Schott's Original Miscellany, by Ben Schott. Bloomsbury. 144 pages. $14.95.
An enormous best seller in Britain, this quirky, serious, ridiculous, narcotic volume is a repository of the sort of wide-ranging fact that is too often trivialized as trivia. I have no idea where else, if anywhere short of a research library, you might find within easy reach a list of 43 phobias, (e.g., philematophobia -- fear of kissing), the identities of all multiple Nobel Prize winners (four people, two institutions), a list of words containing all the vowels in alphabetical order and a complete taxonomy of cattle branding. This edition is tilted toward American use (e.g., 14 dimensions of the Statue of Liberty), but retains a vast quantity of peculiarly British usages -- where else will you find 68 terms of Cockney rhyming slang? An irresistible, irreplaceable, inexhaustible delight.