Book #3: Answer Me This! (2010)

authors: Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann
language: English
length: 189 pages
finished on: 18/1

book cover
I read this book because I listen to the authors’ podcast, which seeks to answer listeners’ questions in the form of some light comedy. This was their spinoff in book form and it’s basically a big list of questions from listeners for the pair to sarcastically work their way through, with an interlude chapter from their scientist companion, Martin the Sound-Man.

It’s a funny book. It made me chuckle on several occasions, definitely, both with the inanity of some of the questions asked, and because I always like a bit of sarcasm. They call it a toilet book, and I’ve never been able to “get” the point of reading on the toilet; I’ve never been able to do it, myself. But that’s a good description, short and sweet little passages that you can read a bit at a time at your leisure. Or race through it in 3 or 4 days like I did.

But I thought it was too much of the same thing when compared to their podcast. They’ve said several times on their podcast that they repeat themselves a lot because they have bad memories. Fair enough, right, you’re probably not going to remember from week to week what you’ve written (and most listeners wouldn’t remember them either, given that most are listening to it in an interlude such as a commute), but there were several occasions when I read a question that I definitely remember having heard that question before on the podcast, which suggests to me that they were having trouble filling up the book more than anything else. If they’d stretched a bit further back (as I’m sure they have a record of all the questions they’ve answered on the show; in fact I’ve seen such a record on their website), and done some questions from over a year ago, this effect might have been less obvious.

At the same time, it was woefully short. I counted 182 pages, which doesn’t include the index or the five “blank” pages at the end which were a reference to a question asked in an early part of the book, which together made up a sizeable chunk of the latter portion of the book and made it seem like it had more content than it did in the end. So I’m not sure whether I would say they should do more or less of the questions that are repeats of the show, given that they are valuable filler.

Good, though, are the numerous one-liners that were probably just slightly too short for the podcast, and the questions where they would draw a chart to illustrate something, which is an obvious area that an audio-based format can’t cover. And I enjoyed it overall, but I definitely think it works better in the podcast format. Also, I liked the pie-chart at the end showing proportions of listeners’ questions.

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