I eventually found the answer in Russell Ash's Top Ten of Everything - a sort of thinking man's Guinness Book of Records full of all sorts of intriguing information overlooked in most worthy volumes of knowledge. Now the same author has produced The World in One Day (Dorling Kindersley, pounds 12.99), a splendid collection of information about an average 24 hours in the earth's life. In considerably less than that time, I have learned that evey day, on average, two people are killed by snakes in Sri Lanka, 2.4mm of snow falls on Canada, 26,000 Chinese couples get married, two billion hens' eggs are laid, 101,000 washing machines are made and the world farts enough hydrogen to fill 13 Hindenburg airships.
If, however, you are tired of this world, try "The Traveller's Guide to Mars" (Cadogan, pounds 4.99) by Michael Pauls and Dana Facaros. The 309-million- miles round trip works out, at current prices, to cost only 86 cents a mile - which is half the rate of a London cab. And once you arrive, there's something going on 687 days a year (though they say it's dead after 9pm). This book is full of information, lightened with wonderfully awful jokes.