30 Interesting Facts about Books

30 fun facts about books, in honour of World Book Day 2015

If you enjoy these interesting book facts, we have hundreds more in our book, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History, which is available from Michael O’Mara Books.

SF writer Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) is the only author to have published a book in nine out of the ten Dewey library categories.

When asked what book he’d like to have with him on a desert island, G. K. Chesterton replied, ‘Thomas’s Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.’

Hugh Lofting, author of Dr Doolittle, thought books should have a ‘senile’ category to complement the ‘juvenile’ section.

the-secret-library-coverDickens’s house had a secret door in the form of a fake bookcase. The fake books included titles such as ‘The Life of a Cat’ in 9 volumes.

Playwright Joe Orton went to prison in 1962 for defacing library books. One of the cartoons he drew shows an elderly tattooed man in trunks.

The first book bought on Amazon was called Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.

According to one estimate, J. R. R. Tolkien is the author of the second and third biggest-selling novels in the world.

As well as being a real species of scorpion, a ‘book scorpion’ is someone who is hostile to books or learning; the phrase is first recorded in 1649 in a work by poet Andrew Marvell.

In order to feel close to it, Joan Didion often sleeps in the same room as the book she is working on.

The smallest book in the Welsh National Library is Old King Cole. It measures 1mm x 1mm and the pages can only be turned with a needle.

The first person Ray Brad­bury asked out was a book­store clerk; they married in 1947 and were together until her death in 2003.

The Japanese word ‘tsundoku’ means ‘buying a load of books and then not getting round to reading them’. (More interesting word facts here.)

The most expensive book in the world costs (in theory) 153 million Euros and is only 13 pages long.

The word ‘shrine’ comes from the Latin scrinium meaning ‘chest for books’.

The word ‘boghandler’ is the Danish word for ‘bookseller’.

The Norwegian translation of the Mr Men book Mr Bump is called Herr Dumpidump. (More facts about children’s books here.)

Only 2% of the 1.2 million different books sold in the US in 2004 sold more than 5,000 copies.

In the sixteenth century, primers or learning books for children were known as ‘hornbooks’.

At high school, J. D. Salinger was so fond of acting that he signed the yearbook with the names of the roles he’d performed.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Treatise on the Astrolabe’ is possibly the first children’s science book written in English – he wrote it for his son. (More facts about Chaucer here.)

The earliest known written instance of the word ‘book’ is in a book by Alfred the Great.

Bibliosmia‘ is the enjoyment of the smell of old books.

Another word for a plagiarist is a ‘brain-sucker’; the word’s first recorded appearance in print (in 1781) was in reference to booksellers.

‘Incunabula’ means something in its early stages, especially any book printed before 1500; it comes from the Latin for ‘swaddling-clothes’.

Ford Madox Ford recommended that readers judge a new book, not by its first page, but by its 99th, the better to gauge the book’s quality.

In 2007, Stephen King was mistaken for a vandal when he started signing books during an unannounced visit to a bookshop in Australia. (More Stephen King facts here.)

Around £2.2 billion is spent on books in the UK each year. A fifth of this is spent on children’s books.

The most expensive printed book in the world is the 1640 Bay Psalm book from America. It sold in November 2013 for $14.2 million.

A ‘bouquinist’ is a dealer in ‘second-hand books of little value’.

The first book printed in Oxford was a study of the Apostles’ Creed. Its first page carried a misprint: it was dated 1468 rather than 1478.

If you enjoyed these book-related facts, check out our 100 great facts about famous authors and our interesting facts about reading and literacy. You might also like our brilliantly witty and wise quotes from writers about books.

Our new book, Britain by the Book: A Curious Tour of Our Literary Landscape, is out now, published by John Murray. More about the book can be found here.

50 thoughts on “30 Interesting Facts about Books”

  1. Reblogged this on Illustration and commented:
    A great list from one of my favorite blogs. All about books. Facts like this one – Only 2% of the 1.2 million different books sold in the US in 2004 sold more than 5,000 copies. – YIKES!!!

    Reply
  2. What an incredible amount of research you must have done to come up with this article! I especially like the Ford Madox Ford comment and have been opening my own books at Page 99 to see what’s so special!!!!

    Reply
  3. I loved this post so much but I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t heard of it. I found that UNESCO celebrates World Book and Copyright Day on April 23, 2015. But anyway I absolutely love this list and learned that I am tsundoku. Is that a noun or an adjective? It surely describes me.

    Reply
  4. I LOVE BOOKS!!!!!!!! you have to read the maze runner series, the hunger games series, the divergent series, the mortal instruments series, the Percy Jackson series and the heroes of Olympus series!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

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