Author Archives: Alexander Atkins

Things That Annoy Book Lovers

alex atkins bookshelf booksDedicated book lovers have a profound respect for books. On one level, they appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship that has gone into producing a beautifully designed book. In this respect, it is no different than any piece of art. It can be seen and held. On another level, it represents an intellectual or fantastic journey; the book is a portal to a realm of new ideas and inspires wonder, reflection, and even the opportunity for transformation or a personal awakening. A true bibliophile considers himself or herself a steward of knowledge or great stories that must be preserved for a future generation. Like an overprotective parent, the bibliophile attempts to guard his or her children, as it were, from the dangers of the world, the barbarians who cannot see the value of a book beyond a commodity composed of ink, paper, and glue. Every book lover has witnessed individuals who do not handle books properly — evoking annoyance, or in some cases, horror. So what are some of the things that people do that really annoy booklovers? Here is a list of some book lover pet peeves:

Licking a finger to turn the page of a book.

Crack the spine of a book as soon as they get it so that “it will be easier to read.”

Writing one’s name on the text block (or fore edges) of a book.

Throwing away the dust jacket of a book because it is regarded as nonessential or the belief that “it’s going to get damaged anyway.”

Eating while reading a book, oblivious to the crumbs and spills that end up in the pages of the book.

Using a book as a doorstop.

Tearing a page out of a book because it is needed for easy reference.

Purchasing random books (known as purchasing books by the feet) to decorate a room.

Handling a book with dirty hands.

Using regular tape to mend a torn dust jacket. (Purists know that you should only use a product like Filmoplast).

Using a book as a coaster.

Highlighting a book with markers — especially when passages are highlighted indiscriminately.

Writing long gift inscriptions on the end papers or flyleafs, especially if pen uses ink that soaks bleeds through the paper.

Borrowing a book and losing it — or worse returning it completely dirty, with the insufficient excuse “Oh yeah, I spilled my lunch on the book one day, but I wiped it off for you.”

Clipping the price off the dust jacket.

Reading a book on the toilet.

Using a book to level a piece of furniture.

Writing notes in the margins.

Dog-earring pages of a book; even worse, folding an entire page over.

Leaving books in a bathroom for guests to enjoy.

Using a book as a plant coaster.

Reading a paperback by folding the cover all the way back to touch the back cover.

Write your name on the cover or back cover of a book (or both).

Reading a book while taking a bath.

Decorating a book with stickers.

Using books to raise the height of a computer.

What are some other things that book lover find annoying?

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A General’s Retirement that Launched a Thousand Snowclones

alex atkins bookshelf words“Say what? — What in the world is a snowclone?” you ask. We’ll get to that. But first, let’s begin our story with an American general and a very famous speech. One of the most famous generals in American history, of course, is five-star General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) who played a very important role in the Pacific theater during World War II that led to the Surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945. From 1945 to 1951, MacArthur oversaw the occupation of Japan — a period of dramatic political, economic and social change for that defeated country. After that period, MacArthur led the United Nations Command and the South Korean forces in the Korean War. Due to a number of military defeats, and the distrust of other military and political leaders, President Harry Truman decided to relieve MacArthur of his command in 1951. Truman stated: “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President.” Unfortunately for Truman, MacArthur was enormously popular with the public, and Truman’s approval rating sank to one of the lowest ever seen by a U.S. president.

MacArthur made his last official appearance at the U.S. capital in Washington, D.C. to deliver his farewell address. It took a while to deliver because it was punctuated by enthusiastic ovations every few minutes. MacArthur finally ended his farewell address with these eloquent thoughts: “I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that ‘old soldiers never die; they just fade away.’ And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Good Bye.” Fittingly, the speech is often referred to as the “Old Soldiers Never Die” speech.

Despite the fact that MacArthur mentions a “popular barrack ballad,” many people think that MacArthur came up with that famous catchphrases on his own, “old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” However, as he stated, MacArthur was just quoting a well-known soldier’s ballad from the 1930s titled “Old Soldiers Never Die” which, in turn, is a British parody of the gospel song “Kind Thoughts Can Never Die.” The lyrics to the song are: “Old soldiers never die, / Never die, never die, / Old soldiers never die, / They simply fade away.”

Not only did the line become famous and is forever linked to General MacArthur’s retirement, it also inspired an entirely new genre of jokes, known as “never say die” jokes. Lexicographers classify these types of jokes as “snowclones.” The word snowclone was coined by linguist Geoffrey Pullum in 2003. He defined a snowclone as a “a multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different variants.” (The term is derived from the concept of multiple words for snow in Eskimo and a pun on snow cones. Linguists can be so clever!) For example, a common snowclone is the phrasal template “X is the new Y” — you can say “orange is the new black” or “50 is the new 40” or “blue is the new black” and so forth. But what makes “never say die” jokes unique is that they often involve clever puns. In short, they are punny snowclones. Here are some of the punniest.

Old academics never die, they just lose their faculties.

Old accountants never die, they just lose their balance.

Old actors never die, they just drop apart.

Old anthropologists never die, they just become history.

Old archers never die, they just bow and quiver.

Old architects never die, they just lose their structures.

Old bankers never die, they just lose interest.

Old basketball players never die, they just go on dribbling.

Old beekeepers never die, they just buzz off.

Old books never die, they just go out of print.

Old bookkeepers never die, they just lose their figures.

Old bosses never die, much as you want them to.

Old canners never die, they just get preserved.

Old cashiers never die, they just check out.

Old chauffeurs never die, they just lose their drive.

Old chemists never die, they just fail to react.

Old classicists never die, they conjugate, then decline.

Old cleaning people never die, they just kick the bucket.

Old composer never die, they just decompose.

Old cooks never die, they just get deranged.

Old daredevils never die, they just get discouraged.

Old deans never die, they just lose their faculties.

Old dieters never die, they just waist away.

Old doctors never die, they just lose their patience.

Old electricians never die, they just lose contact.

Old farmers never die, they just spade away.

Old garagemen never die, they just retire.

Old hackers never die, they just go to bits.

Old hardware engineers never die, they just cache in their chips.

Old hippies never die, they just smell that way.

Old horticulturists never die, they just go to pot.

Old hypochondriacs never die, they just lose their grippe.

Old investors never die, they just roll over.

Old journalists never die, they just get de-pressed.

Old knights in chain mail never die, they just shuffle off their metal coils.

Old laser physicists never die, they just become incoherent.

Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal.

Old librarians never die, they just check out.

Old limbo dancers never die, they just go under.

Old magicians never die, they just disappear.

Old mathematicians never die, they just disintegrate.

Old milkmaids never die, they just lose their whey.

Old ministers never die, they just get put out to pastor…

Old musicians never die, they just get played out.

Old number theorists never die, they just get past their prime.

Old numerical analysts never die, they just get disarrayed.

Old owls never die, they just don’t give a hoot.

Old pacifists never die, they just go to peaces.

Old photographers never die, they just stop developing.

Old pilots never die, they just go to a higher plane.

Old plumbers never die, they just go down the drain.

Old policemen never die, they just cop out.

Old printers never die, they’re just not the type.

Old programmers never die, they just move to a new address.

Old programmers never die, they just decompile.

Old programming wizards never die, they just recurse.

Old prostitutes never die, they just fake away.

Old quarterbacks never die, they just pass away.

Old sailors never die, they just get a little dinghy.

Old schools never die, they just lose their principals.

Old scots never die, but they can be kilt.

Old sculptors never die, they just lose their marbles.

Old seers never die, they just lose their vision.

Old sewage workers never die, they just waste away.

Old skateboarders never die, they just lose their bearings.

Old sailors never die, they just get a little dingy.

Old statisticians never die, they just get broken down by age and sex.

Old steelmakers never die, they just lose their temper.

Old students never die, they just get degraded.

Old swimmers never die, they just have a stroke.

Old tanners never die, they just go into hiding.

Old teachers never die, they just lose their class.

Old trombonists never die, they just slide away.

Old truckers never die, they just get a new Peterbilt.

Old typists never die, they just lose their justification.

Old white water rafters never die, they just get disgorged.

Old wrestlers never die, they just lose their grip.

Old yachtsmen never die, they just keel over.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Best of Puns, the Worst of Puns
Top Ten Puns

Best Pi Puns
The Little Pun Book

For further reading: The Cunning Linguist by Richard Lederer
Soldiers’ Song and Slang of the Great War by Martin Pegler

http://www.jimpoz.com/jokes/oldNeverDie.html
https://gcfl.net/archive.php?funny=7733
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.humor/h9nqCCO20QQ


The Wisdom of Cornel West

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomWhat better way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day than to attend a lecture by Cornel West, discussing democracy, justice, and race. West, like Noam Chomsky, is a public intellectual, philosopher, social critic, and political activist. He graduated from Harvard College magna cum  laude with a degree in Near Eastern languages and civilization. He received his PhD in philosophy from Princeton University. West taught at Harvard, the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, Yale Divinity School, and the University of Paris. He is the recipient of 20 honorary degrees and has written over 20 books. Race Matters, published in 1994, and Democracy Matters, published in 2004, are two of his most notable and influential works. Filmgoers will recognize the famous philosopher as Councilor West in The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003) movies. If that isn’t impressive enough, he has also recorded several soul, hip-hop, and spoken word albums.

The excitement in the packed auditorium was palpable. Heads turned as he walked through the center aisle, wearing his trademarked black three piece suit with a gold pocket watch chain dangling from his waist. He marched on the stage and with his deep, booming voice proclaimed, “I am only scheduled for an hour, but I feel moved by the spirit!” What followed was a mesmerizing two-hour presentation that was one part college lecture (evoking the great names of philosophy, history, and literature), one part tribute to jazz and Motown (the man knows his music and lyrics!), and two parts Baptist sermon and gospel revival (with scattered shouts from the audience of “Amen!” “Preach it, Brother!” and an uplifting, foot-stomping sing-along of the timeless gospel song “This Little Light of Mine” that was popularized by the civil rights movement). You couldn’t help but think that this is what is must have been like to attend an event featuring  Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. The evening ending with a long, thunderous standing ovation that lifted everyone’s spirits.

Bookshelf honors Martin Luther King Jr. Day by sharing the wisdom of Cornel West drawn from his writings and his lecture of that memorable evening.

“Justice is what love looks like in public; tenderness is what love looks like in private.”

“I take my fundamental cue from John Coltrane that says there must be a priority of integrity, honesty, decency, and mastery of craft.”

“I have tried to be a man of letters in love with ideas in order to be a wiser and more loving person, hoping to leave the world just a little better than I found it.”

“I’ve never been tied to one party or one candidate or even one institution. And that’s true even with one church as a Christian. I’m committed to truth and justice.”

“I remind young people everywhere I go, one of the worst things the older generation did was to tell them for twenty-five years ‘Be successful, be successful, be successful!’ as opposed to ‘Be great, be great, be great.’ There’s a qualitative difference.

“King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a reevaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens.“

“There is a sense in which there has to be a poetic mode of expression that moves people — you have to communicate in the form of stories and narratives that carry with them certain kinds of values and virtues. When the values and virtues are cached in light of Christian stories of love and justice but connected to a whole host of non-Christian persons, so that you’re speaking to human beings and fellow citizens, you make an intervention as a Christian. But the stories and narratives that you put forward in a poetic form still are able to seize the hearts, minds, and souls of fellow citizens of all different traditions and viewpoints. That is precisely what Martin Luther King Jr. was able to do, and there was a real sense in which his example is something that we need to learn from in the early part of the twenty-first century as the American empire wafers and wobbles.”

“The country is in deep trouble. We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.”

“If you view life as a gold rush, you’re going to end up worshiping a golden calf. And when you call for help, and that golden calf can’t respond, you go under.”

“You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”

“Music at its best…is the grand archeology into and transfiguration of our guttural cry, the great human effort to grasp in time our deepest passions and yearnings as prisoners of time. Profound music leads us — beyond language — to the dark roots of our scream and the celestial
heights of our silence.”

“To accept your country without betraying it, you must love it for that which shows what it might become. America — this monument to the genius of ordinary men and women, this place where hope becomes capacity, this long, halting turn of ‘no’ into the ‘yes’ — needs citizens who love it enough to re-imagine and re-make it.”

“In these downbeat times, we need as much hope and courage as we do vision and analysis; we must accent the best of each other even as we point out the vicious effects of our racial divide and pernicious consequences of our maldistribution of wealth and power. We simply cannot enter the twenty-first century at each other’s throats, even as we acknowledge the weighty forces of racism, patriarchy, economic inequality, homophobia, and ecological abuse on our necks. We are at a crucial crossroad in the history of this nation–and we either hang together by combating these forces that divide and degrade us or we hang separately. Do we have the intelligence, humor, imagination, courage, tolerance, love, respect, and will to meet the challenge? Time will tell. None of us alone can save the nation or world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.”

“It is a beautiful thing to be on fire for justice… there is no greater joy than inspiring and empowering others –– especially the least of these, the precious and priceless wretched of the earth!”

“[My religious grounding] has everything to do with taking the Christian gospel seriously by trying to take love seriously, connecting love to justice, and recognizing what Martin Luther King Jr. rightly said, that justice is what love looks like in public. Therefore, looking at the world through the lens of the cross means putting a premium on the least of these; to echo the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, it means looking at the prisoners, the widow, the orphan, the workers, gay brothers, lesbian sisters, people of color, indigenous peoples, and so forth. Whatever kind of theology you want to call it, I’m just trying to be truthful to the gospel. If we take the cross seriously—which has so much to do with unarmed truth, and the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak, and the cross has so much to do with unconditional love—then we can’t love people simply by hating when they are treated unjustly. If we take the cross seriously, we must consider how we understand the world, think about the world, and act in the world. Then, certainly in that regard, my attempt to live the Christian life is at the center of what I think and do.”

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Read related post: Why “I Have a Dream” Speech Endures
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King and the Suicide Letter
The Singer Who Inspired Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech

Quotes Mistakenly Attributed to Martin Luther King

For further reading: The Cornel West Reader by Cornel West
https://theotherjournal.com/2009/08/21/politics-virtues-and-struggle-an-interview-with-cornel-west/


Words That Form Other Words by Taking Letters Away

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAlthough the English language has more than one million words, only about thirty words possess a very unique quality: you can successively take a letter away — while leaving the other letters in the exact same order — and they form a different word. This is called a successive letter subtraction word puzzle. Here is an example:

“startling”

Subtract the “t” and you get “starling”

Subtract the “l” and you get “staring”

Subtract the “a” and you get “string”

Subtract the “r” and you get “sting”

Subtract the “s” and you get “ting”

Subtract the “g” and you get “tin”

Subtract the “t” and you get “in”

Finally, subtract the “n” and you get “i” [the pronoun, “I”]

Fun isn’t it? OK, so now that you understand this form of word puzzle, what are some other words that can do this? And please, no cheating — what’s the fun if you let Google do all the puzzle solving.

Answers appear below.

 

==============

 

Here is a list of words that form a unique words, when you successively remove one letter at a time.

cleansers: cleanses, cleanse, cleans, leans, leas, las, as, a

discusses: discuses, discuss, discus, discs, diss, dis, is, i

drownings: drowning, downing, owning, owing, wing, win, in, i

grandeurs: grandeur, grander, grader, grade, grad, rad, ad, a

groupings: grouping, groping, roping, oping, ping, pig, pi, i

paintings: painting, paining, pining, piing, ping, pig, pi, i

piercings: piercing, piecing, pieing, piing, ping, pig, pi, i

prattlers: rattlers, ratters, raters, rates, rats, rat, at, a

prickling: pickling, picking, piking, piing, ping, pig, pi, i

restarted: restated, restate, estate, state, sate, ate, at, a

scrapping: crapping, rapping, raping, aping, ping, pig, pi, i

shoppings: shopping, hopping, hoping, oping, ping, pig, pi, i

sparkling: sparking, sparing, spring, sprig, prig, pig, pi, i

spinnings: spinning, pinning, pining, piing, ping, pig, pi, i

splatters: platters, latters, lattes, latte, late, ate, at, a

splitting: slitting, sitting, siting, sting, ting, tin, in, i

spritzers: spritzes, sprites, spites, sites, sits, its, is, i

stampeded: stampede, stamped, tamped, tamed, tame, tam, am, a

stampedes: stampede, stamped, tamped, tamed, tame, tam, am, a

starlings: starling, staring, string, sting, ting, tin, in, i

startling: starling, staring, string, sting, ting, tin, in, i

strapping: trapping, rapping, raping, aping, ping, pig, pi, i

stringers: stingers, singers, singes, sines, sins, ins, is, i

stringier: stingier, stinger, singer, singe, sine, sin, in, i

switchers: switches, witches, withes, withe, wite, wit, it, i

tramplers: trampers, tampers, tamers, tames, tams, tam, am, a

trampling: tramping, tamping, taping, aping, ping, pig, pi, i

trappings: trapping, rapping, raping, aping, ping, pig, pi, i

wrappings: wrapping, rapping, raping, aping, ping, pig, pi, i

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
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For further reading: Wordplay: A Curious Dictionary of Language Oddities by Chris Cole
https://www.quora.com/What-eight-letter-word-can-have-a-letter-taken-away-and-it-still-makes-a-word


Books Are the Treasured Wealth of the World

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not refuse them. Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind.”

From Walden; or, Life in the Woods, published in 1854, by essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). The book was written during the two years that Thoreau lived in a small cabin near Walden Pond (close to Concord, Massachusetts), owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. Both Emerson and Thoreau were transcendentalism, firm believers in individualism and the inherent goodness of people and nature. By living a simple life, surrounded by the beauty of nature, Thoreau, through deep introspection, evaluates his life, values, and society. He writes: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” What emerges from this incredible experiences is a profound journal of discovery, reflecting a spiritual and intellectual reawakening, and on another level — a timeless and eloquent manifesto of independence and self-reliance. Only 2,000 copies of Walden were printed, thus they are rare and valuable. A first edition of Walden is worth about $14,400.

Read related posts: The Most Expensive American Book
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SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: Walden by Henry David Thoreau
https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/news/walden-first-edition-leads-strong-sale-pba-galleries


The Person Behind the Word: Maverick

alex atkins bookshelf wordsBeing branded (pun intended) a maverick can either be a compliment or denigration, depending upon your perspective. The primary definition of a maverick is an independently-minded person; one who bucks the status quo, as it were (sorry, could’t resist). Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable uses the term “masterless man” — leave to the Brits to be so dramatic. The secondary meaning of a maverick is an unbranded calf or yearling. Because of this, some people mistakenly believe that the word is derived from the horse; however, the word is actually an eponym, based on a real American — you certainly wouldn’t recognize him if you saw his photo in a history book, but you certainly know his surname: Samuel Maverick.

Maverick was well-known in Texas during the mid 1800s (he was born in 1803 and died 1870), where he was a respected Yale-educated attorney, politician, landowner, and rancher. Maverick, was of course, the original maverick because he refused to brand his cattle, much to the consternation of nearby ranchers. Language maven, William Safire shares one explanation provided by J. David Stern who wrote Maverick Publisher: “Old man Maverick… refused to brand his cattle because it was cruelty to animals. His neighbors said he was a hypocrite, liar, and thief, because Maverick’s policy allowed him to claim all unbranded cattle on the range. Lawsuits were followed by bloody battles, and brought a new word to our language.” As early at 1867, ranchers called any unbranded cattle “mavericks.”

The term eventually drifted into the realm of politics. Safire continues: “Maverick drifted into the political vocabulary around the turn of the century; McClure’s magazine mentioned the occasional appearance of a ‘maverick legislator.” The simplicity and aptness of the metaphor made it both durable and universally understood.” In this context, it means a person who is unorthodox in his or her political views and is disdainful of party loyalty. The maverick is truly a man without a brand. Safire notes that being a maverick in the world of politics can either be a virtue or a vice — and many notable politicians have been mavericks at some point during their notable careers.

Reviewing the troubling state of partisan politics in America today, one would hope that there were more mavericks serving in Congress today.

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Read related post: The Person Behind the Word: Chauvinism
The Person Behind the Word: Sandwich

For further reading: Safire’s New Political Dictionary by William Safire


What is the Most Checked-Out Book at a Library?

alex atkins bookshelf booksA measure of a community can be measured, to some extent, by the books that patrons of the local library check out the most. It gives you a sense of what they are concerned about, what they are curious about, and age range of reader (child or adult). Since the legendary New York Public Library is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, they focused their efforts to answer this question; specifically, in their entire history, which books have been checked out the most? In their post, titled “Top 10 Checkouts of All Time,” the librarians write: “Since The New York Public Library’s founding in 1895, millions of books have been checked out by patrons of all ages throughout the city. In honor of the 125th anniversary, a team of experts from the Library carefully evaluated a series of key factors to determine the most borrowed books, including historic checkout and circulation data (for all formats, including e-books), overall trends, current events, popularity, length of time in print, and presence in the Library catalog.”

Can you guess which books made the top ten? Six of the titles are children’s books, while four are adult titles. Interestingly, no book cracked the million or half million mark for checkouts. Without further ado, here is their list of the most checked out books (number of checkouts in parentheses):

1. “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, 1962 (485,583)

2. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss, 1957 (469,650)

3. “1984” by George Orwell, 1949 (441,770)

4. “Where The Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, 1963 (436,016)

5. “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, 1960 (422,912)

6. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White, 1952 (337,948)

7. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, 1953 (316,404)

8. “How To Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, 1936 (284,524)

9. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling, 1997 (231,022)


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