Book review: The All-New University Challenge Quiz Book by Steve Tribe

The All-New University Challenge Quiz Book by Steve Tribe
The All-New University Challenge Quiz Book by Steve Tribe

Fingers on buzzers! What started out as an American radio quiz show in the 1950s and grew into one of Britain’s most popular and enduring TV programmes?

The answer, of course, is University Challenge, the iconic quiz show which was taken up by the fledgling Granada Television franchise and made its first (black and white!) appearance on our screens in 1962 when Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister and very few people had even heard of The Beatles.

It was an instant hit and over its 53-year history, the show has altered very little apart from student fashions, the change of presenter from Bamber Gascoigne to Jeremy Paxman and its move from ITV to BBC2.

Along the way, viewers have watched young people staggering us all with their knowledge, and some of them – including Stephen Fry, Clive James, Sebastian Faulks, John Simpson and Julian Fellowes – have become familiar public or television figures.

For over five decades, the show has been cherished, debated and celebrated as a champion of excellence, spoofed and parodied, made headlines, suffered accusations of elitism and gender imbalance but continued to bounce back into viewers’ hearts.

The programme still pulls in around three million viewers a week, a figure that has remained steady over the years while rival programmes’ numbers have sunk, and proving that University Challenge fans are steadfast, loyal and not distracted by the attractions of multi-channel broadcasting.

So how about pitting your wits against the best and brightest students in the country with this bumper quiz book packed with questions drawn from the last five years of University Challenge?

There are over 1,800 questions and 15 matches in which to prove your intellectual prowess, impress your friends and family, or simply raise a laugh with a preposterous but hilarious answer!

With topics ranging from classical poetry, film and modern literature to Asian cuisine, politics and quantum physics, there is something here for everyone who is determined to prove they are a cut above the average undergraduate.

The perfect gift for children, students, grandparents and everyone in between, there won’t be a dull moment when the game is on.

But however tense it gets, and however elated or disappointed the faces may be around your sitting room, bear in mind Jeremy Paxman’s advice to teams of nervous students fearing ignominious defeat: ‘Have fun, just enjoy yourselves. Remember… it’s only a quiz!’

(Quadrille Publishing, hardback, £12.99)