Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Things that Nobody Knows: 501 Mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything” as Want to Read:
The Things that Nobody Knows: 501 Mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Things that Nobody Knows: 501 Mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  676 ratings  ·  35 reviews
A playful and diverting, yet always scientifically rigorous look at those simple mysteries that are yet to be solved

Why are so many giraffes gay? Has human evolution stopped? Where did our alphabet come from? Can robots become self-aware? Can lobsters recognize other lobsters by sight? What goes on inside a black hole? Are cell phones bad for us? Why can't we remember anyt
Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Atlantic Books (first published 2011)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Things that Nobody Knows, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Things that Nobody Knows

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  676 ratings  ·  35 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Things that Nobody Knows: 501 Mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book 4 🌟 because I found that some topics that I read had completely gone in one ear and out of the other. I also found that some topics were just dragging on and there were no real answer to it, the topic was being talked about but not in a way that you’d think that topic was being talked about (if you know what I mean). However considering that my area of study is animals, and I have a huge interest in science based things i found those topics to be enjoyable. It filled me with joy ...more
This is a nice book which has a long list of unknowns. However, it does not delve into an of those in detail - each of the topics gets about 1/2 to 3/4 of a page. There are many mysteries I doubt any one will care about such as people's hair, colour etc. It seems that the list is pushed to get to 501. It would have been better had there been about 201 mysteries..... ...more
Rex Fuller
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is just delightful. You know how “they” always say the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know? And you have actually felt that way yourself as you lived and studied and did whatever through life. Well, to explore how abysmally, unqualifiedly, irredeemably ignorant we really are take a jaunt through this book. It’s not something you’ll labor with. You just sample it a few mysteries at a time and be thoroughly entertained.

We do NOT know:

What animal is the closest living relative
David Stewart
Aug 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science
Full of sloppy factual and scientific errors, not to be taken seriously...
Eloise Vanbrabant
Jun 06, 2020 rated it liked it
It was quite good but the beginning was a bit boring.
Daniel Stern
You can't really complain that this book doesn't give you answers when the title is "Things Nobody Knows." With that in mind, it's a fun read. I may not know why lesbian albatrosses are common but I'm glad to know that they are. ...more
Brenda Daun
This was an interesting book to read in short bursts. None of the questions had very in depth answers, but they did prompt me to want to learn more about a few different topics.
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It's fun to read about life's mysteries, it is even better when those mysteries are ridiculously mundane.

The Things That Nobody Knows is packed with these kind of mysteries and a fun and compact read because of it.

The only downside is that it feels slightly outdated already!

3 Stars, fun as a side-read
Shichan Shen
“What you don’t know would make a great book.” - Rev. Sydney Smith (1771-1845)

The book started by defining known unknowns and unknown unknowns, where acknowledgement of the latter humbles us. And if that didn’t help, the rest of the book went on to show that there are many things we don’t even know we don’t know. It is essentially a book of questions without any concrete answers.

Only a small section is dedicated to each topic, which makes it a light and pleasant read. However, I found many topi
Jan 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
As it is mentioned in the very last couple of questions, this book is definitely good as a starting point for further curiosity and discovery. It presents a diverse range of topics, and even though "like" and "dislike" are subjective conceptions, I think quite a few subjects are of little interest and didn't fit exactly well the general tone of the book.

For a book written in 2011, it needed a better research effort because several things in the human evolution chapter are outdated, even for tha
This is a book I have reread before and will likely reread in the future. There are many, many things in it I still do not understand (like all the physics stuff) but I still love this book and will definitely keep picking it up until I understand everything in it.
Fred Bloggs
Mar 11, 2018 rated it did not like it

Just spectacularly dull. I'd rather the enigma variations remained an enigma than the boring explanation given here be true. Not that I'm vaguely interested anyway. Nothing of any interest her at all
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't get into this at all. The summaries of each question were dry and short, and the writing lacked much needed character. Normally a book with random trivia in like this I would devour enthusiastically, but I couldn't make myself read it all. ...more
Zaid Sparrow
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my god i enjoyed this. And just as the author said somewhere, "It’s very irritating, whatever it is." He also made tiny jokes here and there which I really enjoyed i dont see why some people are downgrading this book by giving it a low rating. Someone said, why only give little details to these mysteries? Well dude this book is not focused on giving these details. I ended up reading all of it in one sitting.
Richard Howard
Great fun to dip in and out of but with a lot of dross. It is interesting to note that, since the book's publication, one of the unknowns - The Higgs Boson - is now a known. ...more
Bunny Cavanagh
Looks a bigger read than it is. Half the book is taken up with the gubbins in the back. also the mysteries of life are a very white male selection IMHO most of it we already knew we didn't know. ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Stil don’t know.

This book whilst giving interesting details of each and every subject ends up almost always with a blank. If your looking for answers rather than details, avoid.
Vũ Thị
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Not my type ._.
I think some of these were probably included to fill out that "501"... But the ones that were intriguing were very intriguing. ...more
Jody Nicholson
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
Don't normally finish a book knowing less than when I started! ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting topics, a nice book to chip away at here and there
Dec 07, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Amateur hour
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The things that nobody knew: 501 mysteries of life

This book is about 501 facts that nobody knew about, well maybe you knew about it but you don’t know how or why it happens/happen. But if you know everything you can just put this book down, because this book isn’t for you then. So if you are a guy or girl who likes to learn fast but hate school this book is definitely made for you, This book is especially good during summer break so you can keep your brain a little active and not kill it. This b
Nov 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This could've been like a two hour documentary entitled "What happened to the Mayans" that fades off into some unsatisfying version of "we don't know" read over flowy pan flute music...times 500. But it wasn't. There were enough backstory in each of the articles that I learned something new most of the time.

Sometimes, even the question itself provided new information. For example, where did Boudicca fight her last battle, why are 94% of giraffes gay, or why are female cats left pawed? Who? What
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was somewhat interesting. The problem you naturally run into is that it's basically a big of questions, with no answers. Some of the questions have popular theories and traditional legends added, I'm guessing for the sake of letting your imagination run wild. There are plenty of facts thrown in with each question, but it's still just a big book of unknowns. That may or may not work for you. I don't know. ...more
Dec 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were quite some interesting facts and theories in this book. I found myself reading out loud to my sister and cousin some of the ones I found particularly intriguing. There were a lot of scientific facts involved and heck of a lot of paradoxical theories that both confused and interested me. Like tidbits about the universe. The philosophy aspects were rather dull and dry, which was rather disappointing as I was looking forward to that section.
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Terri Palermo
This book seriously was the things that nobody knows...including, essentially, the author. I had great hope for this book but I found myself drifting as I sifted through a listing of things I hadn't really thought about that I didn't know...and I was left unenlightened. ...more
I found parts of the book very interesting, like the historical and literary sections, but I wound up skimming over a lot of it, like the hard science sections about quantum physics and the like. I found that very boring.
Amanda Witt
Interesting little bite sized pieces of writing about science, maths and other subjects. Some are more the unknown that were never really discovered or solved, others are putting to bed the more popular myths and establishing the truth.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself
  • Human Universe
  • 365 Things People Believe That Aren't True
  • The Science of Everyday Life: Why Teapots Dribble, Toast Burns and Light Bulbs Shine
  • 進撃の巨人 21 [Shingeki no Kyojin 21] (Attack on Titan, #21)
  • Keep Going: The Art of Perseverance
  • Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements
  • How Long is Now?: And 191 Other Questions You Never Thought to Ask
  • Mr Cables
  • The Thirteenth Man
  • Rörelsen: den andra platsen (Platserna, #2)
  • House of Spines
  • Liars & Thieves (Tommy Carmellini #1)
  • A Fatal Game
  • Mr Portobello's Morning Paper
  • The Cobra
  • Thiên Tài Bên Trái, Kẻ Điên Bên Phải
  • I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf
See similar books…
Full name: William Roland Hartston.

Related Articles

  Walter Isaacson, it’s safe to say, is not afraid of tackling the really big topics. In 2011, he wrote about our ubiquitous computer culture...
105 likes · 19 comments