The Odditorium by David Bramwell and Jo Keeling


Title: The Odditorium

Author: David Bramwell and Jo Keeling

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 11th October, 2016

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 224

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: THE ODDITORIUM is a playful re-telling of history, told not through the lens of its victors, but through the fascinating stories of a wealth of individuals who, while lesser-known, are no less remarkable.

Throughout its pages you’ll learn about the antics and adventures of tricksters, eccentrics, deviants and inventors. While their stories range from heroic failures to great hoaxes, one thing unites them – they all carved their own path through life. Each protagonist exemplifies the human spirit through their dogged determination, willingness to take risks, their unflinching obsession and, often, a good dollop of eccentricity.

Learn about Reginald Bray (1879-1939), a Victorian accountant who sent over 30,000 singular objects through the mail, including himself; Cyril Hoskin (1910-1981), a Cornish plumber who reinvented himself as a Tibetan lama and went on to sell over a million books; and Elaine Morgan (1920-2013), a journalist who battled a tirade of prejudice to pursue an aquatic-based theory of human evolution, which is today being championed by David Attenborough.

Elsewhere, we uncover the lesser-known obsessions of such historical giants as Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726), whose beloved alchemy led to a lifetime’s search for the philosopher’s stone and elixir of life; and philosopher Ren Descartes (1596-1650), whose obsession with cross-eyed ladies led him to seek a ‘cure’ through the first recorded case of CBT.

While many of us are content to lead a conventional life, with all of its comfort and security, THE ODDITORIUM reminds us of the characters who felt compelled to carve their own path, despite risking ostracism, failure, ridicule and madness. While history wouldn’t be the same without the likes of Shakespeare, Caesar and Einstein, it is when curiosity and compulsion meet that conventions are challenged, culture is re-invigorated and we find new ways to understand ourselves and the world around us.


The Odditorium is the sort of book that can spark the imagination and provoke thought through the names and their achievements within the pages. Filled with unknown names in the world of invention, of discovery, of the mind and other areas, this book brings to life some of the strangest people and what they did, but also, positions them within their historical context and in some cases, such as the entry on Joseph Campbell, creator of The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), and the archetype of the hero’s journey that has been played out in movies and literature forever, or the extremely odd, such as Reginald Bray, who sent a multitude of objects through the mail, including himself. Some of these entries are amusing, and leave the reader wondering what possessed the person to do what they did, to the little known names such as Elaine Morgan, who battled prejudice to pursue her theory of aquatic based human evolution – something best known today through Sir David Attenborough.


The characters within these pages – the odd, the outsiders, the ones who just wanted to make a mark on the world, bring a part of history to life that may not always be found in history books. Whether ignored because of prejudice or merely seen as too strange for “the norm”, these characters, these people, have still contributed to the world as we know it, and their stories are well worth knowing.


An intriguing read that can spark the imagination, and leave the reader wanting to know more about these strange yet fascinating people.

E-books versus paperbacks: Which is better?

I wasn’t going to write a post on this because if people are reading, does it matter if it is a paperback, hardcover or e-reader? I come down on the side of no, because I read all formats. I rarely read e-books, only if I am reviewing for someone and I have a couple to read and review, or when travelling. However, an e-book takes me longer to read than a paperback and here’s why:

I spend up to four hours a day between Monday and Friday each week reading and writing for university online, so at least three articles, typing notes, typing journal entries and writing exercises and any additional assignment work and discussion board work. This is the way my study is structured and it is fine, but then I need a break from the screen. It’s as though after some time reading on a screen, my brain and eyes just don’t want to do it anymore and the words start to move and swim.

So I turn to my physical books. These give me a nice break from the screen. And I don’t have to charge them. I found that e-book reading can limit me in reading time – I have to wait for my e-reader to charge to use it once the battery is flat – I have tried reading whilst it charges and it tells me to wait. If all my books were on a device, I’d feel very lost if I couldn’t read. Charging is temporary and easily done but what happens when the device no longer works? How do we read when we have no other options if we are waiting for it to be fixed or replaced? Surely those avid readers would never be able to cope without their books.

This is why I have a collection of e-books, paperbacks and hardcovers. I have no audiobooks – at first they never appealed to me, and I have also found none that I want. There is also the chance that I would get distracted by other things if listening to them – I’m not sure why as I can watch TV and read. But e-books and paperbacks – if I have a choice, always the paperback, and always from a bookstore – even online ones if I need something specific or want a specific store I have no access to. In-store is preferable though, and I am cultivating a good relationship with the manager at least of my local bookstore, always happy to chat and get in an extra copy of that new release I want if they aren’t getting many copies.

The answer? I’m not sure there is a winner, just personal preferences. Paperbacks have the benefit of being able to lend them to people and you still have something to read. If a household only has one e-reader and several people want to read the same book or series, you have to wait in line and not read whilst other people are using the device. This is definitely something that could work against the e-reader.

My personal preference is physical books. I’ve only recently, in the last few years, read e-books so for over twenty years, only had physical books, apart from a few text books on the old CD ROMs for school that were terrible to use and probably why I’m not a huge fan and convert to e-books, and maybe why I would get defensive when told I should just have all my 1000 plus books on e-book. My other issue is that there might be some books not in e-book just yet – for whatever reason and having physical books when writing an essay is much easier than jumping between multiple windows.

In the end though, if a format works for you as a reader, then it works for you. We can’t say what will work for everyone finitely because we all read differently. I hope to be able to keep my paperback collection for years because it’s part of who I am, it’s how I learnt to read, and if I am truly honest, I feel I pay better attention to the paperbacks than the e-books because I feel like I skim more when reading the e-books.

Verdict: Don’t let anyone tell you the right or wrong way to read because you know what works for you.