I love trivia. Like really, really love trivia. The single worst thing about not owning a television is that I can no longer watch Jeopardy! every night at 7:00. Any other show I’d care to watch, I can find online, but there’s no magic in watching a rerun of Jeopardy! The best kind of anecdotal knowledge is the kind you pick up by accident. Of course, knowing facts and information because you’ve studied it or gone out of your way to research is valuable and fulfilling stuff, but it’s the answer you blurt out that you didn’t even realize you knew that means the most. The “I have no idea how I even knew that” qualification after correctly answering an obscure question really gives weight to your knowledge.
While you must, of course, be careful trusting history or information given in a novel as fact, as a novel is, by definition, fiction, I’ve learned many useful (and many more useless) things simply by enjoying a book. Whether it be rudimentary philosophy, practices unique to various cultures or eras, definitions or obscure words or scientific classifications, every writer of every book has a knowledge and understanding unique to themselves—as do, of course, the readers! In so writing purely what one knows (as goes the age-old advice), there must be some assumption that every bit of background or situational intelligence is common knowledge. Otherwise, books would have to be at least twice as long purely on account of necessary explanation of every little thing.
Sometimes it’s just that a book was written in a past decade or century, and society as portrayed in, say, Pride and Prejudice may not have been a groundbreaking description when Austen first published, but is insightful to modern readers. Even just a sense of a different human experience can spark an interest that was previously dormant and leads to further reading and research. Luckily, my passion for trivia is trumped only by my passion for books, so the two feed well off of each other. What sort of things have you been lead to learn more about because of a novel? Are there any novels in particular that you feel have taught you something—whether or importance or simple fun fact?