What does the Queen keep in her handbag? Who invented windsurfing? What was Operation Pluto? And what treasures can be found in the British Postal Museum Archive?
The answers to these questions (and a lot more) can be found this eccentric, thought-provoking and amusing book, in which trivia nerd Mark Mason decides he wants to collect facts about every postcode area in Britain. They can’t be just any facts, though. They have to be facts that appeal to his sense of the amazingly coincidental or weirdly ironic. Also, if they relate to the Royal Mail, even better. He travels to (or through) at least some of the areas but he manages to include all of them and to have a little excitement along the way.
Mostly I really enjoyed this book. You could never tell what he was going to do next. He has a go on the fastest zipwire ride in Europe (Llandudno – LL postcode), eats Quality Street chocolates in Quality Street, Merstham (Redhill – RH), has an underwhelming hotel experience at the Watford Gap motorway services (Northamptonshire – NN) and accompanies a letter to the most northerly house (Shetland – ZE).
For every official fact he finds, several more are discussed, making this book a feast for trivia fans. There could’ve been less football included but it’s easy to skip over those bits. The pun of the title – Mail Obsession – is apt, because not only is the postal system a focus of the book, the narrator is a (middle aged) male obsessing over stereotypically ‘male’ interests. Transport, pubs, WW2 logistics, grandad music, sport history. He has a ‘grumpy old man’ persona and so I didn’t always agree with his outlook on the world, but I definitely share his delight in obscure and wonderful trivia.
The book was published in 2015 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
5 thoughts on “Review of ‘Mail Obsession: A Journey Round Britain by Postcode’ by Mark Mason”
What an interesting book! It’s just too bad that it’s so male-focused… Love your honest review! ❤️
I think the male focus is part of its appeal to a certain audience. Mostly I really liked the book and I’ve added more useless trivia to the store in my head 😉
I love reading books like that too (I have one just about space) but guess what, I can hardly store them in my memory! ??
Someone told me years ago that trivia is highly biased towards men. Until then it wasn’t something I’d thought about but I’ve been casually taking note of questions asked in game shows, pub quizzes etc. ever since and it seems like whilst it’s totally normal to have categories on (almost exclusively men’s) sport, (massively male dominated) history, (hugely male dominated) politics etc. you’ll never see a round – or even a question – about something more female oriented like makeup (that’s my highly biased, totally unscientific take on matters anyway). So I guess that (like you said above) books like these are catering to a specific male market which is annoying because I also really enjoy them!
Good point! Trivia is of course subjective if we are assuming what men are interested in. The publishers need an audience to aim at. This book was particularly male focused but if it had been more about female focused subjects I’d probably have enjoyed it equally.