Book Trivia

—By Arden Dore

Need a few extra-credit points in English class? Impress your teacher with your knowledge of book trivia.

The first public library in America was opened in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1698.

J. J. Audubon’s The Birds of America, published in 1840, is the most valuable book in the world. It sold for $8,802,500 in March 2000—the highest price ever paid for a book.

Charles Dickens called the sickly character in A Christmas Carol “Small Sam” and “Puny Pete” before settling on “Tiny Tim.”


The Bible
The Bible is the best-selling nonfiction book of all time. Since 1815, more than 2.5 billion copies have been sold worldwide. It has been translated into more than 2,200 languages and dialects.

The youngest female author was Dorothy Straight. She was only 4 when she wrote How the World Began, in 1964, for her grandmother. Her parents thought it was good enough to be published. They were right! The youngest male author was Dennis Vollmer who wrote Joshua Disobeys in 1987 at age 6. The book and illustrations tell the story of a baby whale who doesn’t listen to his mother’s warnings and gets in trouble. Dennis won The David Melton Memorial Written & Illustrated by…Contest for Students in the age 6–9 category. Authors in three different age categories from ages 6 to 19 can enter The David Melton Memorial Written & Illustrated by…Contest for Students. The contest began in 1985. For more information on the contest, go to www.landmarkeditions.com.

Dr. Seuss’ full name was Theodor Seuss Geisel. He loved to wear crazy hats to parties. When he was having a hard time coming up with rhymes, he would sometimes put on one of his many “thinking caps” for inspiration.

Dr. Seuss wrote his first book in 1936 while crossing the Atlantic on the luxury liner Kungsholm. The sound of the ship’s engines annoyed him, and his wife suggested that he use their rhythm to help him write a book in rhyme. The book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected by publishers 27 times before Vanguard Publishing took a chance and accepted the manuscript. The gamble paid off! Dr. Seuss went on to write 43 other books that have been enjoyed by millions of children and parents around the world.


The Poky Little Puppy
In 2000 Publishers Weekly released lists of the best-selling children’s books of all time. The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey, topped the hardcover list, and Charlotte's Web, written by E. B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams, was No. 1 on the paperback list.

A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh series, used his son as inspiration for the character Christopher Robin. His son, also named Christopher Robin, grew up hating the stories because his schoolmates teased him about his imaginary friends. When Christopher was born, Milne and his wife wanted to name him Billy. They had second thoughts because they considered Billy too informal, but they didn't like the name William. Instead, they decided to give him two first names, with each parent choosing a name.

Who do you think has sold more children’s books than any other author? J. K. Rowling? Try again! It’s R. L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps series. More than 220 million of the books have been sold since 1992, when the first book, Welcome to the Dead House, was published. It’s not surprising since Stine produces about two books every month.

J. K. Rowling has certainly set records of her own. She’s Great Britain’s richest woman in the entertainment industry. In 1999, she sold 23 million books, more than any other author ever.

Agatha Christie (1890–1976) is the world’s best-selling fiction writer. She wrote 78 crime novels that sold more than 2 billion copies.

Hillary Clinton’s memoir, Living History, sold more than 200,000 copies in its first day of publication, more than any other nonfiction title. It was published in June 2003.

Murasaki Shikibu wrote the world’s first novel, The Tale of the Genji, in around 1008.


Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
More than 25 million copies of The Diary of Anne Frank have been sold worldwide. The heart-wrenching diary that chronicled the two years Anne’s family spent in hiding in the attic of a warehouse in Amsterdam, Holland, because they were Jewish during World War II, has been translated into more than 50 languages.

William Wells Brown wrote Clotel; or, The President's Daughter, in 1853. It was the first novel by an African American author. It was published in England. The first novel written by an African American and published in the United States was Our Nig, by Harriet Wilson. She wrote it in 1859.

German Johann Gutenberg, who invented movable type in 1440, printed his first book, a Latin Bible, in 1455.

The first book printed in English, in 1475, was The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. by Englishman William Caxton.

In 1639, Stephen Daye printed Freeman's Oath and An Almanack in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the first books published in the American colonies.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, the first English-language encyclopedia, was published in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1771.

Noah Webster, often referred to as the “father of his country's language,” published the American Dictionary of the English Language, in 1828.

Paperback books first appeared in the United States around 1845. They virtually disappeared when the Copyright Act of 1891 banned the reprinting of English titles in paperback form. The books reappeared in 1936, when Allen Lane's Penguin Press, an English publishing house, started to publish them again. By about 1980, about 70% of the books published in the U.S. are paperbacks.

Source: Guinness World Records and others.


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