1 – 2 – 3 (1973 – 8 ) ( collected as 1 hardback – 1984)
Giant Mastermind Quiz Book ( 1986 )
Mastermind Winners Quiz Book ( 1992 )
Mastermind 4 (1982)
Mastermind Quiz Book (2012)
Well, if you know anything about me you’ll know that I’m never going to say anything bad about anything connected with Mastermind. The hardback 1984 book which contains the three earlier paperbacks would have set you back £5 in 1984, which wasn’t cheap then, but at least you got a lot for your money. This one is still around in large numbers, and you can pick one up second hand for pennies in Amazon Used and New or ebay. The three paperbacks were well stocked with questions actually taken from the specialist and GK rounds used on the show, so there’s a huge variety there, and the collected volume I do still use to set quizzes, although the specialist rounds are of obviously limited appeal. TBH, unless you're daft enough to be a collector, forget about the paperbacks - all you need is the hardback volume, and there are tons of these out there, which you can pick out for pennies on ebay.
The Mastermind Winners book is a little rarer , and one more for the fans of the show, to be honest. Some of the specialist rounds and the GK rounds from the earlier champions do already feature in the 1984 book. So questions wise its not the best value. You do get a little bit about each of the champions, but to be honest Magnus Magnusson himself does this better and in more detail in his wonderful history of the show “I’ve Started So I’ll Finish”. So on this score its not the best value either. Never mind. It’s a nice enough thing though, and it only cost a couple of pounds, so I was glad to add it to the collection.
Now, you may notice alongside that there is actually a Mastermind 4 paperback. I had no idea that they made one of these, since the hardback omnibus only contains the first three books. This one was not compiled by Bosworth Taylor. I really like this one though. It has the rounds asked to the first ten champions in the 1982 Champion of Champions tournament, and also some other rounds beside. Also it contains a very nice, long introduction by Magnus Magnusson, which is a real bonus for anyone who enjoyed his "I've Started So I'll Finish " as much as I did.
In September 2012 The BBC published its first new Mastermind quiz book for decades. I will confess that Nancy Dickmann, champion in 2009, did email me a few days before publication about the book. Nancy is one of the three champions who was interviewed for the book – Jesse ( Honey ) and Pat ( Gibson ) being the other two. Nancy received a pre-publication copy as a thank you for her involvement, and she was kind enough to alert me to the fact that my own blog Life After Mastermind gets an honourable mention on page 237 – in a section entitled “Life After the Black Chair “ ( hmm – sounds familiar, that. ) I quote ,
”In 2012 Mastermind winners were to be found everywhere from the blogosphere ( David Clark’s lifeaftermastermind ). . . “ My thanks to compiler Richard Morgale for the name check, and if any readers are making their first visit to the blog because of it, then you’re very welcome.
As for the book itself, well, you’re probably thinking to yourself that I’m biased, and you’re right. I am . I can’t be dispassionate about anything associated with the show. So with that admission, I have to say that my first impressions are that I like the book a lot. The book is organized into 31 shows. In each show there are two specialist rounds, and two general knowledge rounds. Each round consists of 30 questions. By my reckoning that’s getting on for 4000 questions, which really isn’t bad going at all, although possibly no fewer than you would expect from a book of almost 600 pages. That’s not all, though. Between each show there are short sections which are designed to be of interest to the show’s fans. Some of this won’t come as anything that new to fans – the much touted rejected subjects for example, but there’s quite a lot of new stuff as well – interviews with Nancy , Jesse and Pat, for example, and sections on Celebrity Mastermind and Junior Mastermind. For anyone thinking of applying to the show too there’s some good advice on passing, and also on preparing for general knowledge rounds.
I believe that the questions are all taken from the show – indeed I can recognize some of them from rounds I have seen, and indeed even some that I was asked myself. I think that there has been some mixing and matching of questions from different rounds to make each round up to 30 questions – maybe I’m wrong , but I think that the round on the Modern Summer Olympics has some questions that I was asked in 2006, and also some questions that Andy Crane was asked in 2010. Nothing wrong with that either. In fact there’s nothing wrong with any of the questions. The GK rounds are difficult enough to keep good and serious quizzers going, but also fairly accessible to the armchair fan as well – I’ve worked through just the first 5 shows, and I’m averaging 25 out of 30 for the GK rounds. I’m enjoying the Specialist rounds a lot as well. I've scored well, in fact , very well, on some of them, but when you average it out, quite a bit less overall than on the GK rounds. That's how it should be.
The best thing I can say about the book is that it stands up well alongside Boswell Taylor’s 1970s paperbacks, which were all collected in a hardback edition in the 1980s. Good stuff.
I haven't included a photo of the Penguin Giant Mastermind Quiz book , although I do own a copy, for the simple reason that it has bog all to do with Mastermind. Its a decent enough book, but the organisation of the questions etc. has absolutely no relation to the show.
Quiz Ball (1971 )
Yet another early 70s BBC publications paperback. I am just about old enough to remember Quiz Ball. This show was launched in 1966 to cash in on the football boom of the 1966 World Cup , and it ran up to 1971. The idea behind the show was that teams of players from a particular club, together with a celebrity supporter, would play a general knowledge quiz, where each correct answer would get them further up the field towards the opposition’s goal . As I recall it wasn’t a bad show, but when the genuine sports quiz came along in the form of the long running “A Question of Sport“ came along, then I’m afraid its days were numbered.
The book is reminiscent of the first “Ask the Family Quiz Book “ , substituting Stuart Hall’s grinning phizzog for Robert Robinson’s. As a working quiz book its of little practical use now, but I like it, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to add it to the collection for a few pennies.
Round Britain Quiz (1950)Round Britain Quiz ( 1975)
Round Britain Quiz is the Methuselah of quizzes. Its much older, for example, than Radio 4, the channel that hosts it. Round Britain Quiz began in 1947, and is still going strong over 60 years later. The basic premise is that teams of the great and the good from the 6 regions North of England – Midlands – South of England – Wales – Northern Ireland and Scotland would play against each other. General knowledge is where each show begins. Each team is given a number of puzzles to unlock, basically by using their general knowledge to solve a series of cryptic clues.I had the 1975 book long before I knew about this 1950 book. This was an ebay purchase, and I found myself getting into a bit of a bidding war. In the end I paid about £5, not including p. and p. It's compiled by Hubert Phillips. If you haven't checked out my section on vintage and veteran quiz books yet, Hubert Phillips was a well known polymath, question and puzzle setter in the immediate post war years, and he was, I believ, one of the originals on RBQ. This book is very similar to the books he was writing for penguin/ptarmigan at the time - mostly multiples, and not quite as cryptic as the 1975 books, which is pretty much in the same format that the show uses now. There are some great questions , though, and the cryptic ones that are here are rather good. It's a nice thing, and to me worth every penny that I paid for it.
And so to the 1975 book. This is genuinely one of the hardest quiz books I have ever read. I love it for that, even though its far too difficult to use for my pub quizzes. There are 29 quizzes consisting of 16 questions each. This is one to enjoy rather than use. Thankfully there's a detailed enough explanation of each question in the answer section . Every now and then you find a tie in book which is just pure quality. I'm delighted to say that this is one of them. These do come up in Amazon Used and New, and sometimes on ebay, and if you're serious about your quizzing you'll enjoy it a lot.
Brain of Britain - BBC( 1972 )Brain of Britain - Robson Books (1986 )
The greatest of radio quizzes, and right up there with Mastermind, 15 to 1, University Challenge as a contender for the best serious quiz programme ever made.
The 1972 book, compiled by the show’s first question compiler, John P. Wynn, looks fairly innocuous. It’s a stable mate of the first Ask the Family Quiz book, and the Quizball book, and as such the cover is largely monocrome, showing a series of heads in profile, with one of them coloured in the style of a Union Jack. Beware. Behind the harmless cover lies an absolute monster of a book. This is hard – up there with the Round Britain quiz book, and the first University Challenge quiz book. It contains 9 quizzes. Each quiz has 9 rounds of 12 questions, so that’s about 1000 questions altogether, and these are quality. The sort of things you initially think you ought to know, but find out that you don’t . As such it is a little gem to use for your own personal development as a quizzer, and a good go-to book when you’re looking for a couple of hard questions with which to leaven your quiz. Its not exactly rare, but its not common either, so you might have to shop around a bit to find one. Well worth your while.
In 1986, former Top Brain Ian Gillies, for many years Mycroft, the question setter and adjudicator , produced his own BoB book, published by the little known Robson Books. This is quality in terms of production, and in terms of the questions in it. Its maybe not as hard as the earlier book, but its more than testing enough for anyone I would say. Each round is a general knowledge round of 12 questions, and there are 75 of these. So there’s about 900 questions there, a decent although not outstanding amount for such a big book. But these are quality, hand picked questions. Again, a book which is well worthy of the series itself, and I can give no higher praise than this.
A Question of Sport - BBC( 1976)
A Question of Sport - BBC Knight ( 1984 - 5 )
A Question of Sport 1, 2, 3, 4 - BBC (1988 - 1992)
A Question of Sport - Carlton (2001 )
I'm reliably informed that the green book on the left was the first Question of Sport book- and certainly the introduction suggests it. This first one is a quality item. Nice paper - only 600 questions, but each one has its answers properly explained. Its a proper, serious, sports quiz book. I somehow suspect it was produced with the same care that was lavished on the first Brain of Britain book. The later ones from BBC Knight, like the first book, were compiled by Hazel Lewthwaite, the question compiler from the series at the time, and are a nice enough little series of books, although not as good for me or as serious as the first. I have two of them, but I am sure that there may be others. Everything you want from the show you get in the books. The only problem which bedevils them is the same that bedevils the Brain of Sport books, namely that so much is out of date, which can’t be helped. They're worth as much as you are prepared to pay for them, which come to think about it is pretty much true of everything in this world.
Then we have the late 80s - 1990s BBC set. I didn't know much about these until I got hold of number 4. They were compiled by the then executive producer of the show, Mike Adley. These are still paperbacks, but rather more expensively produced than the earlier set. The paper is quality, and there are pictures, black and white and colour throughout. What you get is a genuine attempt to recreate the show. The questions are split into 15 quizzes. For each quiz you are told who will be Bill's team - which sports stars, and who will be Ian's teams. This means you get specific home and away rounds. The only complaint you could possibly make is that there aren't a huge amount of questions in the books for your money - I think it works out to about 450. Talking about money, just 7 years before this one was published, the Hazel Lewthwaite set were £1.95 each. The 1988 book retailed at £3.95, and number 4, from 4 years later, retailed at £5.99. With fewer questions. Just an observation.
The 2001 book,at the time would have set you back £9.99, a hefty whack. It was published by Carlton, of all people, is a whopping great 384 pages long, and as its more current, is certainly more use for setting quizzes. In fact I’ve only one complaint about it. In 2005 the crafty buggers changed the cover, featuring Sue Barker, Ally McCoist and John Parrot for one that features Matt Dawson instead of John Parrot. So I bought it thinking it was new. A few choice words escaped my lips when I realised it was the same as the 2001 book inside, I can tell you. The moral of the story, ladies and gentlemen, is check the ISBN number first, before you buy.
Sporting Triangles (1987)
I don't know how well you remember this show. You have to go back to 1987 when it started, and it limped on for another couple of years. Basically, ITV really wanted to have a show that rivalled the popularity and appeal of BBC's "A Question of Sport"So first of all they roped in their very own Saint and Greavsie - Ian St. John and Jimmy Greaves. People might have forgotten, but Saint and Greavsie were extremely popular at this time, and rightly so. The USP of the show, and what made it different from AQOS was that instead of two teams of three, Sporting Triangles gave you three teams of two - hence triangles, see. So they 'poached' Emlyn Hughes from the BBC show.
Well, there we are, that was the show. As for the book - well, I have to say that it really isn't bad at all. This is a good, honest, sports quiz book. Production is cheap and cheerful, but the questions are crammed in, and if, like me, you were in your prime, or at least close to it in the late 80s, then this book should give you a very happy couple of hours trawling down memory lane. Out of date - certainly, but nonetheless a nice thing to have,.
Quiz Kid (1977)
Another radio quiz this one, which you could clearly tell from the mid 70s Radio 1 logo on the front cover. I can just about remembering listening to this back in the day. It was presented through the mid-late 70s by Alan Freeman, and then Kid Jensen - well everyone was a kid compared to Alan Freeman. It was a pop music quiz - well it was never going to be about world politics or nuclear physics on radio 1, was it ?
Even though the book was produced back in the days when giving a little value for money still featured on many publishers' agenda it actually quite surpassed my expectations. OK, some of the questions are very much standard 'classic' pop music questions. Some of them are really rather testing though. There's about 450 questions in this BBC paperback, and 53 out of 123 pages are devoted just to the answers. There's a reason for this. The answers are all fully explained - for example : -
3) What is the connection between Motown and the MC5. -
This is the answer in the back of the book -
"3) Detroit. Tamla Motown, the enormously successful recording company started by Berry Gordy in the early 60s, is based in Detroit. The 'Motown' is an abbreviation of Motor Town - Detroit is the centre of the US Car Manufacturing industry. The MC5 - a riotously loud heavy metal quintet of the 1960s came from Detroit ( MC=Motor City)"
For me giving proper explanations of the answers is one of the hallmarks of quality in a quiz book. Tony Hale who compiled this has lavished a bit of care and attention on this, and it shows. An unexpected treat, this.
Top Score (c. 1970-5)
Not a British book, this, but an Irish one. According to the blurb at the back of the book, Top Score was a popular RTE radio show which successfully transferred to television. As to the format of the show itself, I can't say, never having seen or heard it. The book itself is a good, honest decent quiz book, with several hundred questions in 74 themed quizzes. The questions inside vary in difficulty. You wouldn't say it's a particularly outstanding book, but it's something I haven't seen before, and it's not at all bad for what it is.
Clapperboard Film Quiz Book1 and 2 ( 1978 - 9 )
Do you remember Clapperboard ? Chances are you do if you were born in the mid to late 60s. Presented by Chris Kelly, later of BBC's Food and Drink, it was a weekly show in the mid 70s reviewing the latest film releases for kids, with features about films, interviews with stars etc. Not a quiz show. So what are the books doing here ? Well, its a story which begins in a car boot sale. I saw book number 2, and for 50p I thought it was worth a go. Damn me if it wasn't actually a decent little book ! Here's a selection of random questions : -
Giant 15ft ants appeared in the New Mexico desert in a 1954 film. What was its title ?
The first Disney Silly Symphony was set in a graveyard. What was its title ?
Name the actor who played Carl Peterson in the 1966 Bulldog Drummond film "Deadlier than the male "
Answers - Them - Skeleton Dance - Nigel Green
Just to remind you, this a book supposedly for children ! In what I like to think of as a Victor Kiam moment, I liked it so much that I went straight to ebay and bought the first book too. Which is just as good. OK - so they're not perfect. For one thing there's only roughly 450 questions in each of them. For another thing you won't find anything more recent than 1979 in either of them. But then that's when they were written. Yet even in 1978 the cover price of 65p seems dirt cheap for something which actually has a bit of quality about it. Sometimes you find unexpected gems in places you'd least expect - in this case anything associated with Look - In magazine. Surprisingly good little books.
Pop Quiz (1982 )
An unusual volume this one. Once again, its BBC Publications, and a paperback that weighs in at a niggardly 64 pages, although it does cram the questions in, to be fair. I'm afraid that its not a patch on the Quiz Kid book, though.
Mike Read’s pop quiz is probably fondly remembered by 40 somethings such as myself as a bit of late 70’s early 80s fun. So being as its made in 1982, there’s only a limited amount of use you’re ever going to get from it, and even though its so old the questions really aren't all that taxing. It'll never be a prized possession, but it ain’t bad, and at £1:25 in 1982 it wasn’t expensive then. This one is also a bit of a rarity.
Bullseye Quiz Book ( 1985 ) –
The New Bullseye Quiz Book (1988 )
You can’t beat a bit of bully, can you ? Well, yes, actually, you can. Lets be fair though, Bullseye was primarily a game show based around darts, and the questions were pretty incidental. Still, if it was good enough for such a luminary as Daphne Fowler to appear on, then it’s good enough for me.
The two books are rather different. The first book is much thinner, yet taller and wider. It has 66 games of 14 questions, some of which are picture quizzes, and all crammed into 96 pages, and its published by Brophy Books. The only thing wrong with the questions, if you can use the word ‘wrong’ . is that you’ve heard them all a million times before. But its no worse than many many others of this genre.
The New Bullseye Quiz book feels a little more substantial at first . Pages aren’t numbered, but there’s about 200 of them. More care has been taken with this book to replicate the gameplay of the show. There are 93 games. Each game has 3 questions for £30, three questions for £50 , and 3 questions for £100. Even the £100 questions won’t keep you awake at night. Yes, the answer pages do have a ‘well fancy that’ fact that you might not have heard before. But to be honest, 837 questions for a book of this size isn’t that great, especially when you see how easy many of them are. But then this wasn’t written for quizzers, it was made for fans of Bullseye. You pays yer money . . .
University Challenge Quiz Book - ITV Arrow (1977 )
University Challenge Quiz Book - BBC (1995)
University Challenge Quiz Book - Granada (2001)
University Challenge Quiz Book - BBC (2010)
If you take the finest serious quiz shows in the UK – eg. Mastermind, Brain of Britain, 15 to 1, University Challenge - you’ll notice a couple of things. All of them have longevity. All of them have a very simple format. All of them give you a lot of questions in one show. Brain of Britain has never been off in more than 50 years. Both Mastermind and UC lasted 25 years in their original runs, and both were successfully resurrected for BBC, and have long passed their 30th birthdays. 15 to 1 crammed 35 series into 15 action packed years, and is probably the most missed show amongst the whole of the quizzing community.
The ITV Arrow University Challenge book of 1977 is a truly great quiz book. Some of the questions in it are extremely hard, and none of them are total gimmes. You get 38 rounds of 15 starters. Each round of starters has an accompanying round of 9 or ten bonus questions. The type face is small, and this doesn’t help when you turn to the back for the answers. But it’s a great book nonetheless, and a great source of multiple questions. Camera trickery put 4 competing Bamber Gascoignes on the cover. Last time I looked there were still several of these available on Amazon Used and New, and they still come up from time to time on ebay, if you keep your eyes open. Money well spent, I'd say.
The BBC book of 1995 came out a year after the show was resurrected with Jeremy Paxman at the helm. This is a fine book too, and there’s still plenty of these about out there, unlike the earlier ITV book. There’s a lot for your money , with 14 games of 20 starter and bonus sets. Its bigger than a normal paperback, and produced on slightly better paper than average I fancy. There’s a hell of a lot you can use in here – I have a sneaking love of the older book , which I think has the slightly more difficult set of questions, but this is not to be sniffed at either. Plenty of these still around out there, and you won't have to break the bank to get one from ebay or Amazon if you can't find it elsewhere.
Now, of the four different University Challenge quiz books, which one would you consider likely to be the most difficult to get hold of ? The oldest one perhaps ? Not a bit of it. The 2001 Granada book, complete with picture of Jeremy Paxman on the front cover, has been by far the hardest ( and most expensive ) to get hold of. I don't know why this one is so elusive, but it is. Try Amazon Used and New , and you'll get nowhere. No difficulty with the other two. I'd never seen it in the flesh before either, so it was a matter of keeping an eye on ebay , and eventually this one turned up. I have no intention of telling you how much I paid for it, but it retailed at £6.99 in 2001 - which wasn't bad value for what you get in the book - but I did pay a little bit more than that. Worth it though. This one has probably twice as many questions as the BBC book. Its not quite as nice paper quality, but the questions are as wide ranging and testing as you'd expect. Also there's a set of first round, second round, quarter, semi , and final questions too, which is a nice touch. A good book, and several cuts above the average TV tie in fare. All of which makes me wonder why it is as rare as it seems to be. This is similar in style to the University Challenge - the First 40 years book, and I was worried that it might contain the same sets of questions. I was relieved to see that it doesn't, though.
This one, the 2010 book, is the latest and largest one of all. In format I guess that it resembles the 2001 book most. There are over 3,500 questions in it , according to the cover, and I recognised several questions just in the first match which have come straight from the 2010 series. Nothing wrong with that, either. At the end of each match it reproduces some of Jeremy Paxman's parting words to the teams, although none of them amongst his rudest, I'm afraid. A worthwhile addition to your library, this.
My Music (1980 )
Was My Music really a quiz, or just a very genteel panel game ? If you want to know the difference between the noughties, and the 70s, just watch an old epsidoe of My Music, and then immediately afterwards watch an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks ! Droll Frank Muir and Dennis Nordern traded wits with Ian Wallace and John Amis, firstly on the radio, and then later on the TV. So is this a quizbook ? Yes, but not as we know it Jim. There are some really interesting questions throughout, but detailed answers are given to each one straight after each question. Still, if you read it, you're definitely going to improve your knowledge. Which is kind of why I forked out the couple of quiz it cost me in the first place.
Call My Bluff Quiz Book (1972)
I suppose that Call My Bluff actually was a quiz show in the broadest sense of the word, but even in the broadest sense of the word this isn't really a quiz book. What you get is a set of words, which you most definitely won't have heard of before, together with three possible definitions. You pick the right one. Just like the show in fact. So credit for reproducing the gameplay of the show itself, but opportunities for helping make a quiz are frankly next to nothing. A nice thing, though. I quite like the unusual large thin format, and its a hardback too, so longer lasting than the average paperback. Would I have ever bought it if I wasn't just collecting. No, of course I wouldn't.
Winner Takes All
At the time of writing this Jimmy Tarbuck has been in the news regarding allegations which have been made against him. I hope that these aren’t true. He was the first host of Yorkshire TV’s “Winner Takes All”. For the mid-late 70s, this was a big money show. The way it worked was that two contestants would be given a token amount of money to tart with. They would be shown a series of general knowledge questions with multiple choice answers. The contestant could bet what they liked of the money they had earned bon how likely they were to get the answer right. The one with the most money at the end of the game went through to meet the defending champion at the end of the show. Returning contestants could theoretically make a pretty decent wedge if they kept winning.
As for the book – well it’s a nice enough article that retains the format of the show. Each question has multiple choice answers. None of the questions are ever likely to keep you awake at night, but then that’s the nature of the beast. It’s a bit of a rarity this one. I hadn’t seen a copy of it before this one appeared on eBay. I got into a bit of a bidding war. I set the original offer, then another bidder kept upping it by 50p. In the end I think he or she got tired of the game, and I paid about £1.50 below the limit I was prepared to go to.
BBC Quizbooks Brand ( 1987 – 1990 )
In the late 80s the BBC began to homogenise the appearance of almost all of their quizbooks under the BBC quizbooks brand. In practice this meant that all of them had blotchy covers, on which the BBC quizbooks logo was displayed fairly prominently. They do vary in quality, but generally these are a step down from the TV Top of the Form and Ask the Family books of 15 years or so earlier. . Currently in my collection are : -
Telly Addicts 2
Ten Years of TellyAddicts (1995)
If you’re a quizzer of a certain age you probably do remember Noel Edmund’s Telly Addicts. It ran for a quite a long time, and was the only show in the BBC Quizbooks stable to spawn 2 quizbooks.As the name suggests, TellyAddicts was a lighthearted quiz about, well, telly. As such you might well find a few questions in each book for classic TV questions, although the standard in both books really isn’t very hard at all. On average there are 12 questions per round, and each page is set out in the same way as its stablemates for Masterteams, Superscot and Brain of Sport.
The Ten Years of TellyAddicts book is rather later than the other two, and was produced after the BBC Quizbooks days had thankfully passed. For fans of the show I suppose that this might well have had some appeal. Its full of colour photographs, and has an introduction by Tidybeard. It contains 50 quizzes, largely themed around the ten years between 1985 - 95, which was pretty much the whole run of the show. But its strictly for the fans.
Food and Drink
Alright, so Food and Drink was never a quiz show, although what the hell Jilly Goolden was on was a question I’d really have liked to have known the answer to. Still, they did make it into a quiz book, and this one isn’t bad, since it does fill a specialist niche. I’m no expert in F and D, but it’s a valid subject for questions, and I do use this for questions for my quizzes. Most of the books in this range would have set you back £1:95, which was reasonable enough for the time. I paid pennies for it, which is great when you get a book which is going to earn its keep by providing questions you can use.
Remember First Class with Debbie Greenwood ? Well, no, I didn’t really. Apparently it was a quiz for teams of schoolchildren. Are we starting to see a connection between the names– Top of the Form – First Class ? Actually that was about as much of a connection as there was, since First Class was a show which mixed general knowledge rounds with video rounds, and rounds using the computer graphics provided by the wonderful BBC Acorn computer. Perhaps it was a BBC response to the success of ITV’s Blockbusters. Whatever the case it did fairly well for a few years.
Wonder of wonders, this isn’t a dreadfully bad little book.It eschews the format of the show, and just gives you round after round of questions, some themed, and some general knowledge. There are well over 1000 questions in there. Granted that the majority of them are much easier than you’d like, easier than the TV Top of the Form books. I'm not sure that I really want to think that much about what this means about the way that we have developed as a nation since the 70s.Still there are plenty of things here which would plant the seed to give you an idea for a question, and as such it earns its keep.
There’s more chance that you might remember this one, since it was popular enough in its time. It started just in BBC Scotland, hosted by Gyles Brandreth, who more than once has turned out to be the bridesmaid rather than the bride, leaving a show before it becomes popular. Anyone who says that this is a good example of cause and effect is being rather churlish here. It ran from 1985 until 1995, being presented by Mr. Debbie Greenwood, Paul Coia , from 1988 onwards.
Catchword is a good example of the way that BBC came to realise from the mid 80s that the advent of Channel 4 had changed the game. Countdown, then 15 to 1 had shown that yes, there was a significant adult audience to be had in the afternoon/early evening slot, and for me Catchword was specifically aimed to spike Countdown’s guns, being a mainly word puzzle game. It didn’t hurt Countdown, but it did make a dent in the ratings.
The book itself is a little disappointing. Its not a quiz book as such, so much as a puzzle book. OK – I can live with that. But then consider this. Its only 96 pages long. 43 pages are taken up with answers. 13 pages are taken up with instructions how to play the game ! So only 40 pages actually give you puzzles. Thankfully some of the things like the anagrams are useable in handouts for quizzes. But if I’d shelled out £1.99 for this in 1987 I’d have been pretty cheesed off, teachers' pay being what it was back in the day.
Brain of Sport (1980)
Brain of Sport 2 (1982)
Brain of Sport - BBC Quiz Books (1987)
The 1987 book, on the far left of the photograph, is the one which is in the BBC quizbooks stable. The two others are earlier than the BBC Quizbooks imprint, but I discuss them here for simplicity's sake. Brain of Sport was a highly respected radio sports quiz, which lasted on and off from 1975 until 1989, when the compere, sports broadcaster Peter Jones died.
The 1987 book is full of questions which are categorised, and of a good standard. The problem of course is that the book is very out of date, and most of the questions only refer to the couple of years before it was written. So as a working quiz book its of limited use, only really good for ‘classic’ questions. But it’s a decent book. In comparison to the other two earlier books I feel it does suffer, mainly because each page is presented in the same way that its stablemates, the Masterteam, Superscot, and Telly Addicts quiz books.
The first book is a BBC publication, while book 2 is BBC Knight. Book 1 boasts only 80 pages, but compiler Chris Rhys crams a lot in there for you. Each pair of pages boasts one page of 15 questions, and another page of pictures, or 15 more questions. Rounds are all either general or themed. The second book gives you 128 pages, but only 12 questions per page, so they work out about the same. Personally I like the older books. Although Chris Rhys compiled all 3, you seem to get more for your money with the first two.
Trivia Test Match ( 1988 )
Like the Top of the Form, Brain of Britain, Treble Chance, Brain of Sport Quiz books, and the Quiz Kid book, this one bears the distinction of having spun off from a radio rather than a TV series. You might not remember the show yourself, but it was quite popular in its day, and at least the 1992 series has been repeated on digital radio 7. There were 8 series altogether between 1986 and 1993. Two teams, consisting of captains Tim Rice and Willie Rushton, and a celebrity each , competed to answer trivia questions bowled at them by umpire Brian Johnston, in a game which was loosely based on the laws of cricket. Easy questions earned one run, hard ones earned 4 runs, incorrect answers could be challenged with Howzat, and each team could bowl three bouncers per show. Think Quizball, but cricket rather than football, and you won't be so very far off the mark.
It was a good , lighthearted fun show, but some of the questions were pretty decent. Considering that this is out of the BBC Quizbooks stable, this is a pretty decent attempt to replicate the show as well. For one thing it gets away from the - each page has 12 questions and that's your lot - format of many of the other books. One point questions are mostly pub quiz chestnuts, but the 4 pointers are very interesting, with a few absolute belters in each set. The bouncers all tend to be list questions. There are 66 questions per match, and 9 matches in the book's 106 pages. At less than 600 questions its a little stingy, but I have to say that I really rather like it. It has charm, and some quality, and you can't say that about many of its stablemates.
Masterteam ( 1987 )
This belongs to the TV Masterteam quiz, which ran for 3 years between 1985 and 1987, and not to the Radio 4 quiz of the same name that ran between 2001 and 2006. Masterteam was a tea time show, but basically involved teams answering general knowledge questions posed in different rounds – buzzer rounds, individual rounds etc.
As such you might expect that a decent quiz book would arise from it. In which case you would be a little disappointed. The book has 10 Games – each game has 10 themed rounds of 12 questions. That makes 1200 questions in my book, which is a decent amount for 1987. The questions are ok too, but I'm afraid that its all fairly straightforward stuff. Nothing to make you leap out of your armchair with delight, knowing that you can use it in your next quiz, but its not a total insult to your intelligence either. But it’s bog standard, if you know what I mean, and its a shame that they didn't put any time and trouble into trying to replicate something like the actual gameplay of the show itself.
Beat the Teacher ( 1988 )
Another kids show, this was produced towards the end of its life when the show was being presented by Bruno Brookes, whose grinning, mullet topped head greets you on the front cover. The show was an interesting concept, pitting kid and teacher in games and puzzles designed to negate the obvious advantage of sir or miss - ie - that there was a decent chance that they would actually know something. It didn't always turn out like that, or so I'm told.
It is another puzzle book rather than quiz book. However this one was compiled by legendary puzzle man Clive Doig, and that tells you that it isn’t going to be just for kids. Alas, I find that I can’t really use anything in it for a quiz handout, and where there are questions they just won’t fit into a pub quiz , so this is a little bit of a drone. As a kid, though, this is the sort of thing I would have loved
Superscot ( 1988 )
Super what ? Super who ? Ah, well, yes you see, the thing is that the Super Scot quiz ran from 1983 to 1991 , but only in BBC Scotland. Its hardly surprising when you consider that the quiz only concerned Scotland, Scots and all thing Scottish. Nothing wrong with that either. Grandad Clark was frae Dundee, and it never did him any harm. Still, it does mean that the book qualifies as the only book belonging to a series I never either saw or listened to.
It pretty much follows the same format as the Masterteams book et al, 10 games of 10 rounds of 12 questions, every round a different theme, but always about Scotland or Scots or Scottish things. Limited use for a pub quiz in Wales, I grant you, but I have used some of its more well known questions now and again.
The Movie Game (1989)
I honestly didn't remember this show, although I had definitely seen it once or twice. So I had to look it up. No wonder I didn't remember it - this was a kid's show from the late 80s. As the name suggests it was a game, all about movies. There were quiz questions, then games. Ho hum.
As these books go its not that bad. Phillip Schofield, the original presenter, looks up from the front cover , in the days before he gave up Grecian 2000, immersed in a film editing machine. The book is mostly round up with rounds of questions about films, set out in a very similar way to the Masterteams/ Superscot/ Brain of Sport / Telly Addicts books. The question rounds are interspersed with some puzzles - anagrams, crosswords, you catch the drift, I'm sure. Questions are OK actually, although there is a big bias towards mid-80s films, which is hardly surprising.
Boxtree TV Quiz Books Brand – 1989 – 93
Boxtree is a division of Pan Macmillan. In the late 1990s they changed the game with their Who Wants To Be A Millionaire tie in books - about which more later. However, before these books raised their desperately mediocre heads Boxtree made a series of tie in books based on some of the popular independent TV quiz shows of the day in the late 80s - early 90s. All of the books are very small, and tend to consist of a lean and mean 96 pages. The only way you get to give people a decent amount for their money is by really cramming it in , so the typeface on these books is typically very small.
The $64,000 question ( 1991 )
This show, a remake of a 1950s original , was hosted for 2 seasons by Bob Monkhouse in 1990 – 2. Top prize on offer was £6400, which actually meant getting permission to give away a prize that big. It was at the time the highest prize allowed on British TV. This was only 6 years before WWTBAM !
OK, its themed rounds and lots of them. On the show questions rose in difficulty, but not in this book, it’s a real mishmash, and everything bar the kitchen sink is thrown into each page. I don’t find the final round questions, which are supposed to be the harder ones, any more difficult than the others, and I half suspect that this is something thrown together fairly quickly to cash in on the show. But it’s not bad, especially compared to some of the things Boxtree have come up with in their time.
15 to 1 General Knowledge Quizbook ( 1989 )
15 to 1 Superchallenge quiz book ( 1990 )
15 to 1 The Ultimate Challenge ( 1993 )
15 to 1 Master Challenge (1995)
Was there ever a show that proved such a cornucopia to quiz setters as 15 to 1 ? 5 days a week, question after question, after question. It was inevitable that such a serious contender for the title of best quiz show of all time would spawn some spin off books, and Boxtree’s efforts were the first out of the lists. I'm guessing that the blue book, which was the original, must have been fairly succesful , since it spawned two sequels in fairly quick succession.
Questions are arranged in themed rounds of 15, and there are a lot of them. Each book squeezes over 1000 questions into 96 pages. Like the $64,000 Question book, questions are arranged into supposedly easier first round questions, then more difficult second round ones, and even harder third round ones. They’re not all that different though, and the harder ones are still pretty standard pub quiz stuff. These books will never be among your favourites, but they’re ok. Somehow, though, I'm really glad that such a splendid quiz show as 15 to 1 has a far finer set of books than these to be remembered by.
Boxtree seem to really like the phrase - The Ultimate Challenge. They recycled it for their second Who Wants To Be A Millionaire book. They needn't have bothered.To be perfectly honest, I can't see any huge difference in difficulty between any of the three books. What would have hurt then to have designated them 1, 2 ,3, and 4 ? Its a petty point , I know, but why deliberately give the idea that book 3, say is any harder than book one or two, or easier than book 4 ? There's bog all difference between any of them in terms of difficulty. Its just hype for hype's sake, and it smacks of dishonesty. Basically these Boxtree books deliver a lot less than you have a right to expect, going by the quality of the show as well.
The Krypton Factor ( 1984 - 1989 )
There was a show with staying power. An ITV show always had greater pressure on it than a BBC one, since if they couldn’t deliver an audience for the advertisers, then the plug would get pulled. In its first incarnation the Krypton Factor lasted from 1977 until 1995.
Of course, a general knowledge quiz was only one small part of the show designed to find the Superperson of the United Kingdom, and a quiz is only one small part of this book too. The General Knowledge questions are pretty standard, and the puzzles are very nice if you like that sort of thing. Interesting sections on Physical Ability – I wonder how many people who bought the book ever actually took on the challenges which actually include a 31 day fitness training programme. Its Ok as a book, but I'd never have bought it if not for the TV tie in.
The second book though is actually older than the Boxtree one. Its published by Arrow and actually goes back to 1984. Like the Boxtree book it does try to recreate the variety of challenges in the show, and frankly I like this one quite a bit more. The mental agility and intelligence tests tend to remind me of the Ask the Family Books, although like the Boxtree book the general knowledge questions do tend to be rather simple. You get a little bit more for your money from this one.
The Strike It Lucky Quiz Book ( 1992 )
This was one of the shows that helped Michael Barrymore reach the pinnacle of british light entertainment. God knows how, since it was never much cop. Basically it involved three couples answering general knowledge questions, to earn moves along a wall full of TV screens, some of which would bring them money and some which wouldn't - well, it was very much at the bargain basement game show end of the quiz market. I should add in the interests of fairness that it was very popular in its time, and metamorphosed into the virtually identical Strike it Rich.
The first 25 pages of this thin book are taken up with list type questions - eg. you are given a list of King's and Queens, and you have to use each one as the answer to one of the questions. From then on in its a pretty standard set of themed rounds of easy questions. Then from page 66 to 84 there's themed rounds of hot spot questions which are a little more difficult, and the kind of thing you could ask down your local pub quiz. From there on in its answer pages. Pretty standard fare, but OK.
Catchphrase and Others ( c. 1990 )
I ummed and ahhed about including these other ones. After all, in the strictest sense only the catchphrase book is a genuine TV tie in. And that wasn't even a quiz show - it was a game show. Well, I'd we include countdown - and I do, then we can include this, and the other three as well. There's not a lot you are going to need to know about any of these that you won't have gathered from my comments about the other books in this series. Small, cramped format, questions uninspired, but not actually dreadful. That just about wraps it up for Boxtree TV quiz books, then.
Family Fortunes (1992)
You might well ask - wasn't Family Fortunes a game show rather than a quiz ? Well, it was a quiz in as much as there were questions to answer, but yes, it was a game show, and a very popular one in its time at that. You remember how the show worked - "We asked 100 people - name a hairy dog ( for example ) " and a team, made up of family members ( geddit !) would have to name all of the most popular answers. If they got three answers wrong, then the opposing family only needed to give one correct answer to steal.
What is it doing in my collection ? Well, by owning a copy, at least there is one less copy out there perverting amateur quiz setters from the path of true quizdom. I’m afraid that when a Family Fortunes type question rears its ugly head in a pub quiz I groan. Lets be honest, in my opinion they debase a quiz to the level of a pure guessing game – fine if you like that sort of thing, but I don’t. For me, a question master who resorts to a Family Fortunes question, or a Family Fortunes round, immediately forfeits my respect. So I want to hate this book, I really, really want to hate it. Yet it has its own evil fascination . Why, I find myself wondering, for instance, would more people, when asked to name a London Station, name Kings Cross than any other station ? More to the point, why does the question say ‘apart from Euston ‘ ? Why – were they standing outside Euston station when they asked the 100 people ? Were the 100 people a true cross section ? Did they use the same 100 people for each question ? Did they, in fact REALLY ask 100 people at all ? You don’t know.
There are 131 pages altogether. That makes 50 games, each with 10 questions. Some ask for five answers, some for more. That’s it.
Today’s The Day ( 1995 )
Maybe you might not remember “Today’s The Day” now, but from 1993 to 1998 it was a popular teatime quiz show. All the questions, which included picture, sound and video clips, concerned the day of the year that the show was broadcast. So if you did your homework before the show, then you could get a very high score, and that’s exactly what many of the teams did.
This is a sumptuously produced , almost coffee tabled sized book published by Virgin. With nice paper, and plenty of pictures it looks fabulous. As quiz books go, though, it’s a little bit of a bimbo – looks great, but doesn’t pack a lot of intellectual punch. For its size there’s not a lot of questions, and you won’t find one for every day of the year, which in my opinion rather defeats the object.
Priced at an outrageous £9.99 in 1995, it wasn’t even hardback, and I’m sorry, but I thought the fiver I paid for it in 2008 was frankly all of its money.
The Countdown Quiz Book ( 1996 )
This Ebury press offering from 1996 is another big’un, similar size to “Today’s the Day “. Calling it a quiz book is a bit of a misnomer, but then Countdown itself isn't really a quiz anyway, so I can't really complain on that score.
This is actually a word and number puzzle book, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Its made of pretty cheap paper , but it does also give you a list of what important events happened on each day of each month, and you can use this as inspiration for questions. Its strictly for the fans of the show, though.
Even more so is this little paperback.
OK, it makes no claim to be a quiz book, its simply plenty of word puzzles, and no number puzzles at all.
To be honest I would never have bought it for even a few pennies, but when someone offers you something you can add to your collection for nothing, you can't really refuse, can you ? Well, I can't anyway. Certainly not totally out of place in the collection, and something I'd rather have than not.
Blockbusters 1- 12 (1985 – 8 )
Blockbusters Gold Runs 1, 2, 3, 4( 1986 – 9 )
I will bow to the superior knowledge of anyone who can prove otherwise, but I believe that there have been far more spin off books from Blockbusters than any other quiz show. Sphere, who published them, knocked them off at a fair old rate of knots. TV Top of the Form ran to 8 books over 8 years. I have the 12 books in the Blockbusters series, all of which were published over just a 2 year period. I also have the 4 Gold Run books. Now, its not totally impossible that they might have produced more books than these, but I have certainly never encountered them if they did.The originals cost £1:50. The Gold run books which were bigger in size, although containing no more questions, retailed at £1:95. For this you got 55 Blockbuster grids, each of which was accompanied by 20 questions corresponding to a letter on the grid. That works out to over 1000 questions, by my calculations.
Yes, alright, these questions are certainly not the sort of thing to worry any decent quizzer, and maybe aren't that much to write home about, but they are the sort of thing you can use to make a handout for an average ability level pub quiz now and again.
They also have the kind of question that you might not use in your quiz, but which could spark you off to formulating a better question. So no, maybe they don't really earn their keep, but so what ?
They’re good, honest books, which make no pretensions to being anything more than what they are, and are a pretty faithful rendition of the game play on the show itself. I have a respect for anything that does exactly what it says on the tin. As a footnote, the hardest one I found to track down was number 11. I have no idea why this should be so.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire ?
The Quiz Book (1999)
2: The Ultimate Challenge (2000)
The Bumper Quiz book (2000)
The Quiz Book - Irish Edition (2001)
The Bumper Quiz Book 2 (2002)
The Sport and Leisure Quiz Book (2002)
The Entertainment quiz Book (2002)
Football Millionaire (c. 2011)
Oh dear, where can I start? These Boxtree spinoffs from possibly the most important quiz show of all time to hit British TV are not my favourites. I will try to be scrupulously fair in explaining why.These books look fabulous until you open the front covers. The problem for me is this. The books are written to try to replicate the show. In theory this is rather praiseworthy. In practice, though . . .
This means that the questions rise supposedly in order of difficulty. It also means that for every question they have to provide 4 multiple choice options , which means at the back of the book they have to tell you what the 50/50 options are for each one. So although all the books other than the bumper ones weigh in at over 260 pages, you’re only getting 1000 questions for your money. Double the size and double the number of questions for the 2 bumper books. Its not as if they are easy to use, either. There’s a lot of flicking backwards and forwards, and then you have to find the right letter to correspond to the right answer for the right question.
None of this would matter so much if they were great questions. But they’re not. For anyone even mildly interested in quizzing you can pretty much forget everything below £32,000. From then on , though, there’s a real mish mash, as some £32,000 questions, for example, seem harder than the £1 million questions are. Even if you bought the book for the game play rather than the questions I can see you getting annoyed at this quickly. The expensive looking covers belie the cheap and tacky insides, with an unappealing layout, and print that can come off on your fingers.
They’re not totally unusable to be fair. The specialist books on entertainment and sport and leisure are more useful than others in the series when making a quiz, but that’s not saying a huge amount. However, like the show itself, these books have been hugely influential on a number of tie in quiz books which have come along since.
Jeopardy! What is Quizbook 2
What is Jeopardy! ? you might ask. Well, probably not, because it’s actually quite well known. Jeopardy! is a hugely successful US quiz game, which has been transplanted to the UK on several occasions, but never managed to take root. This might in part be due to the fact that the British versions offered such relatively tiny amounts of cash for winners, when compared with the riches available in the original American version. Winners get to return, and a chap by the name of Ken Jennings won 74 times in a row, which earned him rather more than $3 million . The UK’s Ian Lygo actually won 75 editions of Channel 5’s 100%, which netted him £7,500. Which tells you a lot about the differences between the US and the UK. OK, the biggest selling point for Jeopardy! is that they give you the answers – you have to supply the questions. That’s it. This book is one of a number which have been generated by the show. I bought it more as a curiosity than anything else, for a lot of the stuff in here is very USA specific – and too specific to use in one of my quizzes. It’s not a high quality item, but I bet they shifted a fair few of these in the states.
The Weakest Link
The Weakest Link (2001)
The Weakest Link Bumper Quiz Book ( 2001 )
The Weakest Link 2 ( 2002 )
The Weakest Link (NBC version)
This isn’t a show I particularly like for a number of reasons, not least because it’s a show where the quiz itself is fairly incidental to what goes on . So I wasn’t expecting a great deal from these.
What a pleasant surprise then to find that these three books, published by Penguin, are actually rather good, given the limited appeal of the show itself. Books 1 ( left ) and 2 are standard size, with many more pages in the bumper book. Of course this one does have a much larger photograph of Anne Robinson on its front cover, so it is not without its drawbacks. Still, if you can ignore that, they're a decent set of books. So when I had the opportunity to get hold of an American, NBC version, I did that. Very similar in format, just more specifically American questions.
For one thing they are put together in a way that means that you can play along in the same way that they do on the show, but you don’t have to . You can just use it as a quiz book if such an outlandish idea is what you have in mind. There’s no messing about with multiple choice answers. The answers themselves are handily contained on the bottom of the page too.Its just amongst the most easy of books to use. There’s a lot of questions for your money as well, getting on for 3,000 in both of the smaller books, and over 5,000 in the bumper book, which I'm pleased to say has different questions, well over double what you get in the Millionaire books. OK, these aren’t the most difficult questions you’ve ever read, although nothing as mind numbingly simple as the average question on the show itself, I'm glad to say. But then if you're like me you’re not going to buy these books because you want to read them yourself, you’re buying them because there’s a lot of good bread and butter stuff which you can use in your quizzes. Which is pretty much what I wanted from them in the first place. I use these as a regular source for a typical pub quiz.
Fifteen to One –
2000 for 2000 ( 2000 )
2001 for 2001 ( 2001 )
2002 for 2002 ( you get the point, I’m sure )
After the false start of the 3 Boxtree 15 to 1 books, its all hail to Channel 4 books for producing 3 books worthy of the series itself.These three books were produced in 2000 - 2002, the last three years of the show. What did they do ? Strip away all of the gimmicks. Just throw in 2000 good general knowledge questions, write the name of the category above each question, put the answers in the back, and let the readers get on with it. These three books are as as good a source of bread and butter questions as I have, and don’t forget , any decent quiz will have more bread and butter than caviar questions.
Typeface may be small, but its clear, and the answers are nicely spaced out for ease of use. Some of them even carry helpful explanations too. Yes, alright, the books do also contain score sheets at the back so that you can play along using the three lives rule if you want to. But for most of us I should just think it’s the questions that we want, and these three books deliver all you could want.
They are not, as I say, as challenging as the Round Britain or Brain of Britain books. The level as I’ve said, is more for the pub quizzer, so they’re not books I would work through myself with huge enjoyment, in the same way I can with the books that I've mentioned above, but for setting quizzes they’re amongst the finest resources that I have. I think that its probably no coincidence that some of the finest quizzes have given rise to the finest books.
Many different categories throughout all three books. As in the series itself, questions vary in difficulty, but there's tons here that you could use when you're compiling your own pub quiz. Being as Fifteen to One is a strong contender for the title of the finest quiz show ever, these have a lot to live up to. They do.
Britain’s Brainiest (2002)
In the early noughties it seemed that everyone was trying to create a quiz that could ride on the coattails of Millionaire to success. Some made it, but most didn’t. Celador, makers of Millionaire, tried this themselves, with their own “Britain’s Brainiest “, which started life as a kid’s show, but grew to include adults. I only ever saw it once or twice, so I wouldn't trust my memories of the show, but as I recall there was a lot of faffing about with different rounds and formats.
The book itself is similar to the Millionaire books – well, it is Boxtree after all – questions are multiple choice and not all that taxing at all. There are word puzzles between each round, general knowledge rounds, specialist rounds – I’m sure you get the drift. A little more appealing than the Millionaire books, but not much. The book itself is similar to the Millionaire books – well, it is Boxtree after all – questions are multiple choice and not all that taxing at all. There are word puzzles between each round, general knowledge rounds, specialist rounds – I’m sure you get the drift. A little more appealing than the Millionaire books, but not much.
National Lottery Winning Lines 1 and 2(2002 )
This was another Celador show , and this one was quite successful, and had a decent 5 year run. Winning Lines was one of the BBC's first quiz shows which was sandwiched in or around the National Lottery show. It basically involved having a big board, full of answers, and finding the right one for the right question. Well, there was a bit more to it than that, but you get the drift I'm sure.
Both of these books try to replicate the game play of the show, which means that they are of little or no use for quiz setters. The books, published by Boxtree, are a little larger and thinner than usual. Each has fifteen games of 4 rounds. The first two rounds have questions that require numbers for answers. Then the next two have a wall of answers, each of which has a number. Memorise the answers, fit them to the right questions, add up the totals – well you get the gist, I’m sure. Not a lot of useable questions in this, and its fiddly, and there’s not enough in them. Sorry, but that’s my final answer.
Eggheads ( 2007 )
I myself have taken part in a TV series aimed at finding a new Egghead. Actually for that matter I've also played in Eggheads, too. So if I criticise Eggheads, then I risk being seen as a hypocrite. It’s a risk I have to take. Eggheads great USP was that it was the first pro-am quiz show. However this introduced certain problems. Being realistic, how are teams of amateurs really supposed to beat quizzers of the calibre of Kevin Ashman ? In real life it would not happen, and that’s why you do sometimes get these strange quirky questions, which would never be asked in any other quiz. The show does move along slowly too. Oh well, it’s a popular show.
The book , published by Corgi has 5 sections, one for each of the original Eggheads. There are 150 specialist questions in each section, and a further 150 General Knowledge questions, together with short profiles of each of the Eggies. Most of the 1500 questions really aren’t that taxing, but they’re useable, even if they are all multiple choice, which does replicate the show, I suppose. So its not a bad book at all, and you can use it as a question source for a pub quiz certainly.
QI - The Book of General Ignorance (2006)
QI - The Book of Animal Ignorance (2007)
QI - The Second Book of General Ignorance (2010
OK, so one of these isn't really a quiz book as such, and the other isn't a quiz book at all. Doesn't matter. I've taken questions from the first book upon occasion, so in my book it qualifies. These are books that are worthy of the series itself, which as you know if you've ever seen it isn't really a quiz show, so much of an exploration of all those things which you've always thought were true, which in fact turn out to be anything but. An utter delight. There are other Q.I. books I own as well - the Book of the Dead, and Advanced Banter. Not quiz books, but certainly useful quiz resources.
The People’s Quiz (2007)
A friend of mine came runner-up in this strange show, so I will try not to be too damning. The BBC have had a habit of coming up with new quiz formats to sandwich the National Lottery show into. Some have worked, and some haven’t. Step forward the People’s Quiz. Basically the idea behind it was to give away the largest ever cash prize on the BBC - £200,700, and to have 200,700 people take part in the show in one form or another. They never achieved anything like this total. Questions on the show would come from a set of 200,700 questions available on the net beforehand. It was an odd combination of a reality talent show, a la X Factor, and a bit of a jenny haniver* of a quiz . Candidates were auditioned by three ‘quiz gods ‘ – well, by one well respected quiz master, and two ladies who were easy on the eye. It never caught on.
The book, published by Bantam, isn’t bad if you want celebrity and entertainment questions. It’s a little bit bigger than a normal quiz book, and a little bit thicker, and packs in over 3000 questions into its pages. Its one of my regular sources for questions in the entertainment genre, though I wouldn’t say that its all that brilliant for anything else though.
Are You Smarter Than a Ten Year Old ? (2007)
I'm obviously not, or I might have had a little more sense than to shell out hard cash for this book. If you've not seen the show, basically everyday Joe and Josephine Public contenders ( ie non quizzers ) take turns to try and answer a series of questions that children of 7 - 10 might be asked in school. Three lifelines are available. You can bail out early. However if you fail on a question, then you must face the camera, announce that you are not smarter than a ten year old, and leave with nothing.The show is watchable, but nothing to get that excited about.
Then we have the book. There's much less than 1000 questions in this Virgin paperback, which in this day is pretty stingy. Ok - so I bought it to help me out with a Mastermind competition I was running in my school, and it helped a bit, but I can't see me ever using this again in any other capacity. Its not just that the questions are easy, or even that they are SO easy. Its that the thing is obviously influenced by the Millionaire quiz books, and I find it fairly nasty to use. Sorry, but that's what I feel.
* Jenny Haniver - this was a generic name given to the grotesque 'monsters' unscrupulous people in the 19th century created by stitching together parts of different deceased animals, to con the credulous.