Book facts from a QI elf
Before we hand you over Anne, can we first announce our quite exciting QI event at the Piccadilly store. On Wednesday the 25th November, John Lloyd (the show's founder) together with a selection of QI elves (Stephen Fry’s name for the shows researchers, writers and producers) will be dazzling an audience with their interestingness. Tickets are £10, which includes your very own copy of the new QI book - 1,234 Facts to Leave you Speechless.
We are a planet of book lovers: in Iceland, 1 in 10 people will publish a book, IKEA sells a bookcase every 10 seconds, and in Japan they have the word ‘Tsundoku’ to describe the phenomenon of buying books but not getting around to reading them. If this describes you, there is a perfectly logical justification as more than 20 books are published in the UK every hour. It would take 500 years to read everything published in one year and over 80,000 years to see everything in the British Library’s collection.
Inspiration for books can come from the most varied places – D. H. Lawrence liked to climb mulberry trees in the nude, Dan Brown hangs upside down to beat writer’s block and Dr Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham after making a bet with his publisher that he couldn’t write a book using just 50 different words. Seuss is thought to be the first person to use the word ‘nerd’, in 1950s If I Ran The Zoo. ‘Dinner-party’ first appeared in Jane Austen’s Emma and ‘freelance’ in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. Charlotte Brontë was the first person to use ‘cottage garden’, ‘raised eyebrow’, ‘now now’, ‘kitchen chair’ and ‘Wild West’ and Lewis Carroll combined ‘chuckle’ and ‘snort’ to create the word ‘chortle’ in ‘Jabberwocky’. Inventions in literature stretch beyond language - the man who invented the water-bed wasn’t able to patent it because it had already appeared in science-fiction novels.
There are books for every situation, no matter how serious or senior – the most-borrowed book from the Houses of Parliament library is called How Parliament Works. Similarly, the top title checked out of the Bank of England’s information centre is an A-level Economics textbook. If you ever find a book heavy going, remember the British war censors who found James Joyce’s Ulysses so difficult they were convinced it was written in code.
The joy of books, and facts about books, is their inherent ability to surprise – in the French Harry Potter books Voldemort’s middle name is Elvis – and intrigue – Joseph Conrad died leaving an unfinished novel called Suspense. On the planet of book lovers, books are rightfully celebrated for their ability to capture ideas from the imaginations of authors and transport anyone willing to open their pages. As Groucho Marx once said: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
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