Celebrating interestingness

What, another award? Well, we know the book industry has lots already but while there are awards for political books, literary novels, romantic fiction and my personal favourite the Baileys Prize, there isn’t one which celebrates interestingness.

We have launched our own to really celebrate those books and authors who have offered inspiration for "QI" and its sister BBC Radio 4 programme "The Museum of Curiosity" and our weekly podcast "No Such Thing As A Fish".

"Where do you get your facts from?" is a question we are asked a lot at QI HQ. The truth is we read everything we can lay our hands on and these are some of the books that are consistently interesting.

We know when we have found an interesting fact because we are immediately seized with the urge to tell it to another person – our office is full of the quiet hum of Elves reading, occasionally broken with a shout of: "You will never guess what I’ve just read about otters!"

We feel the same way about books. There is something special about a book where even before you’ve finished it you want to tell people about it or are planning who to give it to for Christmas. There are lots of awards for books out there but, as far as we know, not one which celebrates interestingness. So we thought it was time to start one.

Each series of QI is themed around a letter so in 2016 we read a lot of books about subjects beginning with N – John Wright’s The Naming of The Shrew was one that several researchers fought over and, indeed, we found some brilliant facts that ended up in both the TV show and in our latest book.

Each of the books on the list has been personally chosen by a QI Elf (Stephen Fry’s affectionate nickname* for the researchers who work on the programme). Why no overall winner? Well, how can you compare a book on microbes with a novel based upon slavery? They are not in competition with each other so they are all winners. We launch this award with confidence. QI founder and Chief Gnome John Lloyd writes: "Over the last 14 years, I’ve found the QI Elves’ taste in books to be extremely reliable. Or else."

We hope you’ll find the same.

The 2016 list is as follows

Overcomplicated: Technology at the Limits of Comprehension by Sam Arbesman (Current)
Penguins, Pineapples and Pangolins: First Encounters with the Exotic by Claire Cock-Starkey (British Library publications)
The Last of Us by Rob Ewing (Borough Press)
A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren, 1939-45 by Astrid Lindgren Translated by Sarah Death (Pushkin Press)
Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body by Sara Pascoe (Faber)
The Naming of the Shrew: A Curious History of Latin Names by John Wright (Bloomsbury)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Fleet)
The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf (John Murray)
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong (Bodley Head)
1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin and Anne Miller

The reason we included our own book is because naturally it has drawn from all of these and many other books, and therefore cannot fail to be interesting (we hope!).

*Now rechristened ‘QI Nisse’ by our new host Sandi Toksvig.

Anna Miller is a QI Elf.