Tag Archives: 1339 Quite Interesting Facts to Make Your Jaw Drop

On Reading 100 Books (Actually, more like 50)

On January 21, 2014, I shared this picture on social media with the accompanying caption positing that I would attempt to read one hundred books during the year.


I’m so artsty it makes me sick.

Almost as soon as my fingers pounded out the goal, I realized that reading one hundred books was out of the question; it was already practically February.  So instead I said that reading fifty would be more likely.  I don’t have a calculator in front of me, but that’s like one every week or something.

As of writing this, I’ve read fifty-one books and am on my way toward finishing number fifty-two.

Now, I realize that this isn’t a great accomplishment by any means.  Still, I was impressed with myself for setting a goal and achieving it.  While I’ve always enjoyed reading–I do work at a public library after all–there was something almost stifling about knowing that I had to finish this goal.  In fact, almost as soon as I posted the picture, one of my friends commented that it’s better to keep the goals that you set to yourself because announcing the goals tricks your mind into thinking they have already been completed.

There were many times when I started reading a book and just couldn’t get into it, and wanted to stop.  For instance, I started reading The King in Yellow after watching True Detective over the summer, but I didn’t finish it until early December.  That’s outrageous! The book is only 256 pages.  I should have been able to knock that out in a weekend.  So I set it aside and read other books.  All the while I had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that the time I put into reading those hundred or so pages would be worthless unless I finished the book in its entirety.

So I pressed on toward my goal’s end.  I knew I had to, but it wasn’t just because I’d already put it out there on the Internet. I had to do it because if I don’t finish a book, I feel like I’m disrespecting the author.

When I first take a book in my hands, open the cover and feel the paper, crisp and dry between my fingers, I’m entering into an agreement with that author and into a relationship with that book.  For however many pages, I belong to that book and it belongs to me. When I put it down, even for a few days, I feel like we’ve abandoned each other. By not being interesting or not grabbing my attention, the book has recanted its agreement with me.

A recent study showed that putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, such as when you read fiction, improves your ability to show compassion.  Maybe that’s why I have trouble abandoning those books—because I know inside those pages, I’m someone else, maybe even someone better, if only for 300 or so pages.

Please save your psychoanalyses until the end, thankyouverymuch.

I’ve listed the fifty-one books on the next three pages, broken into three categories:  Good, Godawful and Great (because I like alliteration. If I liked assonance, I’d call them All Right, Awful and Amazing).  I briefly thought about ranking them, but then I realized that my rankings would do nothing to sway you if you’d already read a particular book and loved it and vice versa.  All I can say is that I highly recommend all the ones that I’ve put in the Great category.


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Facts Are Interesting!

Every so often a book will come through in the delivery or a new book will come in that needs processing and, even though we’re not supposed to, I judge it by its cover. One such book was 1,339 Quite Interesting Facts to Make Your Jaw Drop. From its cover, I judged that it would be an interesting book and I was right!

As the authors point out in the introduction, the most fascinating aspect of the book isn’t the facts themselves, but how the facts had an inherent desire to bond with other facts. For instance, the facts on page 177 are all about fingers and then the facts on page 178 are about thumbs. It’s done in such a way that you aren’t even aware of the connections, but the connections make sense.

While I was quite impressed with myself for knowing some of the facts (The Beatles classic “Yesterday” was originally titled “Scrambled Eggs”; George W. Bush was a college cheerleader; If a cockroach touches a person, it immediately runs away and washes itself) others did, in fact, make my jaw drop.

Here is a minuscule sampling of these facts:

Simons, Georgia, has a window shop called “A Pane in the Glass.”

There is a cult in Malaysia that worships a giant teapot.

In 1879, the Belgian city of Liège commissioned 37 cats to deliver mail to nearby villages. The project was a complete failure.

Baikal seals live in Lake Baikal, 2,500 miles from the sea. Nobody knows how they got there.

Having a younger brother or sister can increase your blood pressure by more than 5%.

Early Arabic texts refer to cannabis as “the bush of understanding” and “the shrub of emotion.”

“Alcohol” is from the Arabic al-kuhl, meaning “the essence of things.”

Covering Nebraska with wind turbines would meet half the world’s energy needs.

Spotted animals can have striped tales, but stripy animals can’t have spotty tails.

In 2010, a British man spent 121 days in a room with 40 snakes, only to be told that Guinness no longer maintains the world record he was trying to break.

In 19th-century versions of Cinderella, her sisters called her “Cinder-slut.”

Winnie-the-Pooh’s real name is Edward Bear.

“President Clinton of the USA” is an anagram of “to copulate, he finds interns.”

There are two people in the USA called Dick Pecker.

The most popular name in China is Wang: there are 93 million Wangs in China.

The oldest bridge in Paris is the Pont Neuf, or “New Bridge.”

95% of the spiders in your house have never been outside.

No one has ever seen a giraffe swimming.

There are whales alive today that were born before Moby-Dick was written in 1851.

Motdièse (or “sharp-sign word”) was coined by the French in 2013 to avoid using the English word “hashtag.

Wichita, Kansas, has a body piercing shop called “Holier than Thou.”

New York gets 15 times as much snow as the South Pole.

Abraham Lincoln created the Secret Service on the day he was shot.

The Swiss are the only Europeans who eat dog meat.

We live in a time when people are constantly duped by articles from The Onion, Empire News and The Daily Currant, so I was skeptical of some of these facts.  The book addresses this by directing readers to this site where you can research the validity of any of the facts.

I highly recommend it. I actually might have to buy a copy for myself.

Okay, one last fact for Pittsburghers:

The first-ever player drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers was named William Shakespeare.





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