One of the most common conversations I remember from sitting in high school classrooms is the “Why should I remember this?”-debate.
“Why should I memorize where carbon is in the periodic table of elements, if I can just look it up any second on my phone?”
“Why should I remember when the Vietnam War started, if it’s on Wikipedia?”
“Why should I…”
It’s true that memorizing facts simply for the sake of memorizing facts has become useless.
Except for the one case where it hasn’t:
Yes, you can look up the heat coefficient of water when you’re at work, or what the hell your colleagues are talking about when they say Amazon Go all the time.
But you can’t google your way to learning that Marie Curie was the only person to ever win Nobel prizes in two different areas of science when you’re at a dinner party, talking to a woman who happens to have a PhD in chemistry.
You either know it before you enter the room, or you don’t.
Reading books is good. It makes you smarter. But combine being smart with being interesting, and you can tell future hosts to leave the lights off, because you’ll be the one lighting up the room (bad pun face 🤓).
You know how you can easily add being interesting to being smart when you read books?
If I meet you at a party and we strike up a conversation about Inkheart, because we both loved the book — that’s good.
But if I’m the guy who then tells you something about the book you didn’t know yet (because you can’t find it in the book) — that’ll leave a mark.
The fact sticks in your brain — and so do I. Just like I hope the following 7 weird facts about world-wide bestsellers will, to get you started on the right foot towards becoming more interesting.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
The way the 7 Harry Potter books have unfolded, you’d think J. K. Rowling had this all figured out from the get-go, but nope. She changed her mind about the title — twice. Until 12 days before it was published, the already publicized working title was “Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament.” Go figure.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Someone might have left a bigger legacy than they thought here. The main character in Stieg Larsson’s (who’s Swedish, just like Lindgren) 3-book series of Millennium novels is based on what he believed to be an adult version of Pippi Longstocking. The series has sold 80 million copies — just as many as the Pippi Longstocking books. Eerie!
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
An airplane pilot stranded in the desert, who meets a little guy from outer space. The stuff of 140 million copies sold? Apparently so. The impression it has had on some of its readers must be quite expensive, considering this story: Even though the name of the asteroid the prince claims to be from, B-612, was entirely made up, a real asteroid was named in honor of the book — 46610 Bésixdouze. 46610 means B-612 in hexadecimal notation and Bésixdouze is a French way of pronouncing “B six twelve.”
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Come on. It’s a book full of riddles. It’d be weird if there wasn’t at least one myth surrounding this book. However, this one’s definitely true and it’s quite fun: When sued for plagiarism by another author, the judge leading the case (and voting in Brown’s favor), added his own little Da Vinci code at the beginning of the 71-page judgment ruling, saying he’d confirm if someone (correctly) cracked the code.
This happened some time later, when a lawyer and writer for The Guardian approached the judge, received a few hints and then successfully deciphered the hidden message.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Ha, there he is! Charles Dickens made the list after all. Sorry for the most translated living author thing, I guess. This book is the reason you say “Merry Christmas” today. The greeting with the word “merry” meaning jolly, happy or jovial, is dismissed by Ebenezer Scrooge at first, but eventually becomes his phrase of choice after his transformation. The book was instantly popular and Christmas was just establishing as an annual tradition again, so the phrase stuck — until today.
Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
You already know why you say “Merry Christmas” now, might as well find out where the whole “detectives-use-magnifying-glasses” spiel comes from. When I ask you: “What are the tools of a detective?” you’re likely to mention a magnifying glass as one of the first few items that come to mind. That’s this book’s fault. A Study in Scarlet was the first work of fiction to mention a magnifying glass being used as an investigative tool (even though Watson didn’t understand it at the time he noted Holmes using it) — a symbol that’s become a detective trademark and has been ever since.
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
If you’ve seen any of the many movie adaptations of this book, you’ll likely imagine the companions traveling in a hot air balloon. However, this isn’t part of the book. The idea is brought up, but dismissed by the characters as being too dangerous. Yet, many book covers and movie posters today show a hot air balloon, and it’s one of the few things most people know about the story, though technically wrong (and only owed to the fact that a 1956 movie went rogue and ran with this idea).
What you’ll do with these is up to you. Impress your friends, get a beautiful girl or guy to remember you, or surprise your boss tomorrow at work.
If you want more, there’s 20 more of these right here. Or…
365 Books To Learn More Facts From?!
…you just browse through the vast selection of book summaries on Four Minute Books, where I wrote 365 book summaries in 2016. 📚 🎉