Stories you can use to start conversation or to add interest to speeches or presentations

Column 1

Resources for Speakers - Anecdotes About Books and Authors

Need more quotes? click here for extracts from books about Books

"so how's the book coming along?"
"I thought everyone was writing a book these days?"
"Well what would you write about if you did do one?"

Literature is mostly about having sex and very little about having children. Life is other way round

The shortest correspondence in history was between Victor Hugo and his publisher in 1862. Inquiring about sales of Les Miserables Hugo telegraphed his publishers the single-character message "?". Having sold out the first print in 24hrs, the reply was “!"

Tsundoku is a Japanese slang for buying books but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them.

Second hand bookshop charging people 50p to come in and browse (credited toward purchase)

Basic Plot(s)

Novelists sometimes insist that there are really only two possible plots in literature: somebody goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. And these, of course, are the same plot, from two different points of view

The Goldman family was given legal ownership of OJ Simpson's canceled book "If I Did It." They republished it with a new cover hiding the word "If" so the title appeared to be "I Did It."

Using Books

Bookshop pickup line "Have you seen the book Tax Tips For Millionaires?"


Books were originally shelved spine in. Before printing, they were so valuable that eac waschained to the wall, attached by spine. Reader had to bring the desk to the book. IKEA invented the BILLY bookshelf in 1979. Since then it's sold more than 50 million of them. Hackers love them - just add mouldings and library lights and transform.


Craigslist ad "1st edition of The Republic signed by its author. There is of course a reasonable amount of wear and tear, (light highlighting and underlining, dog-eared pages, back cover missing, etc.), but it is in overall good condition considering its age."

Nigel Latta said he signs all the books he buys with a message from author: Barack Obama: "To Nigel with best wishes from the Pres". He's partic fond of his copy of Macbeth.

Real Creative Writing

Creative Writing course set a contest for short story which had to include the themes of religion, royalty, sex and mystery - the winner: "My God " said the Queen "I'm pregnant. I wonder whodunnit."

Offbeat Literary Prize

igNobel Prize for Literature 2005 went to Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria for using email to distribute a series of short stories introducing characters who require just a small amount of seed money to obtain access to great riches they will then share with you

Sue Fondrie, a Wisconsin University professor, has won the Bulwer-Lytton fiction prize, a contest to celebrate bad writing, with the following opening to an imaginary novel: "Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories." The contest is held in memory of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel Paul Clifford begins: "It was a dark and stormy night."

The TLS reports on a literary prize in France that appeals to my love of eccentricities. The Prix de la Page Cent Douze will be awarded on March 30 to the best page 112 in a new book. This is based on the wonderfully arbitrary ruling that it is around page 112 that books lose their energy. The winner will get €112. Does it work in practice? Well, page 112 of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies features a newspaper diarist making up outlandish stories for the amusement of his readers. Seems unlikely.

Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award - author Jonathan Littell won award with lines such as 'I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg' clinched the award for 'The Kindly Ones'. The award was established by British writer Auberon Waugh in 1993. It is designed to draw attention to the "crude, tasteless, and often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in contemporary novels, and to discourage it."

"I spend a lot of time on my computer or playing video games," he says. "But it doesn't leave you with anything. It's not like how after 20 years of reading books, you're left with a library. Traditional experiences leave artifacts - but virtual experiences don't."


"How did I become a writer? In same way as a woman becomes a prostitute - first I did it to please myself, then I did it to please my friends, then I did it for cash."

Characters In Books

Charity auctions for people to have their names included as minor characters in novels How To be Good has fleeting appearance of a bank manager from Kent who paid $3000 for privilege

What To Write About

As a used book dealer I find all sorts of shiat used as book marks. Bills and receipts, once found four $20 bills, another time found two crisp £20 notes. I was going to start a "shiat found left in books" book until I found exactly that title on a clearance rack, unwanted.

Influence of Books

Fiction influences behaviour - seeing or reading a satisfying outcome (eg bully getting his just desserts or a nerd triumphing in romance) - research shows people who read fiction have greater faith in 'cosmic justice' A US program about overweight teens got obese girls to live healthier lives - lost more weight than those who read neutral texts

Reviews and Criticism

The novelist Tibor Fischer just cannot understand why Martin Amis got so upset over his not-so-shiny review of Yellow Dog, Amis's 2004 novel. "I didn't mention his height, or his teeth", says Fischer to The London Paper, clearly going out of his way to try to patch things up.

Umberto Eco, was a big fan of Starsky and Hutch but less keen on modern literature. Asked once if he read the novels of his contemporaries, the Italian author said: “Not so much. Since I became a novelist I have discovered that I am biased. Either I think a new novel is worse than mine and I don’t like it, or I suspect it is better than mine and I don’t like it.

The Collector

Abraham Warburg knew his own mind. At thirteen he made a deal with his twelve-year-old brother Max: if Max would promise to buy Aby all the books he wanted for the rest of his life, Aby would hand over his designated position in the family bank. Both brothers were as good as their word. Max Warburg, the illustrious banker, would later declare that "this contract was certainly the most careless of my life," and it would cost him dearly over the years. By 1914, Aby Warburg's personal library numbered 15,000 volumes, many of them manuscripts or rarities from the earliest days of printing. Max and the three younger Warburg brothers, Felix, Paul, and Fritz, continued to subsidize their eldest brother's bibliomania up to and beyond his death in 1929.

The Collector 2

As a teenager, Paul Allen was a sci-fi and rocketry nerd. He dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but that ambition was scuttled by nearsightedness. His childhood bedroom was filled with science fiction and space books. Bill Gates remembers Allen’s obsession. “Even when I first met him - he was in tenth grade and I was in eighth - he had read way more science fiction than anyone else,” says Gates. “Way more.” As Allen tells it in his memoir, he was crushed when he visited his parents as an adult and went to his old room to reference a book. He discovered that his mother had sold his collection. (The sale price: $75.) Using a blowup of an old photo of the room, Allen dispatched scouts to painstakingly re-create his boyhood library.

Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra, Portugal is one of only two libraries in the world that houses bats to protect the books against insects.

Reviews and Criticism

A book publisher is to harness an army of eager readers through the internet to sift the thousands of unsolicited manuscripts that it receives each year. HarperCollins is the latest publisher to encourage writers seeking publication to place their work on a new site, Rather than relying on a few overstretched editors, HarperCollins hopes to use keen readers and other would-be writers to spot the next J.K. Rowling by shortlisting the best submissions. It receives more than fifty a week. The publisher has promised to read the ten top-rated submissions to the site each month and is encouraging other publishers to join in supporting the site

Reading passes the time

Passengers awaiting trains in 35 stations in France now find kiosks dispensing short stories to pass the time. A wide range of selections (even poetry!), in suggested reading-time lengths of one, three, and five minutes' length, can be printed out for free.

Hard Books

Few books are as remote and inaccessible as Being and Nothingness, in which Jean-Paul Sartre set out his 'existentialist' philosophy. But in the 1948 first edition the printer accidentally left out 30 pages, making the already difficult book utterly incomprehensible. But, after selling 8000 copies, the publisher received only two letters of complaint from disappointed readers. Obviously some books are bought just to grace bookshelves, not to be read.


There's been an explosion in Online dictionaries run by amateur lexicographers. In the past, print dictionaries quite strict on what words they let in, and how established they have to be in the language. For example, the Double-Tongued Dictionary where you'll find such newly-minted words as 'bullshot' (an image from a computer game that's been enhanced to make game look better) and 'henchgoon' ( an assistant for unpleasant duties)

Biographical Plans

In July, Leroy Mcafee, 55, was charged in Austin, Tex., with molesting an 11-year-old girl but confessed to police that he had molested two others, as well. However, he refused to describe those incidents because he wanted to save that information for his autobiography


is the fastest growing segment of book market. lets anyone publish for free. You upload your manuscript to site where anyone can look at it. If someone likes it, a single copy is printed, bound and delivered. Lulu takes 20% sell price, author gets 80%. Places such as Starbucks are trialling big print machines connected to Internet that can download and publish any book in minutes


Also 'blooks' - books which developed out of blogs. Writing 100,000 word book can be daunting, but not so hard to churn out 500 words on a blog each day. And you don't even have to do all the work: one book started out as Crap Towns - The 50 Worst Places to Live in UK purely on readers' nominations. And helps publishers, who tend to be conservative about going in new direction - blogs help them test the water


The economics of publishing are diabolical - all costs are upfront: author's advance, printing, distribution, marketing, and rewards are long way down the track. Power now in hands of bookshops - like supermarkets they are basically renting shelf space to publishers (with higher prices for window or display space)


Instead of sending in unsolicited manuscripts, publishers are now encouraging tyro authors to upload work to sites like where anyone can read them and rate - publishers undertake to read top-10 rated books each month

Book titles

Submerged Cathedrals Leaning Towards Infinity Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures (actually story about recent UN peacekeeping missions)
How To Succeed In Business Without A Penis
Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls (including a fortune teller who reads penises instead of palms)
The Voodoo Revenge Book
and Concrete For Breakfast (history of Speedway in England)

Book titles

One book on early child-rearing called Slow To Warm collected 13 rejection slips, but was instantly snapped up when re-titled Mommies Who Drink

Book titles

A blog written by a mother who got pregnant after a one night stand was called Storked! and later turned into a book called Rattled!

Book titles

You can't copyright titles, so 1976 The Saucier's Apprentice, a guide to classic sauces, and 2006 book, same title, about cooking schools in Europe. Author of first book says he hopes other publisher will promote the hell out of it and people will buy his book by mistake

Book titles

As well as a catchy title, you need an arresting first line. Ron Morrison's The Scarecrow is widely rated as having one of the better ones: "The same week our chooks were stolen, Daphne Moran had her throat cut."

Short books

Mobile phone text novels an unexpected hit in Japan - half of last year's top ten novels composed on phones. Usually a succession of clipped lines and emoticons, lacking character or scene development


Mad, first published in 1952, says that the average age of its readership is 26, a statistic that Mr. Ficarra explains this way: "Median age is 19. Mental age is 9. Mental age of the editorial staff dips down a little lower, around 3."

Book titles

Capping Mag - filth, but a very high quality filth

Writing a Book

No Plot? No Problem - a book describing an annual writing project where participants commit to writing a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in one month. (Only about 20% of starters actually finish) One guy wrote 12,000 words and then got stuck - couldn't figure out what the characters were going to do, and then got submerged by work commitments. Then, 3 days before end of month deadline, suddenly got new inspiration, dived into it again, wrote 38,000 words in 3 days, finishing with 15 minutes to spare. Thing is, he's done exactly the same thing for last 5 years

The Genres

Art of Romance Writing formula: heroine starts with a problem which she is about to solve when an obstacle, in form of hero, interrupts - the goals of 2 on collision course, complicated by their attraction to each other

Science fiction gets short shrift as "real" literature because mainstream fiction critics look at stories as resting somewhere on a spectrum: focusing either on characterization (which is laudable) or on plot (which is common and simple - and which is what most genre fiction does). He said there was a third coordinate to consider, which was setting, and that that was actually where SF shone.

So, what exactly is Erotic Fiction? I suppose the most reliable definition is a magazine or book that you can read only with one hand.

There is always something new to learn in life. The Joy of Sex was re-released and included this advice: "A man's big toe can be used surreptitiously in a restaurant to keep his partner in almost continuous orgasm with all four hands fully in view on the table and no sign of contact. (Several other interesting ideas including gourmet sex and pubic hair topiary)

Modern vernacular is repulsively brutal. The Australian erotic lexicon is a meaty smorgasbord of playing hide the sausage, with the luncheon truncheon, meat injecting, chucking the spam javelin, spearing the bearded clam, or getting stabbed with the beef bayonet - not exactly a Shakespearean love sonnet.

(Women writing about sex) I know this because the new owner of the relaunched Erotic Review, Kate Copstick, is loath to allow too many female authors to slip between her covers. In the press last weekend and on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme with me this week she stated that women seldom write well about sex because females "have an agenda, they complicate sex, they make layers, it's conditional. And they lie as well."

Dale Carnegie wrote How To Win Friends And Influence People in 1937. There are now over 6000 books in print that start with "How To ...." including How To Fake Fitness and How To Do Your Own Urinalysis. One outstanding example is How To Get What You Want and Want What You Get by John Grey, who should know - he's a twice married ex-monk

Genre of self-help bookshas been around since the early Greeks. Great self-help writers were still dispensing advice down to the early 19th century. Consider that matter of pithy and useful phrases, Arthur Schopenhauer, author of The Wisdom of Life, who advised in 1823: A man must swallow a toad every morning to be sure of not meeting with anything more disgusting in the day ahead.

Chick Lit - sub genres: cheque lit (spending husband's money on bling), choc lit (worrying about food intake), and chuck lit (abuse drink and substances but come thru)

And if Chick Lit is about women enlarging their lives, Dick Lit is about men making a mess of theirs

Frank A'Court Angela's Ashes sparked a whole new genre - other peoples' horrible lives

New genre of Quit Lit - alcoholics and druggies writing about their addiction/rehab. One early effort by late Jeffrey Bernard in Spectator magazine, described as 'suicide note in weekly instalments'

A genre of 'weird history' (and here we mean weird as in bogus) started by Erik von Danikens Chariots of the Gods and today's Da Vinci Code. Possibly an obvious consequence of post-modernist idea that "all stories are of equal value".

This month (Dec 2010) Jamie Oliver became only the second writer, after J. K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author, to sell more than £100 million worth of books in the UK. The Sunday Times Rich List rates the chef as possessing a personal fortune worth £65 million, making him the 967th richest person in Britain.

Cookbook fight going on - Chase Lupine wrote book The Sneaky Chef that suggests ways to hide fruit and veges in meals for finicky eaters. She is suing Jerry Seinfeld's wife for copyright infringement in her similar book Deceptively Delicious

Biographies memoires are when you put down the good things you should have done and leave out the bad things you did do These days every great man has his disciple, but it's always Judas who writes the biography. (Oscar Wilde)

Russian lit. "You need genealogy charts to just figure out the characters, every novel is a thousand pages and pretty much everyone dies."

Slash Fiction- fans take characters out of books such as Harry Potter and imagine them in other settings and circumstances, particularly erotic ones - genres such as gay slash, with Harry/Draco. Started with Star Trek, where fans wanted a romantic partner for Capt Kirk, and in absence of a suitable female, put him with Spock. This pre-dated the Internet, so circulated in photocopied fanzines

Contributors Write It For You: The book "Love, Mom" originated in a charming website called PostcardsFromYoMomma, started by Doree Shafrir and Jessica Grose after joking about their own maternal correspondence. What began as an experiment -- asking friends to send in their own forehead-slapping letters from home -- quickly ballooned. "There was no way we could've anticipated the absolute deluge of emails we started to get as soon as the site went up," Shafrir and Grose write in the introduction to "Love, Mom." Go figure: When it comes to mothers, people like to vent. But more than mere mockery, the letters are a tribute to the adorable and exasperating quirkiness that make moms, well, moms. As one classic exchange on the Postcards website puts it, "You were welcome to stay in my uterus for nine months, and then my house for 17 years. But I understand, a week at your apartment might be a bit... much."

A guy compiled a book of all the 'dumb' questions kids ask, then got real experts to answer them, as opposed to the made-up ones that parents concoct to shut kids up. His father had told him that the reason heard road noise while driving in the car was because all the people who lived beside the road had their vacuum cleaners on. "Then, when I was 22 yo, I realised I'd been duped!"

Parody In 2001, the United States Court of Appeals upheld the right of Alice Randall (American author) to publish a parody of 'Gone with the Wind' called 'The Wind Done Gone', which told the same story from the point of view of Scarlett O'Hara's (Fictional character) slaves, who were glad to be rid of her.

Emerging Fake Lit genre: people's make-believe lives

A heartwarming Holocaust memoir that is to become a big-budget film has been exposed as a hoax by a Jewish survivor in Britain only weeks before it was due to be published. Herman Rosenblat's Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love that Survived, tells how he met his future wife as a girl when she threw apples to him over the barbed wire fence of the concentration camp where he was held. Mr Rosenblat, 79, a retired television repairman living in Miami, said that he met his future wife while he was a teenage boy in Schlieben, a sub-division of the Buchenwald concentration camp.The nine-year-old girl, he said, tossed him an apple. The two met again by chance when Mr Rosenblat agreed to a blind date with a Polish immigrant named Roma Radzicki in Coney Island in 1957, and recognised her. They married soon afterwards. Holocaust scholars doubted the story, and it was exposed by the New Republic magazine (which pointed out that only place she cd have stood to throw apples was right beside the SS barracks). Ben Helfgott, a former Schlieben inmate, told the magazine that Mr Rosenblat's story was simply an invention. Mr Rosenblat joins the swelling ranks of discredited memorists. “I wanted to bring happiness to people, he said. I brought hope to a lot of people. My motivation was to make good in this world.

The Authors

The world's first known author is widely considered to be Enheduanna, a woman who lived in the 23rd century BCE in ancient Mesopotamia (approximately 2285-2250 BCE). Enheduanna is a remarkable figure: an ancient 'triple threat', she was a princess and a priestess as well as a writer and poet.

Superman: David Alroy was the first superhero, Cohen writes of a false messiah known as King of the Jews in 12th-century Persia. He offered a picture of strength to a people lousy with weakness. Cohen regards Alroy as a model for the figure created in 1938 - another dark age for the Jews - by two Jewish teenagers from Cleveland. Superman is a writer; Superman is brainy in his glasses; Superman is in exile from an ancient nation destroyed by fire; Superman has two names, a fake WASP-y name (Clark Kent) and a secret name in an ancient tongue, Kal-El; . . . Superman, whose cape is a tallis; Superman, whose logo, the S emblazoned on his chest, marks him as a freakish stranger as the yellow Star of David marks the ghetto Jew.


Isaac Asimov is the only author to have a book in every Dewey-decimal category.

WH Auden

WH Auden was extremely sensitive to cold. He had to have very heavy bed clothes to sleep - if conventional bedclothes not heavy enough he'd improvise - in one place he took down the bedroom curtains and put them on the bed; in another he used the stair carpet; and once he was found sleeping under (amongst other things) a large framed painting

Paul Bailey

gave a reading from his novel Chapman's Odyssey in Hastings on Wednesday. It featured a rather descriptive passage about fellatio and, since the event was funded by the Arts Council, they were obliged to provide a sign language version, which had the audience in a fit of giggles. "I have now seen and simultaneously heard the best description of an aggressive blow job in the history of literature and sign language," a witness said. "A masterpiece." I'm delighted that our taxes are being so well spent on titillating the smutty Sussex literati.


The French novelist Balzac a keen lover, but only up to point of ejaculation. He was convinced that sperm was pure cerebral substance, and so would sacrifice something artistic. One day he 'slipped' and arrived at friend's house to announce "this morning I lost a novel."

Enid Blyton

The Malory Towers series has to be up there with the very best boarding-school books. And we can't overlook the wonders of The Famous Five and The Faraway Tree. But Enid Blyton herself was a very unpleasant individual. Her daughter Imogen said: "The truth is, Enid Blyton was ­arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind and without a trace of maternal instinct. As a child, I viewed her as a rather strict authority. As an adult, I did not hate her. I pitied her."

Truman Capote

The pint-sized author was vain, greedy, self-pitying, acid-tongued and an incorrigible gossip. He was also treacherous to know, betraying the secrets of his high-society friends in a notorious article La Côte Basque 1965, published in Esquire magazine in November 1975. Still, his nonfiction novel In Cold Blood is a triumph, a new way of writing about crime.

Barbara Cartland

When she was 77 her publisher asked her to increase her output, so she got up to a novel a fortnight. When she died, aged 98, she left 160 unpublished books. Simple formula - basically the Cinderella story set in Regency England, but with a different journey each time

Robert Cialdini

In 1984 Robert Cialdini wrote a book called Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion. Influence has sold two million copies, including one to the billionaire Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway group. Munger was so impressed that he sent Cialdini a share in the company that is now worth more than $200,000 - that's the share, one share; the company is worth $336 billion.

Peter Benchley

Before he wrote 'Jaws,' Peter Benchley was a speechwriter for Lyndon Johnson.

Michael Crichton

the screenwriter of Jurassic Park, had a novel (Disclosure) and a television show (ER) reach U.S. number one at the same time the film did in 1994. He is the only person to achieve these hits simultaneously.

Neil Gaiman

tells us he "will eventually grow up and get a real job. Until then, he will keep making things up and writing them down."

William Gibson

One of the great pleasures of Gibson's fiction - though he is canny enough to include periodic expository info-dumps to help the confused catch up - is that sense of not being spoon-fed: his futures convince because the reader arrives in them as a tourist and learns their languages by immersion. It makes them both plausible and pleasurably strange. The reader's work is hard at first but richly satisfying.

Graham Greene

Graham Greene used to look up a Greene in the phone book then ring him up and abuse him for his immorality. The guy could only weekly say he wasn't thatMr Greene.

DH Laurence

When DH Laurence died his lover Frieda had his ashes mixed with cement and made in to mantlepiece

Nprman Mailer

Norman Mailer's publishers forced him to drop the then unprintable word from The Naked and The Dead in 1948, replacing it with 'fug' When Dorothy Parker met him she said So yr the young man who can't spell fuck

Spike Milligan

Spike Milligan was a great fan of the novelist Evelyn Waugh, but who probably didn't think much of him. Spike once met him on the street and asked for his autograph. Waugh scribbled on a piece of paper provided; Milligan thanked him, but when he got home he saw what Waugh had written: "Go away"

Jodi Picoult

advertises her multiple talents as "author/mom/Wonder Woman/Queen of the North"

Edgar Allan Poe

was expelled from West Point mil academy for taking literally an instruct to parade in "white belt, white gloves and rifle" He wore nothing else

JK Rowling

JK Rowling richest author ever - £1 billion and counting. She earns about £230 a minute, but this pales when compare with Bill Gates, who's fortune increases by about $10,000 a minute

Just a year ago, J. K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter books) was wealthier than the Queen of England, and she was the first person to become a billionaire solely through writing.

Chinese produced a fake Harry Potter book 'HP and the Leopard Walk Up To Dragon' - turned out to be The Hobbit with all Tolkien's characters cut-and-paste subbed with JKR's

Harold Robbins

Harold Robbins sold more books than JKR - The Carpetbaggers is 4th most read book in history "Am I a literary man? Hell no, I'm a storyteller"

Biography of Harold Robbins criticised him for apparently making up most of his life story, indulging in a lot of extra-marital sex and 'frittering away' about $50m in second half of his life, dying in debt. (And guys around the world are going "So....?)

Jacqueline Susan always competing with HR - once she found out he was checking into a Hollywood hotel so she went to poolside and gave everyone free copy of Valley of the Dolls so that when he went for a swim all he could see were people reading her book

Salman Rushdie

(self-bio) "In the immortal words of Popeye the Sailor Man: I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam."

Dorothy L. Sayers

came up with her most famous character, the aristocratic amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, in the bath, a few blocks from the bookshop - in her rooms in 44 Mecklenburgh Square. Sayers's knack for characterisation and setting breathed new life into the stale formula of the 1920s detective story; her books have never gone out of print. She worked in an advertising agency, inventing the Guinness Toucan and the slogan 'Guinness Is Good For You'; she considered her own most lasting achievement to be her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy into rhyming terza rima. She died, in entirely unsuspicious circumstances, in 1957.

George Bernard Shaw

GBS was a 'passionless philanderer' married equally frigid Charlotte who's major attraction was inheritance of £4000 pa and a determination never to consummate the marriage - they lasted 45 years

Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited is full of beautiful prose and captures perfectly the sense of lost innocence and nostalgia that comes with young adulthood. But Waugh himself was a dreadful snob, so much so that as a teenager he refused to post letters from the NW11 postcode where his family lived, and instead walked to Hampstead to post them from NW3. He alienated everyone, from strangers to friends.

HG Wells

Wells was a master of dystopian fiction, but a new biography reveals just how odious a man he was. He was racist to the point of promoting genocide, and also treated women terribly. For some reason, they found him irresistible: one woman said his body "smelt deliciously of honey"

H.G.Wells published many non-fiction books, but his most ambitious set of predictions were set out in The Shape of Things to Come. The book, published in 1933, predicted that a second world war would begin in the 1940s, and that it would be characterised by a much greater use of aerial combat, devastating the world's major cities. These predictions were largely accurate. However, Wells went on to say that a second world war would only be ended by a worldwide disease epidemic. After that, he expected a benign dictatorship to rule the world and foster scientific thinking, and eliminate all religion, until a global utopia was established. Only time will tell if he got this bit right.

One of the most prolific writer ever (of books published) was Charles Hamilton, most famous for creating comic book character Billy Bunter. He used 28 pseudonyms and is reckoned to have written 75m words in his lifetime

Another candidate for the most prolific writer ever is the Brazilian author Jose Carlos Ryoki de Alpoim Inoue, who between 1986 and 1996 had a whopping 1,058 novels published.

The world's most prolific 'author' Philip M Parker. He has 85,000 books listed on Amazon, although he says he has over 200,000 titles. Books such as The 2007-2012 Outlook for Bathroom Toilet Brushes in the US. It is 677 pages long and retails at $495. (A later edition, covering the years 2009-2014, sells for $795.) How can he do this? He has invented a machine to write books. It takes him about 20 minutes to write each book. First he feeds in a recipe for writing a particular genre. Then you hook up to a big database of info on that subject. The computer then parses the facts into book format. Nothing but the title actually exists until someone places an order, typically through an online seller such as Amazon. The computer then assembles the content and prints a single copy.

The science-fiction writer John Scalzi is philosophical about his one-star Amazon reviews, posting them on his blog. Wretched crap, says one. Other verdicts include Very slow, very boring and emotional tripe without clear context. Scalzi explains: I am not under the impression that, alone among all writers who have ever existed, I will be the one whose work is universally acclaimed. Optimistically, he challenges other writers to follow his example.

Despite Douglas Adams dying 2001, fans of HG2U still attend Hitchcon, a conference for Adams fans. "There were 1,000 fans there, all in dressing gowns."

EL JAMES, the creator of the Fifty Shades trilogy of erotic novels, has deposed Jackie Collins as queen of the 'bonkbuster' after amassing a fortune of £75m (2015 LT Rich List).

Bill Bryson (thank you for coming) "It wasn't all that long ago that I did a bookstore reading to an audience of five people in Stratton, Pennsylvania. They only put out six chairs, so it was a good turnout. Of the five people, one was the manager of the bookstore so he didn't really count; two others were friends of my parents who had retired to Pennsylvania and just wanted to know how my mom was; the fourth guy was someone also named Bill Bryson who had driven a great distance from West Virginia so we could stand there and look at his driver's licence with the same name; and the fifth person was his wife who didn't seem to want to spend the evening with anybody named Bill Bryson."

Best selling suspense writer Robert Ludlum died this week. Or did he ....?

Ernest Hemingway SS "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn."

Fay Weldon reckoned you could basically use any personal details you liked about men you knew, if you said they were good in bed; and about women you knew if you said they were beautiful. They'd forgive anything.

A Fark thread when Ray Bradbury died someone talked about meeting him at a book signing. One of his mates brought along a copy of Cliff's Notes for Fahrenheit 451 - RB did a double take, cracked up laughing, and signed it.

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Rosenbaum. She took her Christian name from her favourite Finnish author and her last name from her typewriter, a Remington Rand.

When famed reclusive author Thomas Pynchon appeared as himself on The Simpsons, he refused to speak one of the lines in which he was supposed to call Homer a "fat a*s," arguing he couldn't possibly say anything bad about his "role model".

In 2003 6 monkeys were funded by the Arts Council of England to see how long it would take them to produce the works of Shakespeare. After 6 months they had failed to produce a single word of English, broke the computer and pissed all over the keyboard.

Second most popular book in world (after Bible) is Mao's Little Red Book

Saddam Hussein's early mentor wrote book called "God's three creation mistakes: Persians, Jews and flies"

Mark Twain and Books

Mark Twain was asked why he kept all his books in piles on the floor "Because no-one will lend you bookshelves"

James Joyce's Dubliners was rejected 22 times. Even after it got published it didn't do too well: only 379 copies sold the first year it was available, and Joyce bought 120 of those himself.

Janet Frame changed her name by deed poll to Janet Clutha - one of few examples of someone writing under her own name but living under an assumed one

Death of Authors

C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley both died on November 22, 1963 -- the same day President Kennedy was killed.

Books Best Sellers

Australian top seller Blue Day Book - guy revelled in his wealth "I enjoyed these offensively superficial moments"


Bookcrossing - release book into wild after noting details and getting unique number off website - little notice inside asking finder to read it, post details on website as to where found and where they release

Writing Books

NZ cut-and-paste bk on solo mums (Winz Angels) - "I moved, in some people's eyes, from being a benefit-bludging solo mum to, as others put it, an irresponsible working mother"


HappinessTM book set in publishers - the editors had a slushpile of the most bizarre writing (usually found on the first page because that was as far as they usually read eg "Her jet blond hair" "She bit her lower lip while she licked her top lip .."

Books In The Digital Age

There were many at BookExpo who see this state of affairs as an opportunity, a charge to reinvent the book -- and publishing -- for a new century. Using print-on-demand technology, PublicAffairs -- a division of Perseus -- edited and published a 134-page paperback in 48 hours. Called "Book: The Sequel," it featured hundreds of first lines for prospective sequels to classics such as "Gone With the Wind" and "The Catcher in the Rye." Work began at 4 p.m. Thursday; finished books were distributed Saturday afternoon. "It is not often that someone comes along who is friendly and tasty. Wilbur was both," wrote Liz Frame, identifying one possible future for E.B. White's iconic pig. Lauren Gilbert imagined "Facebook of Common Prayer," a sequel to the "Book of Common Prayer." Its first line? "You have a friend request from God. Confirm as Friend or Ignore?"

Dr Seuss Books

Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham to win a $50 dollar bet. All Dr. Seuss had to do was write a book using only 50 different words

Ernest Vincent Wright wrote a novel, "Gadsby", which contains over 50,000 words -- none of them with the letter E.

Books About Children

Diane Levy in her book "They look so lovely when they're asleep" described the 2 Reading Rooms they had in their home - one for Adults Only and one for General and Childrens' Reading - anyone entering the rooms could instantly tell what books the family were reading bc the books were there, open, waiting for the reader to return - room also has a comfortable porcelain seat.


Advocates complained in April that Sweden's national library, acting on a standing order to archive copies of all domestic publications, has been gathering books and magazines of child pornography from the years 1971-1980 when it was legal, and, as libraries do, lending them out.

NY developers adding libraries to apartment bldgs. Usually just repurpose an underused basement, but renters love them as an extra living room for people with small apartments. Book collection actually grows as residents cull their own shelves.

Amazon Book Reviews

Amazon banning anonymous reviews - system too easy to manipulate - author and friends rave reviews of own books; slag off everyone else's

Big Book Readers

You think you read a lot? Harriet Klauser, Amazon's top reviewer, reads 2 books a day and has reviewed over 21,000. She's well known to publishers, who send her 50 books a week

Books You Should Read

If you've ever worried abt getting thru all the books you 'should'/mean to read, Gabriel Zaid in So Many Books reckons it wd take 15 years of continuous reading just to get thru a list of all the books ever published

Books and Titles

Book titles - Submerged Cathedrals .... Leaning Towards Infinity .... Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures (actually story about recent UN peacekeeping missions) .... How To Succeed In Business Without A Penis .... Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls (including a fortune teller who reads penises instead of palms)

John Cleese and Michael Palin

Pythons autobiography Michael Palin quote: John Cleese said he'd do anything for money so I offered him a pound to shut up and he took it

A Library By The Yard

Bridget Saunders devastating put-down blonde bimbo proudly informed her that library had been put together by a professional buyer BS thought this was pretty sad and also sad that blonde's friends hadn't told her that it was sad - but perhaps she'd got them from the same warehouse.

Book Thieves

Stephen Blomberg, the world's greatest book thief. Over a 20 year period he stole more than 30000 rare books and manuscripts from 300 libraries across America. Not for monetary gain - didn't sell any of them. He stored them in a 17 room house in Iowa. Read continually day and night, taking cat naps - everyone who met him was astonished at the breadth of his knowledge. Jailed for thefts, the prison library suddenly started missing books.

Disraeli had a standard reply to all those who sent him unsolicited manuscripts for him to read "Thank you for the manuscript. I shall lose no time in reading it."

Translating Old Books

(Recaptcha) The system has an unusual twist that provides an added benefit to projects that are digitizing books and papers in archives: the source of the wiggly images that people must decipher is not random. The images are drawn from books and other media that are being digitized in mass projects, but that machines haven't been able to read because, for instance, the page is wrinkled. Automatic character recognition lets people who are having the work scanned know which words it cannot read. These are the words that recaptcha farms out and, once they are interpreted, returns to the original document. In this way, word by word, most of the mystery words are deciphered, in this case by humans. "We are digitizing about 25 million words per day by having people type in captchas"

Publish and be Damned

Duke of Wellington - "Publish and be Damned" in response to well-known Br courtesan Harriette Wilson (1786 - 1846) who ran out of money and decided to write her memoires. The enterprise was widely publicized and several former 'friends' were able to buy their way out of the narrative. But the Duke, on being offered the chance, said "Publish and be damned" and she did, and it sold 30 editions in the first year


Billions of blue blistering barnacles, isn't it staring us in the face? Sometimes a thing's so obvious it's hard to see where the debate could start. What debate can there be when the evidence is so overwhelmingly one-way? A callow, androgynous blonde-quiffed youth in funny trousers and a scarf moving into the country mansion of his best friend, a middle-aged sailor? A sweet-faced lad devoted to a fluffy white toy terrier, whose other closest pals are an inseparable couple of detectives in bowler hats, and whose only serious female friend is an opera diva.... . . And you're telling me Tintin isn't gay?

Snowy: The only unambiguously heterosexual male mammal in Tintin's entire universe. We know that because of Snowy's tendency to be distracted by lady dogs: a tendency in which he is consistently foiled by his master and by Herge's plot. Pity this dog, wretchedly straight and trapped in a ghastly web of gay human males.


Perhaps the most controversial upstart, however, is a 'mom-and-pop' news site in Pasadena, California, called PasadenaNow. James Macpherson, the site's founder, has outraged journalistic purists by 'offshoring' stories to news writers in India, who are paid $7.50 (£5) for 1,000 words. Mr Macpherson admits that he does not know where half of his six Indian news writers live; he sends them raw material such as press releases, web video or transcribed interviews, which they turn into news stories. "I have reinvigorated the way in the 1920s and 1930s legmen worked with a rewrite desk, with a technological bent. The rewrite man in this case might be in Bangalore," he said. "The technology today allows us to cover Pasadena and send it to writers in India, the way the conflict in Afghanistan is covered and the drones are controlled from Nevada."

Lighter Conversation Starters Chat Talking About Books

The Spice Girls have written a story of their lives - in cartoon form, for obvious reasons

Salmon Rushdie's new book "Hey Buddha you big fat prick"

I'm writing a book - I've got the page numbers done

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend - in side of a dog it's too dark to read

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