14 intriguing facts about famous books

Every book has an untold secret or a great hidden story behind it. If you haven’t heard them, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Here are some secrets for book lovers…

  1. If you think that reading fine detective fiction gives you nothing in terms of practical knowledge, the story that stands behind Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse will prove you wrong. In fact, the detailed description of thallium poisoning given by the author, who herself had worked in a hospital and then a pharmacy, actually saved real lives. In 1977, a girl in a London hospital was suffering from an unknown disease that doctors were having a hard time identifying. A nurse, who happened to be a fan of detective stories, realized that the patient’s symptoms were typical for thallium poisoning, as described in The Pale Horse. Eventually, the doctors saved the girl’s life.
  2. A famous dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451is believed to derive its name from the fact that paper catches fire and burns at this temperature. The truth is paper does catch fire and burn at 451 degrees, but on the Celsius scale and not the Fahrenheit. As the author of the book explained later, the mix-up with the temperature scales was an honest mistake — a fire security specialist, who Bradbury consulted when choosing a name for his book, simply confused the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales of temperatures.
  3. The phrase ’Two plus two equals five’ is notably used in chapter seven of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is believed to have come from the Soviet Union’s idea of achieving a five-year economic boost in just four years starting from 1928. 14 intriguing facts 1
  4. Barbara Remington, an American artist, was to create a cover for the 1965 paperback edition of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The illustrator most certainly didn’t have a chance to read the book before she submitted her artworks. As a result, on the cover of the book we can see a frog, a lizard, two emus, and some sort of a tree with pink bulbs on the top. Welcome to Middle Earth!
  5. Leo Tolstoy actually developed a skeptical attitude towards his world-famous masterpiece War and Peace. In January 1871, he sent a letter to his friend Afanasy Fet, in which he wrote, ’How happy I am…that I shall never again write such verbose rubbish like War.’
  6. J.K. Rowling finished her Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone back in 1995. The literary agent who agreed to represent Rowling submitted the manuscript to twelve publishing houses. It was rejected by every one of them. A year later the book was approved by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London. Although they agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money doing what she did — writing children’s books.
  7. Victor Hugo was on vacation when his Les Misérables was published in 1862. Being curious about the reaction to his work, he sent a single-character telegram to his publisher Hurst and Blackett: a question mark — ’?’ The publisher replied with a single exclamation mark ’!’ to indicate the success the book had. It was probably the shortest correspondence in history.
  8. A fictional sea song from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island goes: Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!’ Many suppose that ’Yo-ho-ho’ stands for pirates’ laughter. However, this is not quite true. This chant was used by seamen while hauling ropes or performing other strenuous work as a team.14 intriguing facts 2
  9. Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond series, started writing what would become his first book, Casino Royale, in Jamaica. Being a keen birdwatcher himself, Fleming came across the book of the American ornithologist named James Bond. He found the name to be very brief, unromantic, and yet very masculine. In the twentieth James Bond movie, Die Another Day, the fictional Bond examines the book of James Bond entitled ’Birds of the West Indies’ in one of the scenes in Havana, Cuba. Later he meets a girl and introduces himself as an ornithologist.
  10. Mark Twain used to say that his manuscript for Tom Sawyer was the first one ever written on a typewriter. Researchers and Twain’s biographers, however, state that the first book ever fully written on a typewriter was his Life on the Mississippi.
  11. Aladdin, one of the main characters of Arabian Nights, or the One Thousand and One Nights told by Scheherazade, was actually a Chinese guy living on the streets of China.
  12. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by the American writer Edgar Allan Poe features at least one spooky coincidental scene. When a breeze turned into a violent storm, only four of the whole team managed to survive on a small raft without provisions. The men decided to draw lots to decide which of them should be sacrificed as food for the other three. The unlucky man’s name was Richard Parker. A striking coincidence between that scene in Poe’s novel and an actual event occurred in 1884, when a group of four seamen found themselves in the exact same situation as was told in the book: they ate a sailor named Richard Parker. Later, they said that they had never read the novel by Poe.
  13. Jane Austen started her now-famous Pride and Prejudice right after she turned 21. The publishers rejected her work, and the novel was left unpublished for 15 years. Only after Sense and Sensibility became a huge success in 1811 could she publish her very first literary work.
  14. Surprisingly enough, the best-selling book in Great Britain (since records began) with sales of 5.3 million copies is Fifty Shades of Grey.

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