Book Notes, Talking About Books

Book Notes is a monthly email newsletter written by Gerald Lively. If you would like to sign up for his newsletter, please email him at Here are interesting stories about books from the Talking About Books section of the newsletter:

Talking about Books . . .

I hate to tell you this, but Snoopy was a plagiarist. That’s right, the opening words of his never-completed novel are actually part of the opening sentence of a real book entitled Paul Clifford written by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton in 1830. The entire opening sentence is, “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” Even we non-English majors can tell that this is a serious example of a run-on sentence.

Since 1982 the folks at San Jose State University have sponsored a contest to find the person who can create the most outrageous opening sentence in various categories of fiction (such as Adventure, Children’s Literature, and Crime), and the results are absolutely priceless. You’ve got to wonder about the writers who come up with these outrageous, and outrageously funny entries. But, don’t worry about their mental health, instead, have a good laugh by reading the 2012 winning entries. And don’t miss the entries by winners from past years.

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The Word & Film website features a list of the 10 best adaptations of adventure novels over the past 20 years. You’ve probably seen the movies, but have you read the books? See the entire list.

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Are you in a book club? Do you know what other book clubs are reading? Well, you can find out by going to Book Movement a site that polls book club members to see what they are reading. Each week the site updates the list.

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Every year The American Library Association (ALA) celebrates our freedom to read books that some people have banned or challenged. This year Banned Books Week will be from September 29 to October 6.

Click on the web addresses below to learn more about banned books.

Names and details about some books that have been banned

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009

Go to Frequently Challenged Books, then click on “30 Years of Liberating Literature,” “Authors, by Year,” “Banned Classics,” and such to get more details about banned books.

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Sometimes fictional characters read real books, so Flavorwire has compiled a list of some surprising bibliophiles (including the Simpsons and Don Draper of Mad Men) and their often impressive reading lists.

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Would Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s have been as appealing if the main character had been named Connie Gustafson rather than Holly Golightly? Well, that almost happened. Also, Sherlock Holmes was almost Sherringford Holmes, and his assistant was almost Ormond Sacker. Those are a few of Mental Floss’ 17 examples of literary characters who were almost named something else. You can enjoy the entire list along with lots of additional tidbits of trivia here.

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What happens to the millions of books that don’t sell as well as hoped (even at discount prices) and to those like Imagine by Jonah Lehrer that are “pulled” because the author has been discredited? These days the paper is recycled. An interesting article in New York magazine gives a brief history about paper and the book publishing industry.

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